Annual Ballymena Barbarians rugby fixture at Eaton Park this Saturday

THE annual Ballymena Barbarians rugby match will take place this Saturday, March 30, with the Ballymena under-18 side taking on Ulster under-18s at Eaton Park (12.15pm).

Action from a previous Ballymena Barbarians game a few seasons back. The Ulster player tackling Ballymena's Darrell Montgomery is none other than current Ireland out-half Paddy Jackson.

It will be the fifth year in which the Ballymena side, comprised of the best local talent at under-18 age group, will compete.

Traditionally, the prestigious fixture has seen Ballymena take on the recently-crowned Schools Cup winners.

However, the fixture has now attracted the attention of Ulster Rugby, who will be sending their under-18s to take on the Barbarians.

The Ballymena Barbarians is an invitational side, bringing together the finest young talent from schools and clubs across ulster. They have a commitment to dynamic attacking rugby and an on and off field camaraderie true to the Barbarian spirit.

Ballymena Barbarians manager Glen Boyd and head coach Darrell O’Kane are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of them. This is by far the hardest challenge yet to face the Ballymena Barbarians who will be looking for another win after last years crushing victory over Methodist College.

In past years this fixture has seen some of the current Ulster and Ireland team participate.

The likes of Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson and Adam Macklin have all represented Methody as school cup winners, while the Ballymena Barbarians line-up has included the likes of Luke Marshall – now an established member of the full Irish squad – and John Andrew, who has just competed in the under 20’s six nations for Ireland.

Andrew Warwick, Stephen Mulholland and Rodger McBurney, who have also represented the Ballymena Barbarians, have all gone on to represented Ulster/Ulster Ravens.

This years Barbarian side will be made up with representatives from Ballymena Academy, Cambridge House, Coleraine Institute, Ballyclare High School and Ballymena RFC under 18’s.

This fixture will see the return to Eaton Park of ex-Ballymena RFC coach John Andrews who is the current Ulster under 18’s coach and a big crowd is expected for the game.

Later in the afternoon, Ballymena’s First XV will continue their bid for Ulster Bank All-Ireland League Division 1B survival with a home game against Bruff; the Second XV are at home to Coleraine; while also at Eaton Park, the Fifth XV will make a second attempt to play their Forster Cup semi-final against neighbours Randalstown Seconds.