Last Monday evening 48 mini rugby players returned to Ballynahinch – triumphant but very weary.  The lads had been taking part in the prestigious Alnwick Mini Rugby Festival and playing against teams from across the North East of England.  “All of the lads played above themselves,” commented Mini Rugby Convenor Matt Milliken, “They represented themselves and Ballynahinch well and played at all times in the true spirit of rugby.  They arrived in the festival as opponents and left as friends.” 

Ballynahinch reached the finals of both the Under 10 and the under 11 competitions, with the Under 10s narrowly losing out to the hosts and county champions, Alnwick.  The Under 11s went one step further and retained the trophy that they had lifted in 2010.  A second Under 11 Ballynahinch team ended the festival in a very creditable fifth place having played and beaten established teams.  “We were particularly proud of these lads – some of whom had very little experience of rugby before this season.”  Matt Milliken told our reporter.   

The tour was a reflection of the excellent relationships built between Ballynahinch and local GAA clubs in recent years.  “Over half of the boys who took part on the tour play Gaelic football as well as rugby,” added Matt “We are very grateful to Rural Community Network’s Rural Enabler Programme, funded under the European Union’s PEACEIII Programme through the Special EU Programmes Body.   The Rural Enabler Programme recognised the work we are doing to bring communities closer together and gave us a grant to buy the lads a special rugby shirt for the tour.  So the Hinch didn’t just play the best rugby we were also the best turned out!” 

Jude Cumiskey, Rural Enabler for County Down congratulated everyone on the ongoing success of The Playing the Same Game Project  by saying “ This joint initiative between the clubs demonstrates how they recognise the benefits of working together and the appreciation of their traditions and cultures through sporting activities. The Rural Enabler programme is assisting the development of this project which is demonstrating the visible commitment of the clubs in promoting the sharing of opportunity and the building of relationships and partnership working across the sports.” We look forward to supporting the future development of this project”. 

The tour was also supported with generous donations from H&J Martin, Clough Community Pharmacy, Fermor Rebus Ltd, McConnell Property, Conservation Solutions ltd. The Hinch convenor commented, “The support of these companies meant that we were able to ensure that no player was prevented from taking place by the cost of the weekend.” 

Mini Rugby at the Hinch concludes on Saturday 7th May with a joint rugby and Gaelic football fun-day, BBQ and special guest appearances from local sporting stars.  

ADDITIONAL PHOTO CALL: Ballymacarn Park, Spa @ 12.00 on 7th May (Ulster Rugby Stars and Down GAA Stars to be present)

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Matt Milliken 077 1574 3274 

Matt Milliken
Assistant Advisory Officer
Community Relations, Equality & Diversity
t: 028 9056 6961
m: 077 8074 3241