I caught up with Justin Fitzpatrick and the Dungannon Rugby Club Squad on a damp and misty Saturday morning in the middle of the Mourne Mountains.
The squad were on a three day team building exercise, with no frills and plenty of hard work and despite a 6:00 am start that morning they all appeared in good spirits when I caught up with them halfway through their first set of exercises in what was going to be a long day.
I first caught up with Player Welfare Manager Andy Weir and Assistant Coach Kieran Campbell at a rendezvous point, close to Silent Valley, as they waited for one group to complete their map reading and orienteering exercise, tramping through the boggy landscape shrouded in morning mist with occasional heavy showers thrown in.
Not the ideal start to the days activities but the group were in good spirits when they eventually arrived, having taken a slight detour, and team spirits appeared high as they grabbed a quick rest and set about their high energy bars with some relish!
By that time Justin Fitzpatrick had arrived to check on progress. He had spent the morning with the second group as they tackled mountaineering exercises at the nearby Hens Mountain and was pleased with the attitude that the squad had already shown, despite the poor weather, and he took some time out to outline the plans for the weekend.
“We took the decision to do something different and take the guys away from rugby and challenge them in an environment that’s alien to them. We’ve got some orienteering, some abseiling, some leadership drills, cooking and field crafts with expert instructors to lead and guide the players.
It’s good to get away from what you’re used to and get the team talking, communicating, helping and encouraging each other in a completely different environment and hopefully that will translate to a tighter group.
We’re looking for the guys to put their hand up and lead and encourage and be real team players and I’m pleased to say that we’re seeing that already.
We’ve a talented squad and we’ll be hoping that these sort of activities act as a catalyst for a successful season”
The team bonding definably seemed to be working when I eventually struggled up Hens Mountain to their climbing base, to watch the group encourage the individual climbers as they struggled up the side of the wet and slippery outcrop.
Definitely a worthwhile exercise for Dungannon and I’m pleased to say that the sun was poking out and the forecast was for dry weather when I left them to complete the rest of the tasks, devised by Justin and his team, in what is going to be a challenging weekend!