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Millar Succeeds McIlrath As Ballymena President

Millar Succeeds McIlrath As Ballymena President

Clubs up and down the country are already preparing for next season, and AIB League Division One outfit Ballymena are no different. There will be changes both on and off the pitch at Eaton Park next season.

The Annual General Meeting of Ballymena RFC took place recently at which the club officers for next season were elected, and the club’s long-serving Honorary Secretary Guy McCullough, giving his 18th such report, supplied a comprehensive review of the 2007/08 campaign.

Wishing club stalwart Ian McIrath well as he steps down after eight rewarding years as Ballymena’s President, McCullough said: “Ian McIlrath has just completed his eighth year as club President, his fronting of our pre-match luncheons, being as usual, a very entertaining feature of the season.

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“Ian, always very generous, in every sense of the word, has now decided to retire, although he will still play a very active part in the club. I am personally very delighted that Dr. Syd Millar has agreed to be nominated for this position.”

Millar, the former Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland and Lions prop, will take up the role having recently ended his reign as Chairman of the International Rugby Board.

Jacques Benade’s second season as the Braidmen’s director of rugby was a trophyless one, with his team finishing 11th in AIB League Division One and 9th in the Ulster Senior League. They also lost to Garryowen in the third round of the AIB Cup and were beaten by Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster Senior Cup final.

Determined to bounce back from those disappointments, Ballymena have started quite a rigorous player recruitment drive.

A number of local players have been snapped up for next term, including flanker David Bradford from Malone, Stephen Ferguson, a young prop from City of Derry, and Coleraine winger Nigel Hall.

Ulster have allocated the club Ian Humphreys, Ian Whitten, a talented centre from Queen’s University, and Ballynahinch winger Tommy Seymour.

In his annual report, McCullough said: “We hope to register an Australian out-half or centre, who is a teacher with a UK passport, and recommended by (our former coach) Tony D’Arcy and who is coming over to Ballymena.

“A Welsh Universities wing forward and another flanker who represented English Universities are both coming over, having just completed their studies. It is also planned to secure an overseas or foreign player well before the deadline of October 1.”

Amongst the players who have moved on from Eaton Park are Donovan Raw, Hugh Mitchell, Matthew Burke and Rhys Botha.

McCullough added that ‘Ulster are wishing to release Seamus Mallon from his contract, but apparently he wishes to remain in the province so we may see quite a bit of him next season.’

It has also been confirmed that former player Chris Galway has been appointed as the club’s fitness and conditioning coach, with second row Ian Caldwell, last season’s Player of the Year, installed as the new senior captain.

BALLYMENA CLUB OFFICERS – 2008/09 SEASON:

President: Dr Syd Millar; Chairman: Ray Buchannan; 1st XV Captain: Ian Caldwell; Public Relations Officer: Les McCracken.

Directors: David Smyth (AIB League Rugby); Glenn Boyd (Community Rugby); Ken Hutton (Finance); Rodney Cole (Marketing); Roy Aiken (Grounds and Property); David Beggs (Fundraising and Events); Les McCracken (Communications).

Honorary Secretary: Guy McCullough; Honorary Treasurer: Ian Simpson; Chairperson Ladies’ Committee: Maggie Lyttle.