O’Riordan pulls no punches as Colchester rugby club get set for life back in London 1

Anthony O'Riordan, head coach at Colchester

Anthony O'Riordan, head coach at Colchester

Colchester head coach Anthony O’Riordan has pulled no punches after his side’s relegation from National League 3.

The Mill Road team lost to Guildford on Saturday to leave them with just three victories so far this campaign, two of them against bottom-placed Amersham & Chiltern.

After two seasons at this level, it is back to London One for Colchester next season.

O’Riordan can’t hide his disappointment, but his love for the club and determination for them to bounce back is strong.

“We were very inconsistent in the early stages of the season and that has cost us dear,” he said.

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“We lost at least five games by a try or less in the first half of the season. Many of them should have been wins, if so we would be looking at mid-table now, not in the bottom two.

“I think as players and coaches we were perhaps a bit complacent.

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“We thought, ‘oh well, we can make those points up in the second half of the season’.

“The trouble was we didn’t see the injury problems coming that hit us in that second half of the season.

“You can’t account for the amount of injuries we have suffered and I feel that sometimes is just not your time, and this season hasn’t been ours.

“A couple of years ago on our way to National 3 we whitewashed nearly everyone. This year is has been so different.”

Rugby continues to grow apace and the word ‘amateur’ is not quite so prevalent as it was many years ago in a sport that has prided itself on amateur status over the decades.

That’s partly the price of rugby union receiving more TV, radio and print coverage and with it additional finances.

“I’m a realist,” added O’Riordan.

“At Colchester we have no delusion of grandeur. We are not a semi-pro club who pay players.

“There are teams who do and good luck to them and players who join them. If I was a young lad and had the chance of earning £500 a month playing rugby, or playing for just the camaraderie, food after the game and training, then I would probably look to the money too.

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way at Colchester. That is not the way we will do things.

“As far as I’m concerned as head coach, I’m the custodian of the whole club on how things are run, from the minis to the first team. I love Colchester and feel very lucky to have the job I do there.

“I do think the way some clubs run themselves is unsustainable.”

“Then again we could have avoided relegation. At times we have played like a top National 3 side. Only the other week we were leading Wimbledon (who are second in the table), then ran out of juice in the last 15 minutes.

“Perhaps we will be a club which yo-yos a bit between National 3 and London 1. Perhaps we will take a year or so to consolidate, we’ll see.”

Whatever happens at Mill Road next season and in the future, O’Riordan, who as a player was a tight-head prop for National 2 Rosslyn Park, wants to be part of it.

“Colchester fills the huge void I have of not playing anymore. I feel part of the family here, it’s a big community club.”

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