Tributes have been paid to founding Cill Dara RFC member Joe Flanagan after the club stalwart was announced as the latest recipient of the prestigious IRFU 'Mr Boots' award for his dedication to developing grassroots rugby.
Flanagan will become the first ever member of the North Midlands rugby area to receive the highly regarded award, which was first introduced in 1981 and named after British and Irish Lions legend Willie John McBride, who presented his boots following one of his final games of club rugby against Arklow RFC in 1980.
A founding member of the club back in 1986, Flanagan has been deeply rooted in every transformation that the Kildare Town club has gone through over the 41 years of its existence.
Current Cill Dara RFC president, Conor Byrne, outlined how it was a well-deserved award for a legend of the club, noting that it is highly unlikely that there would be any rugby club in Kildare Town without him.
"Without Joe there would be no Cill Dara," he told KildareNow.
"Joe is a founding member; he has invested a lot of time, a lot of effort and financial support as our main club sponsor for many years, but most of all he has invested energy and time. He has been there from the very start by being involved as a player, captain and coach to secretary and president for 18 years. He has been on the executive committee for I suppose 40 years, and basically, without Joe Flanagan there would be no Cill Dara RFC.
"Everyone in the club and everyone in the community knows Joe. Joe and the club go hand in hand, they're associated. Everyone knows Joe Flanagan as Joe Flanagan from the rugby club, it's a sign of the esteem he's held in in the community," he continued.
It is recognition for the work the club does as a whole too; since Cill Dara RFC was founded in 1976 they have been committed to providing a platform for kids and adults to get involved in the sport. Byrne says that the commitment to grassroots rugby is what makes the club such a special place for the community, but it is the work of the likes of Joe Flanagan that makes such commitment to the cause possible.
"It's recognition for grassroots rugby. We're a community club; we were set up as a community club for local people with the help of the National Stud in 1976, and that's the basis of what we do. We're there to provide rugby for the kids and the adults in the community, we don't have many outsiders -we're built up from Kildare Town and surrounding areas. Without the Joe Flanagans of this world that would never have happened. Joe can't be thanked enough for what he has done," he said.
Joe Flanagan will be presented with his award at a special three-course meal at the Osprey Hotel on Saturday May 5 at 7.30pm.
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