The Road to Rathfarnham…

In 2013, Stillorgan RFC (as it then-was) was a three-team club at a crossroads – soon to be without a home ground, and uncertain for its future. By September 2022, the club had rebranded as Stillorgan-Rathfarnham RFC, and opened a 10-acre, three pitch facility, overlooking Dublin Bay – the envy of clubs around the country. So what happened within that decade that saw the club’s fortunes transform so dramatically? Read on…

April 2013: A Sliding Doors Moment…

Up until then, Stillorgan RFC (as it then was) was playing from Bird Avenue, Clonskeagh, with three Mens teams. In April 2013 our days in Bird Avenue became numbered, as the club was served with notice of the landlord’s intention to cease renting the pitches to Stillorgan RFC.  This placed the club in a perilous position – suddenly the survival of our club came into question. This was a cross-roads moment.

The Club executive at the time, led by Danny Shanahan and Mark Cooling, began seeking to identify alternative club grounds. Thankfully a pitch at Three Rock Rovers Hockey Club (Rathfarnham) was secured, securing the short to medium term future of the club.

The precarious nature of our club’s position as tenant was brought into sharp focus. While the move to Three Rock Rovers was necessary and welcomed, there was an acceptance that we needed to find a permanent home.

Early 2015.

Danny Shanahan went out for a run. Danny’s rugby playing days were nearly at an end. His shoulder was in a bad way. While the heart wanted to be out doing the Shanahan Shuffle on a Saturday afternoons the body was saying enough was enough….Running was an alternative. So out for a run he went.

Danny was going for a long one today, 10km, the big loop. Down by Buglers Pub, take a left, up the hill, take a left at the Grange golf Club… and keep on running straight ahead. Running up Tibradden Road, Danny came across a For Sale sign: 40 acres of agricultural land. He had a quick look over the wall to get an idea of the site. Then he kept on running… another 5km to go… by the time he had gotten home he had a plan rumbling around his head. Danny emailed the strategic committee that was in place at the time (Mark Cooling, Maurice Ryan, Ross O’Donovan, Derek McCormack and Ronan McCabe). Was there an opportunity here? Who could help us move forward on this? 

An approach was made to Michael Heavey, a former club captain and long-time member of the club to see if he would be interested in helping out. A plan was put in place, culminating in what has become Heavey Technology Park. 

Now that the land had been secured, the club required planning, and for that we needed funds. 

A presentation night was organised in the Clayton Hotel, Sandyford, with about 30 members in attendance. Could they help? We outlined the opportunity. There were a few raised eyebrows on the night, but a willingness shared amongst all to move forward. We raised enough for the planning stage, and the ball was rolling. 

Maurice Ryan (“Mossy”) led the planning permission. The initial list of required surveys and designs was lengthy – Site drawings, Clubhouse drawings, Engineering Reports, Water Drainage Plans, Access and Transport Design, Construction Management Plan, Soakaway design, Architectural drawings, Geotechnical Surveys, Porosity testing, Floodlighting plans, Waste Water Treatment… and that was just phase 1. Mossy rolled up the sleeves. The initial planning application was submitted in December 2016.

Ahead of the initial application, an information evening for local residents was held in the National Scout Camp in Larch Hill. Additional information was requested to our original application, and this was provided to the planners in October 2017. Planning permission was granted in November 2017. 

However, an appeal to the permission granted was lodged with An Board Pleanala, but thankfully, in June 2018, An Bord Pleanala approved the original permission. Our dream suddenly came into sharp focus. 

The club is forever indebted to Maurice Ryan for this time and leadership on the Planning. Without Mossy’s support planning would have been unobtainable.

Once we had planning, everything changed. The club now had an approved project to finance. Danny Shanahan started to put together cost estimates. The numbers were indicative but we now had a general sense of what lay ahead to develop Heavey Technology Park.  

The IRFU came on board. Following a presentation on club strategy and development plan, the IRFU commended the work done to date and agreed to provide a loan to us. A great start!

Ross O’Donovan then kicked into gear on the Grant front. The first success was the awarding of a sports capital grant in November 2019. In parallel Ross rooted out an opportunity to get funding from a rural development scheme and secured funding for floodlighting, pathways and pitch fencing. We are forever indebted to Ross O’Donovan for what he has achieved for the club  – unbelievable stuff from the Salesians scrum-half.

In parallel to grant and loan funding, the call also went out to the current club membership. There are a lot of people in the club that wanted to see this happen and were happy to contribute. Derek McCormack, Jimmy Sadlier and Ross Durnin drove on with internal fundraising which secured a sizeable contribution from our members. 

With clear line of sight over funding emerging,  in 2020 Danny (QS) and Mossy (engineer) went to work developing a Request for Tender for the development of Heavey Technology Park.

This required the production of detailed drawings and plans with associated bill of quantities.

Needless to say, this was a significant amount of work and effort on behalf of Danny and Mossy – all of which was done on a pro-bono basis.

The core element of the development contract included the cutting and filling of three full pitch playing surfaces, the installation of drainage systems for the two main pitches and development of a car park and entrance to the club grounds.

Following the submission of tenders from a number of parties, DAR Golf were appointed contractor and commenced construction in October 20. On confirmation of additional grant funding floodlighting, pitch fencing and site pathways were later added to the overall development.

On Saturday 10 September 2022, SRRFC fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition – to have a place to call home. Many are aware that our club operated on the basis of short term pitch leasing arrangements since our inception in 1973, which caused uncertainty as continuity of tenure was never guaranteed, and “home” for SRRFC over the last 50 years moved from pillar to post on many occasions.

In the late 2000s a club grounds’ committee was established to explore opportunities to secure a permanent home for SRRFC, and lands at Tibradden were identified as being potentially available.

Titanic efforts from a number of club members (you know who you are!) and backing from Michael Heavey (of Heavey Technology) allowed plans to move forward, and with further support from IRFU / Leinster Rugby, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, and LEADER grant funding, Heavey Technology Park became a reality.

The day had something for all of the family – games and bouncing castles for children, a mens’ game between Stillorgan-Rathfarnham and Monkstown (which thankfully we won!), great coffee from Cahill’s Centra, as well as guest appearances from Leo the Lion and a number of Leinster Rugby players.

SRRFC wishes to thank all who helped the club on the journey to making Heavey Technology Park a reality, and we are excited for what the future holds.

If you haven’t come along to see what all the fuss is about, come down to see us – we guarantee you a warm welcome!


Click to listen to RTE Radio 1’s piece on the history of Stillorgan-Rathfarnham RFC, and the opening of Heavey Technology Park.