THE inaugural rugby match between the town’s two grammar schools proved to be a resounding success, writes Graeme Cousins.
Lurgan College emerged victorious from the encounter with St Michael’s, though the Catholic grammar school have a lot to be proud of.
In a very open encounter, played at Pollock Park, the home of Lurgan Rugby, St Michael’s didn’t disgrace themselves, crossing the line for three tries in reply to the seven scores from the College, who are unbeaten at Medallion level this season.
St Michael’s had only started training for this game in September with the vast majority of their team having no rugby experience.
Coached by Director of Lurgan RFCC and Youth Development Officer, Graeme Hunter, the St Michael’s boys showed an unbelievable level of appreciation of the sport and at times had the well-drilled College outfit on the back foot.
Two of the St Michael’s team - Niall Greene and Mark McCafferty - play for Lurgan Under 17s and both scored tries at the rugby ground they call home.
But the biggest cheer of the day went up for St Michael’s full back Daire Haughey, playing his first competitive rugby match, who touched down for a try at the end of the first half.
After the game Daire told the ‘MAIL’: “It was a brilliant game and brilliant to get our first try.
“I’d definitely like to do it again. It would encourage me to come up here and play for Lurgan.”
Fellow try scorer Niall Greene added: “There’s a lot more contact in rugby than in Gaelic football. You get to know your team very well.”
Niall’s team mate at St Michael’s and Lurgan U17s, Mark McCafferty, commented: “A lot of the skills are transferable between rugby and Gaelic. I really enjoy both sports. Graeme has been a great coach. He makes everything very simple.”
Graeme, son of former British Lion Ray Hunter, said: “It’s hard to believe these boys have only been playing rugby since September. It was a great game. The boys from St Michael’s can hold their heads high. They should be really proud of themselves. With the talent Lurgan College have to score three tries was an excellent achievement.”
The excellent work Graeme has been carrying out in local schools would not be possible without the support Moy Park and the IRFU Ulster Branch.
Moy Park have been the main sponsor of Lurgan Tigers for the past three years enabling them to employ a full time youth development officer, who coaches in schools across all sides of the community.
IRFU Ulster Branch have also supported this work for the past four to five years and the Lurgan club is starting to benefit from this with the large number of young people now playing in the youth and mini teams at the club.
Graeme commented: “This match between St Michael’s and Lurgan College is the culmination of a lot of hard work over the past few years. Quite simply, this match wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the fantastic support of Moy Park and the Ulster Branch. Not only was it a momentous sporting occasion but a really good news story for Lurgan and hopefully the town will benefit in the future from such events.”