DONAGHADEE Rugby 125th COMMEMORATION DAY Special Invitation XV + Gala Dinner – Fantastic Celebrations

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Because of the long Antarctic break this season the Donaghadee club’s First XV have has been in a non-stop three week period striving to complete a daunting overcrowded end of season run while they are still in serious contention for promotion and League honours. However, as long ago as September a game had been initiated by club stalwart John Blewitt and endorsed by the club’s Council that would jointly mark the one and a quarter centuries of rugby football in Donaghadee and hopefully make a decent contribution to the always insufficient budget of the Irish Rugby Union’s Charitable Trust.
The date of Saturday, 16 April had been chosen for its likelihood of being in a quiet period at end of season. In the frantic rush of fixtures any and all obstacles had to be overcome, because somehow this game just had to be fitted in. Mick Quinn, of the Irish Rugby Football Union’s Charitable Trust (it seems better to use the full title) brought a strong core of this season’s highly successful Lansdowne Club First XV to Donaghadee fresh from their own promotion season. A number of former DRFC Captains, Ulster representatives and others swelled the numbers. The game itself was very entertaining, well officiated by the Donaghadee club’s USRFR referees John Coyle, Brian McLawrence and Frank Humphreys. Some of the Donaghadee squad showed that the club well deserves their successes so far this season, and some of the stylish and even awesome touches from the Senior level Lansdowne players were both encouraging and thrilling.
In a festival-style game the result is not very important, but for the purists the strong Lansdowne squad came out as 36-27 victors. A most welcome crowd around the pitch enjoyed the game very much. Club President Bill Boomer had no hesitation in circumnavigating the pitch a few times to cajole any and every contribution he could get to aid the Trust.
Later in the evening almost 300 people gathered in the beautifully decorated marquee where they enjoyed the magnificent fare provided by caterers Posh Nosh at the Commemorative Dinner. The Donaghadee club, its members and guests felt privileged that this venerable club was honoured on the occasion by the presence of a true rugby legend, Mike Gibson. The club is very proud of the Gibson connection having had the grandfather of the 5-times Lions icon as their Chairman and later Life-President through the years before and after the last War.
Pre-prandially and at the dinner tables the crack and rugby fellowship continued. Some club members unashamedly strong-armed anyone in sight to buy ballot tickets for the Trust, almost halting the serving of dinner until there were no tickets left.
The meal itself was a triumph, and as coffee was being enjoyed, the assembled company was entertained by the popular Mick Quinn. Acting as the evening’s M.C. he set the high quality tone and then introduced guest speakers Colin Barkley and Noel McClarnon.
There was also a sealed-envelope collection for the Charitable Trust and Mr Barkley conducted an auction of attractive rugby memorabilia such as autographed Ireland and Ulster shirts and an interesting framed original document. This was the commentator’s information sheet used for an Ireland v. France International by the legend that was Bill McLaren – a collector’s item for any rugby fan. After a preliminary count, the club Chairman has asked that it be published that the touchline collection, the ballot and the auction of rugby memorabilia added up to over £3000.00 for the Charitable Trust.
After a gradual wind-down of mostly personal reminiscences in small groups the evening came to an end with about three hundred rugby men and women gradually dwindling home in their taxis, hopefully with a store of fond memories of an excellent evening.
Apportioning credit is always dangerous. Of course David Monson’s DRFC Council were always involved in the enterprise, but special mention must be given to Hans Arthur whose expertise in such matters is only matched by his attention to detail and his unflagging energy. First XV Team Manager Peter Matthews’s grasp of nitty-gritty particulars regarding numbers, publicity and the pulling together of a staggering amount of detail made this difficult project a great success. John Blewitt’s determination that DRFC would host the affair and Mick Quinn’s efforts to assemble an entertaining visitors’ team, Cathy Angus and her amazing staff and the many others, often unsung, who presented the pitch, surrounds, clubhouse, electricity and PA supply etc. in such attractive order must at least get a collective thank-you from all present at what was a marvellous 10 or 12 hours of rugby football fellowship.
Huge game this Saturday. Any Donaghadee supporter who is free should do their very best to get to The Cloughan on the Doagh Road out of Ballyclare before 2.30pm. This game can make or break either club’s season. It should be a cracking contest.

Hopefully what follows immediately is the present state of play in QL2 (18 April).
CIYMS – played 16 games, total 69 points
Donaghadee- played 16 games, total 61 points.
Ballyclare – played 17 games, total 57 points
Remaining fixtures for CIYMS: Donaghadee (H), Enniskillen (H).
Donaghadee: Ballyclare (A), CIYMS (A).
Ballyclare: Donaghadee (H)

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