Montrose Rugby Club’s Under-16 and Under-18 squads headed to Ireland recently to take on teams in the north and in Dublin.
Following months of fund-raising, the bus left Union Park with 41 players and a support team of 14.
Following the ferry trip from Cairnryan to Larne, the touring party stayed in Belfast. The following morning there was a tour of Belfast and the Titanic exhibition and then south to Banbridge for our first matches. This was going to be a tough test as Banbridge were Ulster champions and one of their youth teams had made the All Ireland Cup semi-final.
Both games were physical encounters, which were made all the more challenging with a very muddy pitch. The Montrose players stuck in well and scored tries but the home teams proved too strong.
Following the game, the Montrose party was provided with a meal and presentations were made by both captains. Banbridge is the home club of Ulster, Ireland and British Lion player Rory Best.
The club had tried to arrange for him to attend the presentations. Unfortunately, other commitments meant that this was not possible but Rory prepared a video message for the players. That evening, the tour headed to Dublin.
On the Saturday, after a hearty Irish breakfast, the squad headed to Suttonians RFC. Again this was to be a tough test of rugby in very muddy conditions. While neither team won, it was competitive throughout and they scored the last try in both matches. Being the last game of the tour and being surrounded by mud, a mass ‘belly slide’ was led by coach Dennis. Again, a meal was provided and there were presentations from both teams.
That evening, Leinster were playing Munster at the Aviva Stadium. The entire party headed to the stadium and were treated to an excellent match with most of the Ireland squad on the pitch. The following day started with a tour of Dublin which took in all of the sights and also included a a tour of the Aviva Stadium, including a chance to see the changing rooms and media centre.
Following lunch, the squad packed up and headed north for the ferry and then back to Montrose.
Terry Gibbons, club president, said: “The tour was fantastic, from start to finish, and the players were a real credit to the club. The players played the best rugby I have seen from them this season and they should be proud of their performances.
“We really appreciate the hospitality of the two clubs and the support from all of our sponsors and volunteers. Special mention goes to Caroline Campbell, who made all of the arrangements for the tour, sourced the kit and made sure it was such a success.”