DONAGHADEE SPECIAL: 125th Anniversary, History & Promotion: PART 1 & PART 2

SPECIAL FEATURE: With Promotion In The Bag & 125 Years Under The Belt, Donaghadee’s immensely significant season 10/11 sees them leaving Q2 behind to enter the challenge of Q1 RUGBY ~ PART 1

With Promotion In The Bag & 125 Years Under The Belt, Donaghadee’s immensely significant season 10/11 sees them leaving Q2 behind to enter the challenge of Q1 RUGBY

We review with them here taking a closer look at a club that is 125 years old and has just achieved I XV promotion to the highest level of Junior rugby in Ulster.

Part 1 of these 2 features focuses on the history and 125th Anniversary of the club – Enjoy! Part 2 covers the 2010/11 Promotion winning Season.


To begin we caught up with Bill Allen from one of the stalwart families of the club and asked him what does it mean to be a Dee rugby man

Highs, lows and everything in between characterises this year at the Dee, but being their 125th anniversary we cannot help saying the same of all those years of rugby. This year saw the publication of their 125th Anniversary book and continuous celebration throughout the club of this momentus milestone. History, stories of years gone by, the emergence of the club around 1885, the first games against Bangor, Artisans, Cooke, joining the IRFU, leaving the IRFU and joining again for continuous memebership since 1902 and the weekly match day focus during the season allow for analysis of individual weeks and then a larger view of a season but also with a club that has been in existence now in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

This medium of the internet allows us to appreciate the immense connection we have with the past and also the enormous change that has taken place, by the very fact that we have the emergence of a significant web based presence of the Dee allowing all our friends and family overseas to share in the weekly journey of the Dee.

The History of Donagahdee Rugby Club is mixed with the emergence of rugby in Ireland and as their brand new 125th Anniversary book recalls…..the formation of Dee….”was only thirteen years after Henry Wallace Doveton Dunlop rented fields at Shelbourne in Dublin and began what later became known as the Lansdowne Road Rugby Stadium…. local clubs were sprouting up all over. Some like Bangor, Artisans, Belmont, Crossgar, Cookstown, Fortwilliam, Knock, Mount and Sydenham were destined to have a short life, whilst others like near-neighbours Holywood and Bangor have been around as long as the Donaghadee club.

These near-neighbours of Donagahdee’s have led fairly nomadic existences in their long histories as pitches ceased to be available, but Donaghadee RFC has been all of its 125 years (with a short temporary tour to Ballyhay in the 1970s) at the same ground on the Newtownards Road….. this field has hosted rugby football since those days when it was known only as the field behind the Parish Rectory right up to 2001!
Now, 125 years, two World Wars, a clutch of Ulster Cups and other trophies and perhaps five generations of players later Donaghdee is still fielding three teams proudly clad in their red and green playing in kit almost every Saturday in the season.


Lets compare a match report from 1885 and match report from 2011

1885 in the Belfast Newsletter the following exerpt was printed of a game between Dee & Bangor

…..the gist of the game story is that a Bangor player was “charged by the Donaghadee captain and knocked into touch” and “shortly before half-time McGrattan picked up [the ball] behind the scrummage and, running on, passed to Hamil, who secured a try for Donaghadee.

now in 2011 a recent report exerpt reads as follows,

“Then just before half-time the red and green machine charged forward again with their intent crystal clear. The hard-driving Donaghadee pack released Andrew Findlater with some yards to go, and he crashed over for the important 16-15 Donaghadee lead that gave them any encouragement they might have needed going into the break”

It is clear that nothing much has changed between now and then.

Hard fought physical battles, where the battle is won or lost by a combination of brute force and graceful precise timing and passing of the ball. The finest skills of co-ordination and the brute force of gladiators.
And yet the fraternity, the comaradery, the companionship, the community, the fact that we knock bells out of each other and then make up in the bar afterwards is quite immense. The home crowd getting behind their men and not just wearing their jersey but more times than not its actually wives, children, mothers and brothers in that crowd, and in fact its probably the same jersey their father wore!!!!!


Donaghadee is one of those great clubs that is a community and this year they are not only celebrating 125 years of community but also promotion to Qulaifying 1 rugby. the following report is the offivcial Donaghdee report on the celrbation day:


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.

There are times when rugby stops and we think of other things. This season we saw the passing of true friend of Donaghadee Cois Beukes, his mark and the mark of 125 years of proud tradition is held aloft this year by this promotion winning side who will now compete in the Qualifying 1 league – the pinnacle of Junior rugby.

We finish this short tour with some pictures from the 125th Anniversary book. The book is a splendid and very very well produced history of the club right up to this season. It is 100 pages every one a joy to read. To purchase a copy CLICK HERE and they are only £6.95 + postage.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at The Dee for making InTouch Rugby feel welcome and it is a pleasure to cover such a wonderful club.
We hope you have enjoyed this short review and look forward to lots more throughout the summer as they prepare for the 2011/12 season their 126th!

SPECIAL FEATURE: DONAGHADEE RUGBY CLUB: Promotion In The Bag ~ WHAT A SEASON!!!!!!! Match Reports, Pictures, Video Clips, Interviews: A Squad of 40 Across 2 Teams. What A Club: PART 2

Part 2 of our tour covers the Donaghadee promotion winning season of 2010/11.

Starting August 2010 with pre-season training the Dee were very proud of having entered their 125th season. They had a good squad who had been in the race for promotion for some time. While they had great seasons the illusive goal of Q1 rugby had eluded them. Beat to the post on several occasions. Where other clubs would have disintegrated and lost their momentum the Dee in their conservative, sensible and determined approach had learnt from each previous season and made various changes in the club designed to reslise their dream of promotion.

The squad had it in them, everyone new that and after one of the first games of the season against Ballyclare we caught up with Jimmy McCoy and his video interview says it all – click the play button to hear it.

[youtube 2VcWSMp6Xh4]

The intention is stated almost immediately. To quote Jimmy, “its a known fact, that we are going for promotion”.

Jimmy played for Ireland and when a former Ireland Prop Forward International Player decides his side is going for promotion it is not a pipe dream but a real achievable possibility embraced by the entire club.

that is exactly what this club did, and every game was excellently attended with seriously big crowds at the crunch games.

Well, their aspiration has been achieved and they will now compete in the 2011/12 Q1 season.

Anyone who is familiar with qualifying rugby will know that the Q2 league is immensely competitive and the journey of Donaghadee was a roller coaster ride at times, but they did emerge in the early stages as clear contenders with a an unbeaten run only matched by 2 other teams.

At the half way point the sheer nerves of the realisation that promotion was on the cards must have been almost unbearable at times. Other clubs were determined to thwart their ambitions, clubs with Junior Ulster players in them no less, clubs with similarly rich histories as the Dee.

We reproduce here the official report on securing promotion which was circualted by Donaghdee and their reflection on the season. Inlcued are clips of Dee IIs playing and an interview with their team manager. Following those are links to all the reports on each game played by DEE including video interviews and links to pictures from the season:

Donaghadee Rugby Club Notes: THE DEE ARE PROMOTED To Q1!!!! & Success For II XV – What A Year At The Dee: Reports & 50 + Pictures Of II XV

The Donaghadee RFC 1st XV team that gained promotion to Ulster Branch IRFU Qualifying League One on Saturday 23 April 2011 at Ballyclare.
Back Row: Niall Moraghan (Physio), Richard Martindale, Paul Hamilton, Ian Martindale, Richard Millar, Chris Hamilton, David Thompson, Nigel Barker, Andrew Findlater, Alistair Lockhart, Jimmy McCoy (coach), Bill Boomer (President), Peter Matthews (Manager).
Front Row: Billy Allen, Bobby Harpur, Paul Blewitt, Stuart Hutchinson, Chris Schofield, Chris Good (c), Gareth Gordon, Andy Monson.
Thanks to the long cold winter break, this past season’s Ulster Branch Qualifying League Two is coming to a busy, but riveting, conclusion. On Saturday 23rd April Donaghadee’s First XV went to Ballyclare knowing that a bonus point, even in a defeat, would guarantee them promotion to Section One for next season;

the home side equally knew that a bonus win for them might secure promotion to Section One and also League leaders CIYMS were also well aware that a bonus win for Donaghadee would be setting up a huge contest at Deramore on Easter Tuesday (26th April) that might decide who would be the undisputed winners of this hard-fought league.
[youtube 5L46REk3Jxs]
The early phases of the game were evenly contested with the only score being a penalty goal to the Dee, until suddenly, in a five-minute burst, Ballyclare constructed and executed two well taken three-quarter-line tries. The first was a line break by Jackson on half way that put Baird in, and almost immediately Jonny Reid ran clear for an easy run in to score in the corner that saw them leading 12-3. This was the gauntlet well and truly thrown down, but the question was – could Donaghadee respond?

As so often this season, the initial Donaghadee response came from the pack. This well-drilled mix of experienced forwards to front and rear plus youthful exuberance across the second-row four simply bruised their way inexorably towards their opponents’ line. Richard Martindale took Gareth Gordon’s perfect line-out throw at about five metres high and the Donaghadee eight went instantly into rolling maul mode. The only flaw in their final delivery was that Davy Thompson’s crash over was right out on the touchline, so it was only five points for Donaghadee, but a better-looking tally now for them of 8-12 down.
More importantly the Dee men now knew that they had the beating of their opponents. Mid-field play was also demonstrating that the re-jigged Donaghadee backline for this game had now sorted themselves out and any earlier gaps in defence were now shut. A successful penalty to Ballyclare gave the home players some heart at 15-8, but the huge crowd of travelling Donaghadee supporters were now in good heart; the signs that their favourites were now in command were pretty clear.
From about half-way two great incursions by Chris Hamilton and Stuart Hutchinson were supported so enthusiastically that a try under the posts looked certain. Ballyclare certainly thought so and the ball was illegally killed in front of their posts. After a suitable reprimand and warning from the referee Andy Monson duly took the offered three points for 15-11. Then just before half-time the red and green machine charged forward again with their intent crystal clear. The hard-driving Donaghadee pack released Andrew Findlater with some yards to go, and he crashed over for the important 16-15 Donaghadee lead that gave them any encouragement they might have needed going into the break.
Donaghadee began the second half with a determination that was almost palpable. Full-back Billy Allen came into the line and scythed about fifty metres before being pulled down and Gareth Gordon added an extra flourish that looked dangerous for the Ballyclare cause. Donaghadee’s two front row Chrises – Good and Schofield – showed their strength and experience with driving runs that sapped their opponents’ strength, and Paul Hamilton was always there with some extra drive when the big props were finally halted. Ballyclare were valiant in defence, but now looked to have lost their earlier spark in the stress of battle. All present were well aware that another Donaghadee score was inevitable.
When it came it was certainly a team effort, but the final flourish came from Donaghadee’s big winger Findlater who drove over for 21-15. Almost immediately Donaghadee came right back into the home side’s red zone. In their desperation a Ballyclare centre dived on the ball in front of his posts. This gave a welcome extra three points to Donaghadee for 24-15, but also deprived Ballyclare of a man for ten crucial minutes.
Ballyclare, to their great credit, came back at Donaghadee, but in mid-field, centres Bobby Harpur and Ian Martindale were resolute and crushing. When Donaghadee regained possession, each time they used their dangerous backs to clear the ball and gain territory. One classy run made about eighty metres with some lovely running and passing that was only stopped close to the Ballyclare line when the high-stepping Richard Millar was finally forced into touch close to his target goal-line. Almost instantly Donaghadee’s backs had another opportunity when the ball was shipped quickly to Ian Martindale. Happily restored after a difficult injury, Martindale showed that he is now back big-style when he took total responsibility and crashed over for what might be called a trademark Martindale try, and crucially Donaghadee’s bonus-point fourth. Monson’s accurate conversion made the score a virtually unassailable 31-15 to Donaghadee, but there was to be a finale almost immediately.
Ballyclare’s spirits were understandably down by now, and Donaghadee’s players were on a high with the knowledge that all their hard work this season was being rewarded. A perfect scrum gave Monson a perfect opportunity to feed his outside-half Nigel Barker who crossed unimpeded for the clinching try and 36-15 as the final score.
[youtube SQHiZ7XlLAw]
This display of strength, skill and character by Donaghadee was a tribute to every one of the fifteen men who played. It was also total vindication of the hard work and inspiration of Club Coach Jimmy McCoy and his Assistant Coach Andy Monson. The currently recovering players on the touchline at the game went through worse agonies than the on-field players, but they and all the other guys who played their parts during the season can all share any credit that is going. Rugby football is no longer a fifteen-player team game; nowadays a fit and skilful squad of 25 is a basic minimum, and about 35 or 40 more realistic. Fortunately Donaghadee has such a squad of capable players (See below).
Some of the players and coaches asked after the game that some sincere words of thanks from them be passed on to the army of supporters who made the journey into County Antrim on the day, not to mention the longer trips to places like Coleraine, Enniskillen and Omagh during the season. Spectators do get great satisfaction at games, but they also help the players with their vocal support.

Reflection On The Season

With the benefit of hindsight, Donaghadee’s season ended on 23rd April at Ballyclare. On that fine Saturday the Dee players showed skill, strength, determination and great team spirit that saw them triumph over a good ‘Clare side 36-15 to gain promotion.

Looking back over the 2010-2011 season it is clear just how important it is to have a large squad of players capable of slotting into a competitive Qualifying League Rugby Football side. This is attested by the number of players who pulled on Donaghadee’s premier jerseys in 2010 and 2011.
A total of 33 players were used during the season’s 25 competitive games – and this year’s attrition rates were definitely helped by the long lay-off in mid-winter. There exists a list of all players used, but suffice it to say that no one played in all the games, some played in most and a number came in when needed, or indeed when able to get away from work or study commitments. The commonest reason for players missing games was of course injury. Mercifully, none were deadly serious or career-threatening. However, the vast majority of players, coaches, spectators and other interested parties seem to agree that the game of rugby football is simply too physically demanding week in, week out, especially in a season from which weather steals a frustrating ten-week break. The break itself, as hinted at above, can have a healing factor, but the inevitable compression of fixtures at the end of the season meant that, like Donaghadee’s Firsts, many teams had to play as many as six or seven games in four weeks.
Donaghadee’s Second XV have had a successful season too, and so are ensuring that pretty-well any of their players are good enough and strong enough for a move upward when required. The Thirds have enjoyed their season too and the entire club is already excited about what the significance is about going into Section One. Everyone knows well that it will be difficult for the First team. The reputations of the clubs already there precede them. Indeed some of the likely Dee players have personal memories from their recent venture into the headier atmosphere.