To mark the club’s final season at Madejski Stadium, we will be speaking to London Irish players and coaches from over the years to discuss their current roles and professions and their best memories of their time at London Irish.
Next up in our series is Andy Keast, a former London Irish coach who returned to the club in 2015 and took on an important new role with the club last year.
A former British and Irish Lions and Natal Sharks coach, Andy has an impressive coaching CV that demonstrates experience in many professional rugby competitions in both hemispheres. Andy always says that one of his most pleasing coaching experiences was with the Exiles between 1999 and 2001.
“I’ve said before, London Irish was one of the most enjoyable teams that I coached. At the time, we had some strong Irish roots in the squad and like the present, a variety of overseas players”.
“What I loved during that period at London Irish was the way the group wanted to play rugby. They were happy to play an expansive game. At one point, we went through a 13-game winning streak scoring lot of tries, it was a lot of fun.”
“While I don’t have any standout memories of the Madeski Stadium, I do remember how the supporters were so passionate about the team, something that continues to this day.
Andy’s initial association with the club ended in 2001 but, in 2015 he re-joined Irish in a new capacity.
“I returned from South Africa at the end of 2015 and started working again at London Irish, this time as Head of Community. This was a challenge because London Irish is especially well known as a family club and we had to continue to grow the values associated with that.
“Among the club’s objectives was to create a Foundation to be its official charity and help it become more inclusive in its communities. In April 2019, registered charity status was received from the Charity Commission and the London Irish Foundation was formed. This has created new challenges but it’s a rewarding part of my life and hopefully the club’s as we take it forward!”
“The day-to-day running of the Foundation is varied delivering projects across our community with a real emphasis on inclusion. Throughout the year we organise fundraising events that continue our engagement with supporters, these activities are essential if the foundation is to remain sustainable.
“The Foundation currently delivers a wide range of projects throughout the year in Berkshire, Hampshire, Middlesex, including the City of London, and Surrey. In addition, we organise festivals to celebrate Project Rugby (with the RFU), Tackling Health (with the Greggs Foundation) and special needs camps during holiday periods to include our disability groups.
“We had a very successful fundraising event at the BT Tower last November that included rugby legends like Sir Ian McGeechan, Andy Gomarsall, Zinzan Brooke, London Irish’s Pat Cilliers and many more! All of them gave their time to support our Foundation.
“As with all organisations during these extraordinary times, the Foundation has certainly felt the impact of Covid-19, but work continues as we continue to help and plan our work with the growing numbers of those in need.
“I would like to thank all the London Irish supporters and players that took part in the 2.6 Challenge in April. It was a great initiative for all charities to take part in and crucial in raising much needed funding.
“Fundraising events and activities are key to the sustainability of the Foundation if we are to improve and extend the reach of our projects. There are a lot of people out there that need our help and we want to continue doing that.
“We are currently focusing on our Homeless group as they have hit some dark times during this period. Please see our donation link below, as a family, we can assist our homeless come through.
If anyone would like to donate individually or partner via their companies CSR policy with the London Irish Foundation, please email Andy at [email protected] for more information!
To keep up to date with all the latest information from the London Irish Foundation, please visit http://www.londonirishfoundation.org/
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