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The 2011 Donaghadee Rugby Football Club Annual General Meeting was held at the Newtownards Road clubhouse on Thursday 12 May. The Club Chairman, David Monson, opened with a request that those present might take a moment of silence in memory of former club stalwarts Harry Humphreys, John Strain and Cois Beukes, all of whom had passed away during the immediate past season. This done, he continued with a short review of the season. He said he was very proud to have been in office in the very important 125th year of the club, and simultaneously in the season when the First XV had honoured the club with well-deserved promotion to Ulster Branch Qualifying League Section One.

The beginning of the season had brought its difficulties. The Chairman said that in August the presence of a contracted overseas player had once again been frustrated by bureaucracy. On this occasion, due to some delays over a work visa beyond the power of Donaghadee RFC the Ulster Branch had rejected the club’s request for clearance because it had arrived a day late.

With the club now restricted to their home-grown talent, the First XV took up where they had left off the previous April. They continued what was to be an unbeaten run of 15 consecutive wins in the year 2010. During the recently-completed 2010-11 season the Firsts played 17 League games scoring 467 points while conceding 275. Unfortunately the home game scheduled with BHSFP was never played. No one can say how this game would have turned out, but BHS’s difficult season suggests that Donaghadee probably would have won it comfortably and finished with over 500 points scored and 71 league points. The League winners CIYMS won 17 games out of 18 played, and amassed 546 match points with 79 points in the league. The Chairman congratulated our great rivals from Belmont on their achievements and hoped that both teams would fare very well in Qualifying League One.

The well-remembered and almost universally disliked winter made life difficult for almost everybody. For a frustrating ten weeks from early December the Donaghadee teams, like so many others, were forced to continue training and planning for games that were once again put off because of the snow and freezing temperatures. This was frustrating enough for all players, coaches and fans, but it had a serious effect on the finances too, with very little going on in the clubhouse as well because of lack of games.

There was little relief from the bitter weather, but just prior to Christmas the club’s commemorative book celebrating its one and a quarter centuries in existence brought some cheer when it was published. The Chairman thanked all those who had contributed to this publication and gave special thanks to the editor, the club’s long-serving PRO, Harry Allen, for his efforts at pulling the whole thing together. He also thanked those who had contributed stories, articles, pictures and reminiscences, not to mention the good friends of the club whose advertising revenues defrayed much of the cost.

The prolonged lay-off on the field eventually did come to an end. In more spring-like conditions the Firsts built their League totals towards the long-awaited and very important game against Ballyclare at the Roughans. Mathematically either team could attain promotion with a victory in this game.

Going two tries down at the start certainly woke Donaghadee up, and they then proceeded to put on what many thought was their best performance of the season, both to win the game, and to assure promotion alongside CIYMS. The Chairman said that the impromptu accolade of the large contingent of Donaghadee supporters applauding the Firsts off the field was one of the best experiences in his rugby life. Not only did it celebrate a momentous season for club captain Chris Good, coach Jimmy McCoy and the playing squad, but it emphasised just how great is the support this club enjoys home and away, community support that many senior clubs in rugby football and other sports would love to have. Their attendance and vocal support goes a long way to help the players every game day.

To achieve such League success is most gratifying, but in both Junior and Provincial Towns’ Cups Donaghadee had gone down in two immense clashes. Coincidently both were against Ballymoney away. After both games the home supporters were generous enough to commiserate with their visitors after Ballymoney had squeaked home by 24-21 and 22-20 without ever dominating. However, the Chairman reckoned that the two games would serve as warning about the higher standards the team could expect next August. He congratulated incoming Club Captain Bobby Harpur and wished him every success with his team in the higher level.

No club’s first team can expect great success if they do not have a strong panel of reserves. In our Second XV, he stated, there is a great mix of enthusiastic young players with great potential and a few experienced stalwarts whose potential may be a bit behind them, but whose expertise and continuing enthusiasm produced continuing improvement right through a fine season. This saw them grow from a competent side into a excellent team that finished third in a hard league. He singled out for credit the captain Andrew Dunn and team manager Ian Fleming for their hard work and inspiration. He reckoned that one of the highlights in a great year for the Donaghadee club had to be the two-way fixture with Limavady with their Hawaiian and bad taste themes – great fun and some stirring rugby football.

In any sports club the lower teams have to deal with most of the selection problems, with cry-offs throughout the club always affecting them when players are moved up. Donaghadee’s Third Fifteen had a good season, even if they had to work hard for it. They too are encouraged by the influx of some fine young prospects, and in Captain Pete McQuillan and life-force Vic Vine-Thorpe they were fortunate to have two fine leaders of men. For 2011-2012 the team will be captained by Phil Weston and managed by Mark Poole and the club wishes them every success.

The Chairman highlighted the sterling work done throughout the season by physiotherapist Niall Moraghan and his able assistants Nicola Todd and Sarah McAllister. He had no doubt that their efforts on Saturdays and during the week had been a major contribution to the well-being of the players during the heavy season.

The Chairman then turned to the club’s Youth Section, praising the efforts of Davy Henderson, Davy Moore, Will Hopes and Andrew Robinson in continuing to provide rugby every weekend for enthusiastic toddlers and above. He added that the current flavour for non-competitive sports without winners and losers had dealt a blow to the section, and especially to the Kimm Cup. This trophy had been given to the club by members of the family of DRFC great Jim Kimm along with a continuing monetary donation that was now finding itself unused. This seriously needs to be looked at by the new Council.

The Seaside Sharkies, largely run by the Crawford sisters and Stephen Marshall, continues to give opportunities for special needs youngsters to enjoy the sport of rugby. The club, he said, was very proud to be associated with this effort. The sessions continue on Wednesday evenings in the early summer and he is given to understand that they will be attending the grand competition at Ravenhill very soon.

The main events outside the leagues and cups in this commemorative season had been the Dinner Dance in September, and then a celebration game against a Lansdowne RFC XV and a 260-cover dinner in April. The first-mentioned function had suffered something of a disappointment when the Branch was unable to supply an Ulster Juniors XV for a pre-dinner game. Then the April fixture (which had been planned as a game against a former Ireland International XV) echoed the modern truth that the now-professional sport of Rugby Union puts so many demands on former Internationals that their diaries are crammed with administrative jobs in rugby and much sought-after guest appearances all over.

The Chairman thanked John Blewitt for his efforts in organising the game, and to Mick Quinn who was able to rescue the affair by bringing a representative XV from his home club Lansdowne. The game and the dinner were both well supported and enjoyed by all. It had been very gratifying to learn that the dinner, its auction and its ballot had been able to raise £3000 for the IRFU Charitable Trust.

The 2010-11 season, Mr Monson reported, had been preceded by a ground-improvement contract that had resulted in a much improved playing pitch for the season and that the club was indebted to John Blewitt and his team of Ken Ross, Stephen Donaldson, Francis Porter, Howard McCutcheon and Anthony Bunting for their regular maintenance work during the season keeping the pitches in great order. He also thanked Roy Butler and Derek Martindale for the generous provision of their machinery that is so necessary for the work. The professional pre-season efforts and the ongoing maintenance had made no small contribution to the great successes on the field this season.

Regarding off-field activities he praised the efforts of Cathy Angus and her team for all their work with the bar and the club’s catering. They too had had a difficult year with the hole it had in the middle with little or nothing going on no matter what was tried to get rugby football in Donaldson Park. Mr Monson wished it recorded that Cathy, Emma, Taylor and the others such as Ian Rodgers, the two Anthony Buntings and others who had organised and run after-match barbecues on the more clement Saturdays.

He concluded by saying that his two years in the chair had been quite intense at times, but that they had brought him great satisfaction too. He was certain that the new Council would continue the work in 2011-2012. He then congratulated Ian Fleming on his election as the incoming Chairman and wished him well in the position, calling upon all members to give him their full support in what inevitably will be a challenging year both on and off the playing field.

5. Honorary Secretary’s Report.

After remarking that it was very gratifying to see so many friendly-looking faces, the Honorary Secretary Jim McGrugan began his remarks traditionally by saying that the Chairman had stolen all his tributes and compliments. He did want to add his own congratulations to Chris Good, Jimmy McCoy and the players on all three teams on completing a difficult, but successful season. In addition, with the pitches holding up as well as they had, and player numbers up, there was a marvellous feel-good factor about the club and indeed the whole community of Donaghadee.

He endorsed what had been said about the captains, team managers, coaches, players, sponsors, supporters and all who made contributions throughout the season. He had been delighted with all the 125th productions, the book, the matches, the dinners and the people who contributed so much to the club’s achievements. All of these had been covered by the Chairman but he wished to add his own personal thanks and appreciation to those whom DM had mentioned. He added Hans Arthur to his list of people to be thanked. Hans, he reported, had worked immensely hard chasing up numbers at so many functions. He had engaged Posh Nosh for the larger functions and indeed some of the intermediate lunches, and Cathy and staff had looked after the remainder, and all were excellent. He informed those present that now the club was in Section 1 Hans was keen to precede every home fixture next season with a lunch.

After echoing the praise of team captains Andrew Dunn and Pete McQuillan and managers Peter Matthews, Ian Fleming and Vic Vine-Thorpe, JMcG applauded the club’s hard-working referees John Coyle, Teddy Hall, Brian McLawrence and Chris Russell and claimed that DRFC had the best supporters in Ulster Rugby.

He concluded by paying tribute to the exceptional effort put in by outgoing Chairman David Monson and his own thanks to the large numbers of members who had added their support all year; most of these had been mentioned already, but he wished to add his own thanks to Murdoch and Ross Bennett for their sterling help .

6. Hon. Treasurer’s Report

Gareth Gordon began his first presentation of the Treasurer’s Report on the club’s 2010 finances. He began by saying that little had changed during the past season with the club’s incomings and outgoings. He made no apology for imploring members to remember to pay their annual subscriptions promptly at the beginning of the season, maybe stay and enjoy the crack for a little longer on a Saturday and perhaps sign up to the social events run by the club. A club these days can suffer from lack of support off the field just as much as the players’ achievements on the field. He expressed his personal thanks for the considerable support the club enjoys from their generous sponsors, especially the club’s main sponsors Pier 36 in Donaghadee.

Fixture Secretary’s Report

Francis Porter began with his own tributes to those players, coaches, supporters and others who had contributed to what anyone would call a successful season. The stars of the show had undoubtedly been the club’s First XV, without whom of course there might not be a viable rugby football club. He added that the Second team members should recognise that they comprised an excellent nursery for the club’s representatives in the Qualifying League and that the Thirds are a most important support too. He closed by giving a statistical break-down of the seasons of all three teams and hoped that it would continue as well next season.

Election of Officers

At this point all offices were declared vacant and the club’s President, Bill Boomer took the chair for the election of officers. He endorsed all the kind words that had gone before, paid generous tribute to the outgoing Chairman and Secretary, echoed the previous tributes to our referees and wished the coaches Jimmy McCoy and Andy Monson every success in 2011 – 12

The following people were proposed, seconded and elected to the new Council:

President: W.A Boomer
Chairman: Ian Fleming Vice Chairman: Hans Arthur
Hon Sec: Peter Matthews Capt 1st XV: Bobby Harpur
Hon Treas: Thomas Trainor
Chairman, House Committee David Monson
Chairman of Dev. Comm. Peter McQuillan
Director of Rugby: Andy Monson
Rep. On Ulster Branch: Jim Lyttle

The President then asked the new Chairman, Ian Fleming, to take his rightful place in the Chair. The latter thanked the club for the trust they had placed in him, and promised to carry out his new duties to the best of his abilities.

This Friday

The club’s season will come to a formal conclusion at the Annual Dinner which has been arranged for this Friday (20th May) at the Donaldson Park Clubhouse. Hans Arthur and Jim McGrugan have been taking names for some weeks, but if you are reading this for the first time and would like to go, contact one of the above.

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