Casey bravely leading Exiles into the future
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Casey bravely leading Exiles into the future

IT has been 18 hectic months of meetings, but Bob Casey’s drive and desire for London Irish remains as fierce as ever.

Casey wants to realise his current sporting ambition - to get the Exiles to dine at the top table of the Aviva Premiership again.

Hope has been a constant companion for London Irish throughout the decades.  Sometimes it was all they had: the dream of a better future.  That is still the case, and on the verge of the Rugby World Cup Casey wants the club to act appropriately in the coming weeks and months.

“We need to tap into the excitement that will be around the sport when the Rugby World Cup is on in the Autumn,” Casey admits.

“This is an exciting time for London Irish.  With the World Cup being on and the effects that will have it is crucial that we are ready to maximise any benefits that could accrue from it.

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“Premiership Rugby is going from strength to strength.  A new television deal has been agreed with BT.  The attendances are up overall.  For me the product is brilliant.

“After the World Cup you’ll have top class international players coming back too so it is vital that we package everything properly.”

Casey, announced as London Irish’s new chief executive hours before the birth of his second child Georgina last Tuesday, has endured a packed schedule lately.

“It has been a pretty mad couple of days for sure,” Casey laughs.

Joking that the new arrival had ‘stolen his thunder’ Casey is relishing the prospect of steering the London Irish ship.

“Absolutely it really is an exciting time for the club.  The credit for that has to go to the new owners.  They’ve invested time and passion into this for the past year and a half.

“I’d shudder to think what might have happened to the club if they hadn’t bought it.  Since then a tremendous amount of work has been done by everyone associated with the club.

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“We have set about reviewing how the club is run from both a rugby and commercial aspect.  We want to make the club as successful as it can be.

“We benchmarked ourselves against top clubs in rugby, football, and in the NFL.  We think that this new structure will help us to realise our ambitions.”

The club is organising itself into six departments – commercial, community, finance, marketing and communications, operations and rugby, each led by an experienced executive who will report to the club’s chief executive.  The changes will take effect from July 1.

“It is very encouraging for us because we have tried to put the best structure that will suit is in place and the fact that we’ve made key appointments will help the process.”

So to will London Irish’s clever player recruitment policy which should enable new coach Tom Coventry to make a swift impact.  Casey thinks re-connecting with Irish emigrants is critical.

“Our league position hasn’t been great in the past three seasons,” Casey accepts.  “We need to re-connect with our supporters.  That is something we are eager to do.

“Everyone at London Irish is determined, but we know that time and patience will be necessary.  We have to build up the level of goodwill towards the club again.

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“We need to give people a reason to support us.  We have to give them a reason to come out to Reading to support us.”

Highlighting the Exiles’ five year rugby plan Casey is certain that London Irish are well placed to climb the Premiership standings soon.

“Obviously we cannot comment on what was in place before the new owners came on board.  That only happened a year and a half ago.

Being realistic it was very hard to make an impact on the pitch because of the timing involved.

“The squad we’ve put together for next season – the process for that started a year ago.  We do have a very clear five year rugby plan in operation.  The recruitment we’ve done shows that.”

Since returning to work for the club Casey was completely aware of the need to build bridges with the IRFU.  Attracting promising young Irish talent will always be high on the Exiles’ agenda, but only if the candidates are suitable.

“We are keen to develop players and one of the things that we have set about restoring is a positive relationship with the IRFU,” Casey says.

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“We are eager to develop players from everywhere.  That is something which is vital for us and the relationship with the IRFU had deteriorated.

“Fortunately I know a lot of guys in the different provinces from my playing days.  Guys like Bryn Cunningham, Anthony Foley, Guy Easterby, and Pat Lam have been supportive and Joe Schmidt has been helpful too.

“We want more Irish players here, but we only want the right players for us.  Look at Tom Court, he has done a brilliant job for us.  Then you have a guy like Conor Gilsenan starting his career, he is from Westmeath, he came here and has excelled.  He is only going to get better.”

With the Premiership campaign not starting until mid October Coventry’s reshaped squad should be ready, willing, and able to parade their skills.

“We have a new coaching structure.  Next season we will have three new coaches on our staff and 11 new players.

“The good thing about the late start to the season is that it will enable our coaches to adapt here.  They will have July, August, September, and half of October to implement their coaching ideas.”  Between now and the former Irish international will continue to ensure they are well catered for.  Casey will always be synonymous with splendid London Irish days and nights.  Perhaps more are imminent.