THE members of Ballyclare Rugby Club’s all-conquering Fourth XV will have their names woven into the fabric of the club’s folklore following the past season’s heroics.
With the Minor League East championship trophy and the coveted McCambley Cup already on display in the trophy cabinet at The Cloughan, Neil Reynolds’ lads completed the clean sweep by capturing the Ravenhill Cup at the weekend.
Not only that, they went through the entire season without losing a single match; the record reads played 27 won 27, and for good measure they chalked up an amazing 1,100 plus points.
Ballyclare officials confirm that this is a club record, and there is speculation that it might even be an Ulster record.
Coach Ronnie Lamont has assembled a side bristling with experience, and several of the over-40 brigade are likely to hang up their boots, while Ronnie himself has decided to call it a day as far as coaching is concerned.
For upwards of 40 years the former Ulster, Ireland and British Lions wing-forward has been coaching at all levels, and during that time he has been an easily recognisable figure on the touchline irrespective of the weather, giving instructions and encouragement to his players. His coaching skills will be greatly missed, but no doubt on Saturday afternoons the Ballyclare RFC honorary life member will still be attending matches, but purely as a spectator.
For the record, the Fab Fours pulled down the curtain on a memorable season in style at Randalstown on Saturday afternoon, when they defeated the Cookstown senior side 23-15 in the final of the Ravenhill Cup, a trophy that is competed for by the various league winners at Minor League level.
Two John Wasson penalties plus a Trevor Clarke unconverted try gave Ballyclare an 11-9 lead at the break, Paul O’Neill having kept the Tyrone lads in touch with two penalties while Kieran Curry contributed a dropped goal.
After the interval, Cookstown edged in front for the first time with another O’Neill penalty, but star evergreen wing-forward Harry Gaston regained the lead with a score that had his side leading 16-12.
When O’Neill slotted over his fourth penalty there was only one point in it, but fullback Wasson set the scene for the popping of champagne corks back in Ballyclare, when he crashed over in the corner for a try that he also goaled with a magnificent kick.
The Ravenhill Cup was presented to skipper Neil Reynolds by David Reynolds, who represented the Ulster Branch at the match.
This trophy last came to Ballyclare in 1969 when the Ballyclare 3A XV won under the captaincy of Billy Harson.
The successful squad that took part in both cup finals was (Backs): John Wasson, Gareth Smith, Neil Reynolds (Capt.), Niall Lamont, Stuart Barnett, Trevor Clarke, Artie Campbell, John McDonald, Cavan Watson. (Pack) Darren Montgomery, Jonathan Barnett, Stevie Crawford, Terry Moore, Trevor Fletcher, Stephen Wright, Gareth McCartney, Paul Morrow, Harry Gaston, Bruce Logan, George Peel, Ian Luke, Alastair Green, Lyle Andrew.
In addition to their record-breaking exploits on the pitch, the Fours have been actively fundraising, and a cheque for £2,160 was handed over to the Newforge Taggers - a group that sponsors youth rugby.
Meanwhile, Gareth Byers, the First XV fullback, won the Coulter Cup, awarded to the winner of the club’s place-kicking competition. There were seven entrants for this popular event but only Neil Reynolds, Thomas McGookin, Colin Morrow and Byers made it through to the second round.
The trophy is normally presented to the winner by Jackie ‘Ould Hand’ Coulter, but news of the event was conveyed to him in the Hamilton Nursing Home in Ballyclare.