WIN OR BUS-T!

MAYOR of Ballymena, Councillor James Currie, has added his backing to the wave of congratulations for Ballymena Academy, following the school's Northern Bank Schools' Cup success.

The first citizen's comments came at a reception in the Braid on Saturday morning, after the team had completed an open-topped bus tour through the town centre.

The sun shone for the occasion as the bus – with passengers in full voice! - snaked its way through the streets of Ballymena, provoking cheers applause from shoppers, along with looks of complete puzzlement from the more uninitiated members of the public!

Earlier, there had been a pleasant surprise for members of the squad, who were each presented with vouchers by tournament sponsors Northern Bank.

Back at the town hall complex, the Mayor welcomed the squad who, he said, “worked so hard throughout the year to bring this trophy back to Ballymena Academy”

He also praised the Academy players and supporters for their conduct on and off the pitch.

“Over the last few weeks, for both parents and players, there has been a lot of tension. As you now relax and enjoy yourselves, remember that this is an outstanding achievement.”

Councillor Currie said the team's exploits had portrayed Ballymena in a positive light in the media, adding: “You have done this town proud and we are all very proud as a community, town and borough that you have brought this trophy back.”

John Wilson, from the IRFU's Ulster Branch reflected on how big an achievement it has been to break the stranglehold of the Belfast schools in this competition.

“It's occasions like this that lend itself to lifelong friendship, camaraderie and a desire to stay together as a team,” he added.