What makes a club a success? Silverware?
A check on the trophy cabinet in Ballymacarn Park, home of Ballynahinch RFC shows the AIB League Division 2 Trophy, the AIB Cup, the First Trust Ulster Senior League and the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup. Not a bad haul for a single season.
What really makes a club a success is the community that it is part of. There is no doubt that Ballynahinch RFC ticks that box as well. This is the embodiment of a community club.
IrishRugby.ie paid the club a visit recently for the AIB Cup Draw. While we were there we wanted to find out what made the ‘Hinch tick.
How did this young club sweep all it before it last season? Where did this success come from?
One of the first things they tell you on arrival is: “Nobody likes coming to play in Ballynahinch”. On this rare sunny Autumn morning you would question this. Take a right a Banbridge on the way to Belfast and head across rolling roads and neat fields through Dromore and on to Ballynahinch. It is a picturesque drive.
The other thing they marvel at up in the Hinch is that our camera crew got there. Some of the old hands in the club are lobbying the local council to take down the signposts to the club. They reason that “If they (the visiting team) got lost on the way, they’ll not be warmed up for the game”
The club is up the hill and past the golf club and on this beautifully clear morning there is a magnificent view of the Mournes across the rolling farmland that defines the landscape and the club.
What they really mean is that on a cold day in December, with snow on the Mournes and a wind blowing down across the pitch nobody wants to be a fullback on a visiting team.
It is genuine rugby up here – they want to beat you on the pitch but they will look after you off the pitch and you can’t say fairer than that. Club Rugby. Community Rugby.
How could one not like coming to this club? The hospitality is second to none. There is a sense of pride in this club. They are proud of what they have done on the pitch in recent seasons and they are equally proud of what they are doing off the pitch.
A new extension, built mainly by club members, includes a new Kitchen and even a press room.
We arrived to scout the club at 9:15 a.m. By 9:30 the car park was full. It was the first day of the new Mini Rugby season and there were easily 200 kids and the attendant parents on hand.
The clubhouse was open, serving tea and coffee and it is clearly a favoured haunt for the mums and dads on a Saturday morning.
The Youths squads took the pitch an hour later and went through their paces before an early season game. The 2nd XV were warming up in the changing rooms for their match against neighbours Dromore.
Finally the 1st XV took to the pitch for a game against Ballymena. Over a thousand people came through the gates of the club that day.
In total there are seven adult teams and four youth teams and with the minis that adds up to a membership of over 700 and growing. Not bad for a club that only achieved senior status in 1996, having been founded in 1954.
So if your team is scheduled to play Ballynahinch this season hop on the team bus and sample the hospitality of this great club. Just don’t expect them to let you win.
Check out the feature on Ballynahinch RFC on IRFU TV: Ballynahinch RFC on IRFU TV