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Castlebar rugby a family affair

A family affair

David Staunton comes from a big Castlebar rugby clan

Rob Murphy

THE Stauntons are synonymous with Castlebar RFC, having played a key role in the club’s revival in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. The second generation have remained deeply involved in the oval ball game, and next Sunday will be a big day for the family.
Three brothers and one cousin. David is the chatty one, and the first cousin of Mark (25), Matthew (21) and Liam (22) was happy to take on the media task last week ahead of their Junior Cup semi-final showdown with Monivea.
There’s one more cousin in there, Shane Casey, whose father Rory masterminded the back-to-back Cawley Cup triumphs of 2009 and 2010. It’s some family connection.
“Growing up, rugby played a key part in our lives,” said David. “We were mostly playing it in the back garden and we were all involved at underage in the club. My dad, Pat, played full back. The lad’s father Jimmy along with [uncle] Tommy were also playing and very involved with the club behind the scenes.”
Sunday’s semi-final comes off the back of a fine campaign in Division 1B. A quick return to the top flight is on the cards. They also have a hugely significant cup scalp against their rivals under the belt.
Castlebar’s try against Westport was the crowning moment in a trench war with their local rivals. It was the one moment of flash in a forwards’ battle and the Stauntons were at the heart of it.
Stephen Rogan’s chip kick caused consternation. Mark Staunton collected on the wing, and as he was bundled into touch, threw a pass back inside blind into the hands of David for the try. It was instinctive play that can provide the edge on occasions.
“I think that was a good example of our understanding,” said David. “When you’re playing sport with anyone for as long as we have been playing – be it in a Castlebar shirt or just out the back as kids – you pick up so much of the little stuff.”
David is part of a strong back row unit in the club. Seamus King’s sides are known for their high-tempo back-row play and no-holds-barred front-row platform-setting. The competition for places is fierce.
“That’s the key to this team,” Staunton explained. “We have four or five lads going for back-row positions and each can fill the other’s boots. I was dropped for the Westport game and I just had to get the head down and wait for a chance. Seamus looks for competition within a squad and he wants his players pushing boundaries.”
In the front row, Castlebar have the kind of stability most sides crave. The performances of props Brian Flannery and Liam Molloy against Westport underlined why many feel they can mix it with the best in the province.
“Our front row is a huge asset to us,” said Staunton. “We have a powerful weapon in Brian and Liam and it can be very hard for opponents to deal with. I’ve watched them all the way up and they are improving each year.
“Against Westport you could see them figuring out the challenge in the first few scrums, and by half time they had it sussed and we’re dominant. Most of the tries I score come off the back of their scrummaging so I’m indebted to them.”
He believes that the challenge against Monivea will be as hard as anything this team has experienced, and has a little insight into the opposition having got to know some of the Monivea players during his time securing a Biomedical Engineering Masters in Galway.
“Monivea are the standard-bearers in Connacht rugby,” he concluded. “Eight league titles in 11 years says it all really. They’re a great club. How they keep producing players of such high standard is unreal. It’s a testament to the coaching structures and training at all levels.”

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