Ballyclare man helps break football world record

Russell Lyness at the charity match in West Sussex. INNT 22-814CON
Russell Lyness at the charity match in West Sussex. INNT 22-814CON

A Ballyclare man has played his part in setting a new world record, while raising funds for two worthy causes at the same time.

Russell Lyness, a software developer, was among a group of Equiniti employees who took on a gruelling football challenge in West Sussex recently.

Russell (second left) pictured with some of the other players who had taken part in the football challenge. INNT 22-815CON

Russell (second left) pictured with some of the other players who had taken part in the football challenge. INNT 22-815CON

The 29-year-old former Ballyclare High School pupil joined 35 other players for the epic charity effort, which saw them continuously play football for a staggering 108 hours.

The football marathon was organised to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation and the Shoreham Memorial Fund.

Explaining the origins of the event, Russell said: “In our Worthing office, one of our colleagues Matt Chaplain unfortunately passed away from a cardiac arrest aged just 38. His friends and colleagues started planning the event in his memory. I got involved when the organiser emailed the other Equiniti offices in the UK asking for more players.”

Russell, who is the secretary of Ballymena and Provincial League side Ballyclare North End, took the decision to get involved as he had set the target of getting fitter in 2016, using the campaign as an incentive.

He continued: “As the event took interest, it was decided it would also remember two local footballers killed in the Shoreham air disaster. Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt both played for Worthing Football Club.”

There were a number of strict rules that the players had to adhere to. The match had to be continuous, with the exception of a five minute accumulated break for every hour that was played. These breaks could be saved up so the players could stop the game completely, giving them the chance to wash and talk together.

There were two teams of 18 taking part in the challenge. A total of 11 players from each team had to be playing at any time, with seven substitutes on each side, who could be used when they were needed in a roll on/roll off fashion. The players played in a shift pattern, meaning they had to play for eight hours at a time, have a break of between four and eight hours before returning to the pitch for another five to eight hours.

The previous record of 105 hours was set last year in Edinburgh, with the 36 players knowing that it was going to be a daunting task to set a new world record.

“We kicked off at 6am on Thursday, May 26, meaning a lot of us had to camp out in the field the night before. It was cold and foggy when we woke at 4.30am to prepare for kick off,” Russell explained.

“I kicked off at 6am and played until 2pm. I then had a four hour break, before playing from 6pm until midnight. I covered 24.7 miles, 52,000 steps and burned 5,500 calories. I played 62 hours in total and had about 10 hours sleep over the five days.”

It hasn’t yet sunk in for the Ballycalre man that he has broken a world record. He said: “It just feels like I’ve played football for a few days and met a great bunch of people. It will take Guinness World Records six weeks to review the footage from the event, before giving us official confirmation of the record. I think it will feel real when I get my certificate through.”

Throughout the challenge there were times when the players could have given up, but knowing that they were doing it for charitable causes helped to inspire them to complete it.

Russell, who is also a part time student at Ulster University added: “Although I never knew any of the three young men that sadly passed away, Matt Grimstone’s brother Paul played with us in the match and it was an absolute pleasure being invited to play alongside him.

“During the hard times, at 4am standing soaked to the skin in a thunder storm you’d only need to look across at Paul and quickly remember why you’re there; not to break a world record, but to be part of something much more special; to create a lasting memory for Matt, Matt and Jacob.”

Although Russell says the challenge is the hardest thing he has done in his life, returning home with sunburn, blisters on his toes and feet, sore knees from playing on the hard surface and a sore ankle, he is preparing for another charity challenge in August.

He added: “I have signed up for the Lap The Lough event in August and I’m collecting for a friend’s son Josh McClean. Josh suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and we’re doing a 95 mile cycle around Lough Neagh, collecting for Josh to have a custom built bike made so he can then go on bike rides with his sister, Rebecca.”

Independent witnesses monitored the event throughout the 108 hours, although the record has still to be officially confirmed by Guinness World Records.

Russell raised a total of £1,350 from friends, family and colleagues, with the latest figure collected by the group sitting at £35,000. All of the money will be divided between the British Heart Foundation and the Shoreham Memorial Fund.

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