First mixed ability event proves a huge hit at Rifle Park

First mixed ability event proves a huge hit at Rifle Park
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It was a day to remember at Rifle Park for players and spectators at a groundbreaking tournament.

Last Saturday Banbridge Barbarians Mixed Ability Rugby (MAR) team had the pleasure of hosting their first Festival with teams converging from Cork, Arklow, Dublin and Belfast for the event.

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It was an excellent opportunity for the host club to showcase MAR and it proved a tremendous success.

​Ryan Johnston secures the conversion for Bann.​Ryan Johnston secures the conversion for Bann.
​Ryan Johnston secures the conversion for Bann.

Mixed Ability Rugby is about inclusion and fun and it was clear to see that rugby was the winner on Saturday.

Whilst the weather was changeable it didn’t dampen the spirits of the players who put on an excellent display of rugby with Malone Tornadoes remaining unbeaten and winning the President’s Shield and De La Salle Palmerston Vikings winning The Spirit of Rugby Award. Each team also received a participation award and all players received medals marking the significance of the day.

The hosts themselves didn’t have a bad day either, winning two games, drawing one and losing out to Malone Tornadoes in their final match. There were Barbarian debuts for Josh Ryans, Aubrey Whiteside and Dave Cairns. It’s testament to how far this team has come along from starting in September 2019 and a large squad allowed the rotation of players that assisted the other teams.

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Festival organiser Kenny Long was keen to place on record the Club’s thanks for everyone who helped make the day such a success. “We’re indebted to our sponsors - without their assistance these events wouldn’t happen”, he said at the conclusion of proceedings. “It was great to see David McKay (IRFU Disability Inclusion Officer), Shel Laffin (Ulster Rugby Inclusion Officer) and Alan Craughwell from IMAS in attendance. They were full of praise for the way the Festival was run, saying that the event had set a high standard.”

​Joshua Millar and Mark Hudson with well-wishers.​Joshua Millar and Mark Hudson with well-wishers.
​Joshua Millar and Mark Hudson with well-wishers.

Club President Tim Honeyford was in attendance and he accompanied Lord Mayor Margaret Tinsley and Ulster Branch Representative Sam Grattan as they met all the teams. Honeyford said that the Lord Mayor really enjoyed visiting the event. She had commented that it was tremendous to see how people come together through sport – it’s great to everyone being included.

Ulster players Callum Reid and Ben Moxham also attended the Festival and they checked out the passing and kicking skills zones and were very impressed by the skills on show. After the awards ceremony was completed the players and supporters rounded off the day by singing ‘Star of the Co Down’, led by Barbarian Alex Dawson.

Everyone then adjourned to the clubhouse for food and refreshments, with special thanks to Linen Hill Street Kitchen who provided the food, and this was an excellent opportunity to sit down together and renew friendships.

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Barbarians team manager Raymond Reid said that it was an extremely proud day for Banbridge Rugby Football Club, and in particular the Club’s Mixed Ability side, as they showcased how far their journey had brought them in just a few seasons. “If anyone wants to learn more about Mixed Ability Rugby,” he said, “why not drop in on one of our training nights, Tuesday or Thursday from 6.30 pm to see what happens.”

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