Lions legend Willie John McBride and Ulster star Paddy McAllister were the special guests at launch of 42nd Guinness Carrickfergus Sevens, which is set to take place from May 2 to 4.
“Forty two years is a long time and I would like to congratulate Carrickfergus for keeping the event going,” said McBride, who was attending in his role as joint-president of Wooden Spoon, a charity which aims to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people.
“It’s not an easy thing nowadays, getting the voluntary help that there used to be forty years ago, so it’s tremendous. It’s interesting to hear that the competition is still evolving and still growing,” he added.
“From Wooden Spoon, you have been very generous to us over the years. Carrickfergus and the Sevens has contributed a lot and we thank them very much for that. It’s an organisation that I have been involved with since 1983.
“Any money that’s raised for Wooden Spoon in Ulster, stays in Ulster.”
The Sevens has firmly established itself as the traditional end-of-season celebration of rugby - both on and off the pitch.
The tournament kicked off in 1973, replacing the defunct Jordanstown 7s and it continues to go from strength to strength.
Carrick’s club president, John Strange thanked the tournament sponsors and the organising committee.
“This is the tenth year of the extended three-day event and it has brought great success over the years and it has certainly become the premier seven-a-side event in Northern Ireland,” he said.
The action begins on the Friday evening (May 2) with the Under-19s competition, sponsored by Samurai, which will feature 12 sides competing for the Everest Cup. This will include sides such as Edinburgh College from Scotland, along with some of the best club and schools talent.
Three years ago, the winner Most Valuable player went to current Irish international Iain Henderson who won the Six Nations title with Ireland last weekend.
Saturday’s competition sees teams from England and Scotland, as well some Fijians sides, battle it out in the Quigg Golden Open Competition which attracts 16 teams competing for the Holmes Salver. They will be trying to wrestle the top prize from the NGN 7s who will be again competing as a charity side, in memory of the Noel, Graham and Nevin Spence. Supported by Ulster forward McAllister, they plan to show the flair and ability their friend, Nevin, demonstrated when playing for Ballynahinch and Ulster.
Sunday’s finale will feature the Manvik-sponsored Qualifying League competition, showcasing some of the best talent in junior rugby, with CIYMS hoping to win the Price Cup for the third year in a row. However, local sides Ballyclare and Bangor will want to go one better in 2014.
The competition also has the additional attraction of a Ladies’ 7s, sponsored by Abbey Insurance. Eight teams from across Ulster are expected to take part, with Queen’s aiming to defend their title.
In addition, the Sevens will also host a Development Ladies’ tournament for girls who are new to the game.