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North West Schools Blitz A Big Success In Ballina

North West Schools Blitz A Big Success In Ballina

In a week when one of Ballina’s greatest ever rugby players ended his long and proud innings in the green of Connacht, Heffernan Park echoed to the symphony of rugby’s new generation.

Gavin Duffy learned the rudiments of the great game on the famous patch of grass on Creggs Road and if he was on the sidelines last Wednesday, he would be a proud man.

Seven schools from the north west of the province had gathered on his old stomping ground for the Schools Blitz and the sun was high in the sky. There was no better way to spend a few hours.

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Local schools Moyne College and St. Muredach’s were on hand. Both were clad in red – Moyne sporting scarlet with Muredach’s in a darker shade of the same colour.

The boys from Our Lady’s in Belmullet were there in their red, black and maroon kit, ready to unleash their fleet-of-foot ball carriers, while the boys in green from St, Patrick’s, Lacken Cross had similar plans.

Enniscrone wore the famous kit of the All Blacks as they took on all-comers and Gortnor Abbey were resplendent in their gold and green. The young men from St. Tiernan’s were proudly sporting their purple and gold and they could hardly contain their excitement as kick-off time approached.

Soon, the two pitches were awash with colour and immersed in noise. Flying feet danced across the grass, powerful shoulders drove forward, grasping hands plucked the ball from the lineout, diving bodies tackled everything that moved as blue skies decorated the heavens.

Russell O’Brien, Mickey Murphy and Niall Jennings were the men with the whistles, while proud rugby men stood along the sideline marvelling at how far the game has progressed in the region.

The growing influence of the game outside of the traditional strongholds is testament to the work being done by schools and underage development volunteers such as Russell O’Brien.

The recent successes of the Ireland team and the provinces have helped inspire a new generation of players to pick up a rugby ball and run.

If the talent and skill on display on Wednesday morning is any indication, those same provinces and the national side can look forward to a host of young stars ascending through the ranks in the near future.

The day was an superb example of sporting achievement. Every team played with verve and vigour, the skills were much better than expected and the understanding of the game was of a high standard.

Schools that had never envisaged sending a team out to chase an oval ball are suddenly embracing the sport and last Wednesday’s event at Heffernan Park illustrated the huge potential that is being tapped into.

Schools Development volunteer Russell O’Brien said: “I’m almost lost for words. This is a massive success. We’re bringing rugby to places it never was before and the students are just loving it.

“The games were played in high spirits and the skills on view were of a very high standard. There is huge potential in this region to develop the game and the future is very bright.

“Huge thanks also to everyone associated with Ballina Rugby Club who made today’s event possible. It was a memorable day and I’m a very proud man.”

They said it…

‘We’re bringing rugby to the people. It’s the only way to advance.’

Gerry O’Donnell, Ballina RFC

‘There was 11 of us here and we let the smallest fella on the pitch run through for a try. What’s wrong with us?!!’

A disgruntled player after his team conceded a try to a boy with dancing feet

‘They’ll learn more here today than they would in the classroom!’

A parent proudly watching the action last Wednesday

‘I thought the call was ‘Bike’ but it was ‘Spike’ and I ran the wrong way.’

A confused inside centre after a pre-planned move broke down

Click here for photos from the North West Schools Blitz at Ballina RFC.