IN recent years, Strabane Rugby Club has invested no shortage of time and effort in youth development and following a hugely successful 2019-20 campaign, they have picked up an Ulster Carpets Club Youth award, in recognition for having the most improved ranking in the youth leagues.
On collecting the award, Youth Convenor Robert Dillon commented: “This award is fantastic for the club. Any recognition for the hard work that is put in is greatly appreciated.
“Last year was our first season with an U14 team and this year was our first season with an U16 team. This was made possible through a strong minis setup, and we plan to have an U18 team in the near future as we continue to expand our pool of young players.
“We have gone from no youth players to two full teams and fulfilling all our fixtures, growing rapidly to around 55 players, with a view to having 70 players next season. Our U14s improved their league position and qualified for the Ulster Carpets Cup with a brilliant coach in Brian McGilloway. The aim now is to get some silverware!
“A lot of people have put a lot of work into growing our youth section and bringing in players, particularly in the minis with David Warnock.
“Ulster Rugby Development staff Ricky Huey and Shaun Bloomfield have been a huge help to get the minis started and have always provided the support we need and getting Club Community Rugby Officers in place. Ulster Rugby give us the guidance we need to run the club and it’s great to have that peace of mind.
“The youth section is the lifeblood of the club. It’s a pyramid that helps provide a pathway from minis through to youth and up to senior level. It’s a bottom-up approach, so you need to have a good number of players at all age grades. The rugby knowledge that’s coming through at U16 level in particular is really encouraging, and that only bodes well for when we set up an U18 team.
“The fantastic parents of the youth players can’t go without a mention. They have their own committee and help to feed players, provide entertainment and set up pitches. They’re the unsung heroes behind the scenes.”
As their prize, Strabane RFC will receive a bag of Ulster Carpets rugby balls as well as 30 tickets to an Ulster Rugby game at Kingspan Stadium.