Ballyclare celebrate lifting the All-Ireland Junior Cup on January 27.Ballyclare celebrate lifting the All-Ireland Junior Cup on January 27.
Ballyclare celebrate lifting the All-Ireland Junior Cup on January 27.

All-Ireland Junior Cup: ‘win's for the whole town to share’

Ballyclare Rugby Club’s first XV returned to a hero’s welcome at The Cloughan on Saturday following their resounding win over Bective Rangers in the Energia All-Ireland Junior Cup final.

The showpiece, played in Dundalk, saw Ballyclare return home with the trophy for the first time following their emphatic 48-8 victory over the Dublin-based outfit.

Commenting in the aftermath of the celebrations, Mike Orchin-McKeever, Head Coach at Ballyclare RFC, said: "This is a fantastic occasion for the club in which the players energetically, yet calmly, performed in.

"We tee'd off better than we could have planned and the lads were brave and relentless in attack and defence. I thought the squad was led brilliantly by captain, Joel McBride who had a very strong game along with standout performances by Owen Warren and Jack Milton.

"I think Jack Gamble has been consistently excellent all year as has Matthew McDowell. The whole squad performed brilliantly and it was a delight to see it happen in a final.

"Dundalk were brilliant hosts and Bective are a strong side, having won the Leinster league the past two seasons. It was a huge task and I am delighted for the lads to experience the win and lift the trophy. The supporters had a good day out and added to the memory for all.

"Huge thanks to the management team at the club, they all played a key role and our supporters. It was one for the whole town to share. I now cant wait for the league game against City of Derry."

Saturday’s triumph came almost two years to the day since the south Antrim side lost 13-11 in the All-Ireland Junior Cup decider at Ravenhill against Clogher Valley.

Mike added: “The loss v Clogher two years ago hadn't been mentioned. We learnt from that experience at the time and moved on.

"That season we went on to win the Towns Cup and finish third in the league. Last year we won both Towns Cup and Junior Cup and reached scond in the league. We are very much focused on getting better each week, having fun and making memories. If finals, trophies and league positions improve then that’s awesome.”

The team is made up of a mixture of youth and experience.

Praising the young players who have shone since breaking into the first XV, Orchin-McKeever, who is also Director of Rugby at Ballyclare High School, stated: “Three men in their second year out of school rugby have now already played in three finals and won all three, Towns Cup, Junior Cup and the All Ireland Junior Cup.

"Fly half Alex Darrah and backrow forward Luke Mcilwrath, along with Peter Gillespie who has not only played and won them but also scored in all three. Peter was joined this season with his brother David, who captained Ballyclare High last year, started at second row.”

The All-Ireland Junior Cup was introduced in the 2005/06 season. Four clubs from each province qualify for the cup – usually the four Provincial Junior Cup semi-finalists.

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