Antrim Viking Minis rugby Report – Antrim RFC’s Make their Debut at Ravenhill ! + Action Shots

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Antrim RFC’s Make their Debut at Ravenhill !
After almost 10 years in the wilderness, the 2013/2014 season has been a hugely successful season for Antrim RFC junior section. Antrim RFC youth section was at one time, one of the most successful rugby outfits in Ulster. The club won plenty of silverware at all junior levels and were regular visitors to Ravenhill. So with Head Coach Richard Smyth outlining his preseason objectives to include a re-introduction of rugby at all age levels, the Antrim RFC playing squad and committee got the ball rolling and volunteered their time and patience to re-establish the mini section, knowing this would help sustain the future of Antrim Rugby within the town for years to come. CLICK HERE for shots \\!!//
The club had been working with local primary schools, running various rugby blitzes within the town until kids began to turn up for the Saturday mornings. The club persevered with the small numbers in the beginning and thanks to the Ulster Rugby Branch; volunteers were given the opportunity to attain coaching qualifications. Close ties with Antrim Grammar School allowed the club to relocate training within Antrim town in a close proximity to the local housing estates, rather than at considerable travelling distance for children and parents. This increased attendance slightly as the youth ranks began to grow.
“It was crucial to give them an identity from the word go, something to belong to and be proud of. We came up with the Viking Minis. We wanted to keep something within the history of the town. We train beside the Round Tower, where the Vikings would have raided many years ago so we thought it would be a good association for them. ” Said one committee member.
The club’s efforts were recognised in the recent SportNI Celebration of Sport in the Antrim Forum. The Antrim Viking Minis and juniors were invited to represent rugby and showcase their good work alongside other different sports in the community. Lead by David McKee, they had the opportunity to work with first team coach Richard Smyth which allowed them to exhibit some of the more advanced drills that the elder players worked on during the season. The drills were toned down to cater for all abilities and encourage spectating children in the community to join in and take part. Not only did the club get to showcase their hard work, but had the opportunity to train with Lions, Ireland and Ulster winger Tommy Bowe. Other celebrities such as Sochi Gold Medallist, Kelly Gallagher and Paralympian Gold Medallist, Michael McKillop joined in in full view of the national television camera crews.
One of the club coaches, David Thompson said, “They loved it, and we are grateful that Tommy took the time to join in. He could have just watched, but it meant the world to the kids that he took part and many of them were going to school the next day telling their classmates they got to train with Tommy Bowe on UTV live and BBC television.”
The good news did not just end there. With almost a year of training under their belts, the Viking minis were then invited by the Ulster Rugby Branch to walk out onto the pitch at half time of the Ulster and Saracens game on Saturday afternoon and play their first ever competitive game of rugby. It was a fitting debut, given that their first game would be in front of 18,000 fans on the opening of the Ravenhill redevelopment. Local townsfolk bombarded the Antrim RFC Facebook page with positive messages for the Viking Minis as they got ready to walk out onto the Ravenhill turf.
Head of the junior coaching set up, David McKee said, “It has been a memorable year for rugby in Antrim and in particular for the Viking Minis. Let’s hope that we can build on this and continue to work with the local schools and businesses to promote the sport of rugby. We sincerely hope that the next time these players line up at Ravenhill that it is for a cup final involving Antrim RFC or in an Ulster Jersey! Playing in an Ulster jersey wouldn’t be too unrealistic; Ulster prop Ricky Lutton started his playing career in our minis setup back in the day! ”

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