The Cayman Islands team in Las Vegas.
Rugby Sevens

Two Irishmen are behind the unlikely rise of Cayman Islands rugby

Dave Clancy and Dwain McGuiness have guided the team to this weekend’s Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

TWO IRISHMEN ARE behind the unlikely rise of the Cayman Islands’ rise in rugby fortunes and on Friday, Dave Clancy and Dwain McGuiness will be proudly patrolling the sidelines when their team runs out at the HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

The tiny country with a population of less than 60,000 – around half of which are ineligible ex-pats – will take on the hosts, European qualifiers Germany and African champions Zimbabwe over two days.

The other two pools are made up of Japan, Spain, Tonga, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Mexico and Morocco.

It’s the same tournament that heavyweights New Zealand, England and Australia will compete in over three days with the winners advancing to the respective finals on Sunday.

It’s the first time the Cayman Islands have qualified for the Sevens and to put it mildly, the tract of land that measures 259 square kilometers has gone bananas.

“It’s a phenomenal achievement for us just to qualify,” said their head of strength and conditioning, Clancy from Limerick city.

“This is as big as it gets in sevens rugby and we are the smallest nation in history to qualify for this event.

12963500_1252516314763337_3482655251307416835_n The tournament launch earlier this week.

“We are a team of amateur players who have full-time jobs – unlike many of the sides we’re competing against.

“To have come this far in my time here has been a tremendous achievement and something I’m extremely proud to have been a part of,” he added.

Clancy touched down in Cayman in 2013 and began working with some U19 and women’s sides.

Since then, he has risen up through the ranks quite impressively.

Now, as head of the country’s strength and conditioning – at just 26, he’s involved in coaching all the national teams as well as rolling out programmes and initiatives to expand the sport.

His day-to-day life, amongst many other roles, is overseeing the strength and conditioning of the national 15s, national 7s, national U19s and women’s national 7s.

He has also served as a World Rugby Educator, qualifying locals as S&C coaches and travelling to neighbouring countries to grow and develop strength and conditioning in the various regions.

Some of those regions are yes, you guessed, palm-fringed idyllic hideaways where the rich and famous often pitch up for weeks at a time. Think the Bahamas, Jamaica and a string of other slow-paced Caribbean islands.

He’s not a one-man band, of course, and among those helping him in Cayman is Dwain McGuinness from Roscommon.

A new recruit after landing in Cayman two years ago, he the union’s physio and is in Hong Kong this weekend.

“I came here with the challenge of getting the Cayman 7’s team to a higher level of competition and create as close to a high performance environment as possible with amateur players,” continued Clancy.

12936692_1153232314696253_2178348997922656554_n Dwain McGuinness (back right) and the team arriving in Hong Kong.

“I believe it’s been a great success; a journey which has been challenging at times but hugely rewarding and enjoyable most of the time.”

Indeed, with just 120 full contact club rugby players, split between four domestic club teams it’s a wonder they even have a national side.

And such is the Irish influence on the island that a team called the Wolfhounds will celebrate 10 years in existence in the summer.

“I was brought over with the task of getting amateur players from a very small island working towards a high performance mentality,” he says proudly.

“It’s been about progressing the performance levels to get us to where we are today and it’s been fantastic seeing what we have achieved in a short space of time.

“The talent pool is limited due to our playing numbers and further by the amount of them eligible for selection.

“However, we have some fantastic athletes who are slowly but surely getting more involved in rugby through talent identification efforts and the future is bright for some of these athletes.”

Aside from his role with the rugby union, Clancy is absolutely loving life abroad and has no idea when – or if, it will end.

“Life as an expat is fantastic here,” he said without hesitation.

“There is a huge amount of expats here and it really feels like home away from home. I can even get my Barry’s tea or have a pint of Guinness at one of two Irish bars here.

“Life is good here and I cannot complain as an Irishman living in the sun across from one of the nicest beaches in the world.

“Obviously it can be difficult being this far away from family and friends but that’s part of the package when you want to work internationally and continue to grow as a professional.

“While I was only initially due to stay here six months, I’m now coming up to the end of my third year with Cayman rugby and who knows what lies ahead in my career.”

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