Lurgan 'minis' star at Aviva
TWO former Lurgan players featured in a glamour tie to mark the opening of the new 50,000 seater Aviva stadium.
David McGuigan and Jonny Murphy both played for Lurgan at youth level and they were reunited for the U20 showdown in Dublin on Saturday as Ulster and Leinster took on Munster and Connaught.
With David, who turns 19 later this month, on holidays his dad Noel spoke of the proud day for the family.
Moira man Noel said: "When the match was announced little did we know David would be playing in it.
"The match was originally billed as a senior game but many of the senior players were unavailable due to training schedules."
He continued: "Most people were probably there to see the stadium. For David and the guys it was absolutely amazing. It was tremendous to see him do what he loves doing - what he's always loved doing. It was brilliant just to see him running out and seeing him fulfil his potential. He's put a lot in over the last year - working hard at his rugby."
David started playing mini rugby at Lurgan when he was in P4 at Maralin Primary School.
He learnt a harsh lesson in his first game - his own father giving him his marching orders.
Noel said: "He was always very competitive. I was reffing the match he was playing. He kept questioning me and I sent him off. It doesn't look to have done him any harm.
"David was with the minis from P4 to P7. Ian Andrews took the minis then. He asked me to come and give him a hand."
Through the mini rugby at Lurgan David met Jonny Murphy, another Ulster-based star of Saturday's 68-0 victory. Jonny lives in Donaghcloney and is signed to Banbridge. He has captained Junior Ulster and played for Ireland Youth.
Noel said: "I always reckoned Jonny could make it from as far back as the minis. He was very determined and very good at doing what he was told."
He continued: "Whenever David finished primary school at Maralin and moved to Friends I finished with the minis. I was already following his brother Andrew at Friends.
"Unfortunately Andrew couldn't be there on Saturday as he's out in South Africa doing part of his medical training."
David did pre-season with Lurgan last year and Andrew has played a few games at senior level and trained with the minis. David also helped out Andrew Davis and Neil McIlwaine with the Under 15s as part of his Duke of Edinburgh last year and has played cricket for junior teams at Lurgan.
David now awaits his A-Level results to see if he can go to Jordanstown to study Sport and Exercise.
"Ideally he would like to go full time with the rugby or maybe combine it with his degree," said Noel.
Noel, who played senior rugby for Lurgan and Lisburn, said: "When I played for Lisburn we won the Town's Cup at Ravenhill. There would have been about 1,000 to 1,500 there - nowhere near Saturday's crowd."
He added: "This was David's first big match. He'd never played for Ulster schools - he never made the panel. He had a good year with the school and impressed in a couple of games against Ballymena.
"He's made it to the extended squad for Ulster Under 20s. He's not a shoe-in because of Saturday, but it was a big step in the right direction."
David has also trained with Ulster senior squad, including Stephen Ferris, himself a former Friends pupil.
On Saturday he played the full 80 minutes and was singled out by RTE pundit Donal Lenihan during the match summary.
There was one final local link to Saturday's game with Ulster second row Iain Henderson's mum hailing from Donaghcloney.