Armoy RFC - Still going strong after 35 years

THIS season marks a milestone in the history of Armoy RFC which is celebrating its 35th anniversary.

As may be expected a lot of changes have taken place and a lot of faces have come and gone.

One thing is certain though, the club is still there and continuing to survive in north Antrim.

It was a rather inauspicious beginning as the recruits from the newly formed Armoy Rugby Club emerged from a farmyard on a damp Saturday afternoon over 35 years ago.

The farmyard belonged to Brooke Craig, the man responsible for the formation of the club and who kindly donated the use of a field for the pitch and the use of an outhouse for changing rooms.

Their opponents on that occasion were Ballymoney 2nd XV.

Tom Christie in the outhalf position, a position he still occupies to this day, kicked off the match which was the first of many played at Limepark later on.

Ballymoney came out the victors with a try each from Jimmy McKeever and Alan Louden, but the following month was to bring the Armoy Club their first win in a fixture against the then New University of Ulster at Coleraine.

During this game a fine try was scored by a young Paul Scullion.

From those humble beginnings the small club from north Antrim went on to make a name for themselves among rugby enthusiasts across Ulster and even further afield on tours to such varied places as the Isle of Man, Jersey, Isle of Bute and Penrith.

Equally impressive has been their record at home.

Amongst their more notable successes has been winning the Coleraine Sevens on four occasions and runners-up twice.

However, the achievement of which Armoy Rugby Club is most proud is their performance in the 1980-81 season when, coached by Albert Sherrard, the former Ulster and City of Derry player, they won the Harden Cup Final at Ravenhill.

With these improving standards the club continued to grow.

The club sported navy jerseys in the early days but after three years switched to black and amber which is still the kit of choice to this day.

A changing room was erected in 1984 and Moyle District Council, having purchased a field from Brooke Craig, presented the club with a new pitch.

The club used the new pitch alongside the Armoy football team until 1999 when the football team ceased to exist.

It was then that the rugby club took over the running of the clubhouse and all the pitches with it.

Success on the pitch was hard to come by with the first team winning Qualifying League 4 in 2006 for the only time.

It was shortly after this that it was proving too much for the club to stay in Qualifying Rugby but before a final decision was made the club had to step down their first team as too many first team players retired or moved onto other things.

This left one team in Armoy which is still the case today although on several occasions at home matches there would appear to be the bulk of a second team and hopefully in the future there will be enough players to restore the club back up to having two sides.

The second team tasted success in 1995 when they won the Minor 7 for the first time and have come near on many occasions.

Perhaps they might do it in their their anniversary year as a nice achievement for the club.

As was mentioned earlier, a lot of players have come and gone.

Unfortunately some of them have passed away with the first being a founder member - Nellis McAuley - who was a real stalwart of the club in the early days.

The latest being David McCormick and Steven McCook who will never be forgotten by the club for their tireless work and efforts.

The officers and committee of the club at this stage would like to thank everyone for their hard work and commitment to keep this small club going.

Special thanks goes to our list of sponsors who have sponsored the club this special year in the form of signs around the pitch.

Also thanks to the local businessmen who have put their hands in their pockets in these difficult times to supplement the club and perhaps many more will do the same as there is still plenty of room around the pitch!

Several things are arranged for later on this month to mark this special occasion with the last big event being an anniversary dinner due to be held at the end of the season.

A large crowd of past and present players is expected as well as a large number of supporters and friends with a great night in store for all.

Hopefully this will put an end to a memorable season.