Around 30 players, as well as club members, from Belfast Harlequins RFC ventured south to Dublin today to have afternoon tea with the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
The President was unable to attend the historic occasion last summer when St. Brigid's GAA club played their first league match at Deramore Park, the home ground of Harlequins. Today's trip for the 'Quins party to Ãras an UachtarÃ¡in is a return invation offered by Ms. McAleese.
Harlequins first team manager, Conor Keown, said: "St. Brigid's are a BT9 club and were formed in 1999. They didn't have a ground or club house of their own so the two clubs came to an agreement early last year which allows St. Brigid's the chance to train, play matched and make full use of the club house facilities at Deramore Park."
: Ulster and Ireland prop Simon Best has been confirmed as the new Patron for Mini Rugby in Ulster. The Ulster Mini Rugby Committee is delighted with the news, seeing this as a huge boost for the mini rugby game.
Regardless of the sport, professional sportsmen and women can have a profound effect on kids, their development and their general lifestyle. A professional rugby player is an ideal role model for our Mini Rugby players, someone who they can look up to and aspire to be like.
November saw the IRFU launched its Long Term Player Development Model, a six-stage development plan titled "6 to Six Nations." The first stage of this plan is the FUN-damental stage, which is effectively Mini Rugby. Mini Rugby is all about fun, an enjoyable and safe experience that is for some the first step to a great rugby career.
This is why Simon Best was the ideal choice for the role of Patron. Best, who is currently in camp with the Irish squad, said: "It is with great pleasure that I accept the role of Patron for Mini Rugby in Ulster. Having begun my rugby career playing Mini Rugby as a six year old at Banbridge RFC, I am well positioned to appreciate the role it plays in the development of not only core rugby skills of running, passing and tackling, but also in the encouragement of participation, team work and havin fun."
At the launch at Newforge, Best was joined by kids from Lisburn's Killowen Primary School, who wore jerseys from a range of schools and clubs, representing the widespread delight felt throughout the province at the announcement of their new Patron.
Best added: "I have enormous respect for the vast number of volunteers who put in so much of their own time to offer children the opportunity to play rugby. I will endeavour to support these people by helping to promote and raise the profile of mini rugby in Ulster."
The Ireland Under-20s' first home game in the U-20 Six Nations championship takes place on Friday, February 9 at Dubarry Park, the home of Buccaneers RFC. World champions France are the visitors with kick-off at 7.30pm.
This floodlit clash should provide a feast of top class rugby from the stars of tomorrow and a bumper crowd is anticipated at the Athlone venue which hosted the then Irish U-21s' home ESB internationals last season.
Ireland, coached by Eric Elwood and managed by Phil Orr this term, finished sixth at the IRB U-21 World Championship last June, so their first encounter is between two of the top teams in world rugby at this age level. Host club Buccaneers have two players currently in the Irish U-20 squad, centre Aidan Wynne and hooker Gavin Kelly, who both hail from Offaly.
Tickets are now on sale for the Ireland-France game at The Bounty (Tel: 086 1732711), Musicworld, Golden Island Shopping Centre (Tel: 090 6474372) and Keenan Sports, Athlone (Tel: 090 6472030).
Tickets are priced as follows: Stand â0¬20, Terrace â0¬10, Children â0¬5, Family â0¬20 (for 2 adults and 2 children). Discount vouchers for children are being distributed to schools in the region.
Buccs PRO Michael Silke has informed us that stand tickets are again selling extremely quickly for this game so early purchase is advised if you want to be certain of a seat! England, who pipped Ireland for fifth at the 2006 IRB U-21 World Championship, will also visit Dubarry Park on Friday, February 23 (7.30pm).
The Coolmine Wildebeests have been let loose for another season, beginning this Friday with a fixture against Seapoint RFC at Ashbrook (kick-off 8pm).
The Wildebeests are a motley crew of older players from the club, many of whom are new to the game. They have a healthy focus on the 'social aspects' of the game and invite challenges from social sides in Leinster and beyond.
The team are bracing themselves for their own unofficial Four Nations tournament. The venerable 'beests are coming out of hibernation and next month, they will take on teams from France, Spain and Italy.
Old rivals, Clichy Old Blagues from Paris, will be their opponents on Saturday, February 10, on the eve of the Ireland-France Six Nations match. Friday, February 23 will see the Wildebeests take on Irun RFC, a team from the Basque region of Spain.
The final game will be contested in Italy over St. Patrick's weekend, on either March 16 or 17, as the 'beests face Capitolina Roma. Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland side are also in town that weekend. If you are interested in joining the Wildebeests, information is available from John Cagney (Tel: 086 8595227) or Fergus O'Shea (Tel: 087 6856796).
Youghal RFC's Ladies team are hold a Fashion Show Extravaganza at the Walter Raleigh Hotel on Friday week, February 2 (starting at 8pm sharp). Tickets priced at â0¬10 each are available from any of the girls, O'Neills Oil Shop and Crees Card Shop both in North Main street or by phoning Declan (Tel: 085 1741470.
Taking part and going down the catwalk on the night are players from the First and Second XV, The Womens XV, Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 players and all Mini Players. An entry ticket draw for two tickets to see Ireland v France at Croke Park on Sunday, February 11 will be made on the night. There will also be an interval draw for some spot prizes. Shops taking part include Four Kidz, Cherish, Sports and Leisure, Genesis, Flavin Sport and Shoes, Chez De Paor, Funky Kidz, OB Sports and Scarletts. They will be displaying everything from Debs Wear, Formal Wear, Kids Clothing, Communion and Confirmation Wear and Sports Wear. This promises to be a great night and club officials are advising people to book their tickets early.
Meanwhile, Tralee RFC will be holding a Variety Show in Siamsa Tire, Tralee this coming Sunday, to help launch the club's 125th year in existence. The entertainment event will start at 8pm.
Tickets, priced at â0¬25 (students â0¬20), can be purchased by contacting Siamsa directly on 066 7123055 or Grace O'Donnell on 087 2399940. This is the second part of a huge day for Tralee as the club's first XV take on Cork Constitution in the first round of the Munster Junior Cup at 2.30pm at O'Dowd Park.