THE seventh Gary Clarke Memorial Cup kicked off in near perfect conditions under the Pollock Park floodlights last on Wednesday evening.
The event welcomed back the best local talent from Lurgan College, Banbridge Academy and Portadown College alongside a Lurgan U18 XV.
The tournament was played in a round-robin format, with games of 15 minutes each. First up were Portadown College and Banbridge Academy and a fast pace was set by both teams as a crowd of spectators gathered to cheer them on. Portadown scored and converted a try to win 7–0. The second fixture was a tighter affair with Lurgan U18s edging out Lurgan College by 5 points to nil.
The Lurgan U18s stayed on the pitch to face Portadown College and there wasn’t much between the sides as the Lurgan outfit outscored their neighbours 7-5. Next up Lurgan College faced Banbridge Academy in a must win game if either side was to reach the final. In the end the College claimed a 10 points to nil victory. The Academy team then faced the unbeaten Lurgan U18 side and the home club boys were comfortable winners by an unanswered 12 points.
In a rerun of last year’s final Lurgan College faced Portadown College in the last of the group games. At stake was a place in the final alongside the favourites Lurgan U18s. The boys from Lurgan College managed a try and a penalty to win 8-0 and make the final an all Lurgan affair.
As the final kicked off the Lurgan club side were favourites but the College claimed first blood with a Mark McIlwaine penalty straight in front of the posts. From the restart the College failed to clear their lines and offered the U18s a lineout inside the College ’22. The U18s set up a driving maul and skirmished forward close to the College lines. After a number of picks and drives the U18 captain, Dylan Gill, reached for the corner to put his team 5-0 ahead.
With the missed conversion the College just needed another penalty to regain the lead. The restart was fielded by Daniel Cairns who danced from his half deep into the College defence. The U18s had all the momentum and just as the College seemed to have contained the situation the U18 pack leader, Josh Greer, launched himself off the back of the maul to storm down the three quarters. With speed to burn Greer skipped the first tackler and bounced the second before diving for the corner. The U18s missed another conversion leaving the College with two minutes to score a converted try to draw level. Unfortunately time ran out for the College and the club side claimed the Gary Clarke Memorial Cup 2013.
During the presentations the Lurgan RFC chairman, Mark Prentice, paid tribute to the players and their coaches. He was also pleased to see the cup won by a Lurgan team for the first time since its inception in 2007. Lurgan’s head coach, Paul Heasley, singled out Josh Greer from Lurgan U18s for the player of the tournament award, and awarded runners up prizes to Mark McIlwaine and Daniel Cairns. The Gary Clarke Memorial Cup was presented to the winning captain, Dylan Gill by Mark Prentice.