HISTORY was made at City of Derry Rugby Club last week when two teams of boys became the first ever from Strabane’s Holy Cross College to play competitive rugby.
But not only did they create a little bit of history by crossing the whitewash, but they exceeded their own expectations to qualify for the Ulster finals in Lurgan this coming Tuesday.
Playing against each other, Strabane Academy, St Columbs and Lisneal College, one of the Holy Cross sides, with a record of three wins and two draws, progressed along with Lisneal to earn the right to take on the best the rest of the province has to offer next week.
One of the men behind the school’s rapid rise on the rugby pitch is English teacher, Brian McGilloway and his is astounded by how quickly the boys have taken to the sport and developed as, not only a team, but as individuals.
Rugby was only introduced at the school around Christmas time when Strabane RFC coach, Paul O’Kane, started taking two weekly training sessions, aided by McGilloway, classroom assistant Tom McNulty and other club players and coaches when they are available.
“It’s been fantastic and very recent,” beamed Mr McGilloway. “The uptake has been very good, consistent and solid.
“Strabane Rugby Club’s mini section has really taken off with around 100 players registered but it’s taken a bit of time to get it started up in the school. It helps to have the likes of past pupil, Tyrell Patton coming along with Paul to take some of the coaching sessions.
“It has built the confidence of the players. Some of these lads would have been last picked at football, but not they are first picks at rugby because there’s a position for every shape and size in rugby.
“It’s good for them to get playing, it’s fun, they’re enjoying it and they come out of it feeling better about themselves.
“You can see what it’s done for them, it’s built their confidence, discipline, they feel better about themselves and after finding out they were the first ever team from the school, they were buzzing about that.”
It’s the importance of participation and the difference that can make off the field, rather than on-field triumphs, that is most rewarding for the men behind the scenes. And on Tuesday they are hoping to continue that journey, regardless of what happens between the posts.
“To get through and win matches created a real buzz with the players. It was such a good day,” Mr McGilloway added.
“We are delighted to get through and to get the opportunity to play and see rugby being played at that level. It will be different, but valuable and an exciting experience for the players. The result is secondary, but to have them playing together so well and so soon is just great,” he concluded.