Navan RFC President Ray Hannon with family members (from left) Clodagh (daughter), Camilla (mother), Sinead (daughter) and Eimear (wife). PHOTO: AROSHA DHARMASENA.

GALLERY: Leinster CEO Nolan warmly welcomed at Navan RFC's President's Dinner

Craig Williamson

The gathering of the clan. Navan RFC held its annual President's dinner recently at Balreask Old with the event well attended by people from many sectors of the game in Ireland including the new CEO of Leinster Rugby, Shane Nolan who has close connections with Navan town and the local club.

Nolan, who replaces Mick Dawson, transferred from Google where he was Managing Director of New Business Sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Prior to joining Google in 2011, he held executive management roles in eircom, BT Plc and Fujitsu.

Hosted by Navan RFC President Raymond Hannon, the dinner was also attended by fellow rugby club presidents from across Leinster as well as representatives from both Leinster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Accomplished Master of Ceremonies for the evening Stephen Mackeral got the evening underway introducing club President Raymond Hannon. In his remarks Hannon spoke on his involvement with the club over the years and how he volunteered in different roles ranging from helping the underage youth teams, occupying the role of club treasurer to now representing the club as president this season.

Following the club president's speech, Navan senior men's captain David Clarke welcomed former Ireland international, Munster coach and now IRFU Management Committee member Fiona Steed who was representing the President of the Irish Rugby Football Union.

Clarke also spoke of how the IRFU had provided vital support to clubs up and down the country during the Covid-19 pandemic and how much that was appreciated.

In her comments Steed spoke on how it was an honour to represent IRFU President John Robinson before providing a summary of her background.

She originally hails from Tipperary and is an honorary member of Nenagh Ormond RFC. She mentioned Navan men's recent fixtures against Ormond in Energia All-Ireland League Div 2A in the previous few weeks; typically hard fought games.

She paid tribute to the high standard of Navan RFC’s Balreask Old grounds and facilities.

Steed also went on to say how, among the Irish Rugby Union community, Navan RFC are regarded as an innovative, forward thinking, welcoming community club. She congratulated the club on celebrating 21 years of women's rugby.

Indeed the growth of women's rugby was a central theme of the evening as Steed spoke about the recent announcement made by the IRFU on how the Management Committee of the IRFU has unanimously approved a proposal to achieve 40% female representation on the Committee by the end of this year.

Steed ended her remarks by outlining how she looked forward to engaging with the provinces and other stakeholders on the details of this proposal across Irish rugby while noting the number of Leinster club presidents that were present.

Navan RFC Senior Vice-President Damien Dixon then took to the podium to thank Steed for her words and also formally welcome the guest speaker for the evening, Navan native and newly installed Chief Executive Officer of Leinster Rugby, Shane Nolan. Having turned out in his youth in the colours of Navan RFC, Nolan went onto play for NUIG and gain representative honours for Connacht Colleges. It was noted how Shane was from a well regarded family in the area with the family run pharmacy operating in the town for many years.

In his comments, Nolan spoke about how privileged he was to be guest speaker in Navan RFC and honoured to be invited. Reflecting on his first few months in the role, he outlined how one of his early experiences in the role was meeting the Leinster senior men's team players in the RDS after one of their United Rugby Championship home fixtures. Nolan went on to speak about how he moved to Leinster Rugby after over a decade working in Google. He also outlined his main priorities going forward for Leinster Rugby:

1, Driving success on the field; 2, Growing the numbers playing the game in the province from the present estimated 30,00 (the growth potential of women’s rugby providing a key element to this with an already a 90% growth in numbers seen in the last few years); 3, Driving commercial growth; 4, Improving fans match-day experience with the hope that positive news regarding the re-development of the RDS could be forthcoming soon. Nolan ended his remarks by wishing Navan RFC well for the future.