Larne RFC behind ‘friendships and comradery that have lasted years’

An east Antrim-based rugby club, which has been part of the local community for 110 years, is looking forward to a full return to activities on and off the field when Covid restrictions allow.

Larne Rugby Football Club was formed in 1912 by Larne Grammar science teacher, Jack Griffiths.

Mr Griffiths worked with the school’s principal, James McQuillan, to get enough old boys together to set up the club.

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Detailing the early days of the club and the tragic impact of World War One, the Glynn-based side’s press, media and communications officer, Stephen Johnston, said: “They decided to enter the Towns Cup in 1912/13 and got to the final only to lose to near neighbours Carrick. In 1913/14 Jack Griffiths was appointed club captain and the team again got to the final playing Carrick, but winning 9-3 this time.

Larne 1st XV. (WNPics)

“In September 1914 the club put rugby on hold as the First World War broke out, and Jack Griffiths accepted a commission with the Ulster Volunteers, and was attached to the 12th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, crossing to France in 1915.

“He was wounded in June, 1916, while leading his men in a bombing raid, for which he received congratulations. Captain Griffiths (35) was killed in action on July 1, 1916 whilst leading his men with great gallantry right up the enemy’s trench at Beaumont-Hamel. He was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatch of November 13, 1916 for distinguished service in the field. Two days after July 1 his ex-pupil and Larne RFC team-mate Lieutenant William McCluggage (23) was reported missing.”

Although the club has been based in Glynn for many years, opening a clubhouse at the site in 1976, the initial games were played at Sandy Bay with other pitches at Ballycarry being used for a period.

Commenting on the current membership, Stepehen said: “We have 148 senior members in addition to 89 life members.

“In the minis and youth level we have approximately 150 spread across all sections up to U18. Mini rugby has thrived over the past number of years with numbers increasing to 120 each Saturday.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to parents, coaches and volunteers in taking on this role for the kids to enjoy coming out in all weather. The men’s set-up fields three senior teams.

“In the prime era of the club, we had fielded six senior men’s teams. The youth section (U12s, U14s and U16s) has struggled this year with schools retaining a lot of players, but we are focusing on developing the club community rugby officer role to help with schools and engaging with more younger players to give it a try.

“For the first time ever, Larne have been able to field a Larne Ladies’ team with approximately 40 girls taking part from ages eight to 16. The two main teams are U10s and U12s, whilst the senior girls make up numbers with other senior clubs to get game time – including two of the coaches playing at Ophir RFC.”

The club has provided an outlet for members over the past two years during the pandemic with the social aspect provided by the community-based club helping to improve mental health.

Stephen explained: “Covid has mainly affected the social aspect and sporting interest to everyone in the club.

“Sport is at the heart of Larne RFC, but along with it, is the friendships and comradery that have lasted for years. With the ease of restrictions, it became clear this was what most people sought after within the first event on the reopening of the club. Sport and friendships are a major healing factor in mental health.”

Praising club stalwarts, Mr Johnston said: “Every club relies on goodwill and volunteers to keep it running and in recent times one or two characters have proved to be the backbone of the club.

“Adam McKinley played until the age of 40 and then devoted his time to the committee where he was chair in 1966-67, and then to Ulster Rugby culminating in his presidency of the Ulster Branch in 1990-91.

“Gerry McCullough is another who played into his ‘late youth’ and was a devoted member of the committee - notably taking on the job of clerk of works when our clubhouse was being built. Gerry was an avid rugby fan who represented Larne at the branch for many years after his club presidency and was instrumental in organising our tour to Australia in 1998.

“Both stalwarts have since passed on, but one man still involved in a hands-on capacity is Arthur James. Arthur has been treasurer since 1975 and is now the club go to man, to help sort out the day to day running of LRFC.”

Throughout its history, the club has had a number of high-profile players, including Trevor Ringland, David McIlwaine and most recently Ben Moxham.

Detailing Larne RFC’s aspirations for the year ahead, Stephen said: “When restrictions are lifted, the club aim to have a thriving and welcoming club once again. The club underwent many changes over lockdown – cleaning, painting, maintaining, and refurbishing all parts of the club and bar to help give a fresh face lift to the premises.

“With sport taken away from most of the members during lockdown, we have seen a big uptake in players wishing to play and train, which is great to see. From a coaching perspective, the numbers attending training have given a great selection headache and, where previously struggling to field three full teams each week, have fulfilled all fixtures across three teams this season.”

New members and all abilities are always welcomed and encouraged to come out and give it a try.

Senior men’s (18+) training is held Tuesday and Thursday at 7.30pm; women’s rugby training is held Tuesdays from 6.30pm to 7.30pm; youth rugby (ages 11-18), Wednesday 7pm to 8.15pm and mini rugby (P1 – P7) is every Saturday from 9.45am to 11am,

For more information, check out the club’s website or social media channels.


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