Schools rugby proves huge success

Foyle College, winners of the Mowbray Shield at City of Derry's Festival of Rugby at Judges Road last week.
Foyle College, winners of the Mowbray Shield at City of Derry's Festival of Rugby at Judges Road last week.

LAST Wednesday saw the beginning of the inaugural Derry ‘Festival of Rugby’ kick-off with a Primary Schools tag rugby extravaganza, organised in partnership between Derry City Council, Foyle College, City of Derry RFC and IRFU Ulster Branch.

Pupils and teachers braved the cold conditions as 16 teams from 12 local primary schools turned out for a day of fun, putting their newly honed rugby skills to the test in an enjoyable, safe environment.

The event focused on enjoyment rather than a competitive structure and the participants flourished in that environment, with many onlookers commenting on the talent on display and the great tries being scored.

This event comes off the back of a body of work, developing the opportunities for children of primary school age, boys and girls alike, to get involved in rugby.

The last six months has seen the delivery of Primary Schools coaching sessions facilitated by Foyle College, IRFU Ulster Branch and Derry City Council to more than 30 Primary Schools in the North West.

In the second of the planned schools’ events, the Mowbray Shield was held at Judges Road last Thursday

The Mowbray Shield, which celebrated its 14th birthday this year, was the brain-child of the then City of Derry Youth Development Officer, Simon Mowbray and William Lynn, Chairman of City of Derry RFC at the time.

The competition is aimed at developing schools at Under 14 level in the North West, and has gone from strength to strength over the years, with the standard of rugby increasing each year.

This year’s competition saw five teams take part; Strabane Academy, Oakgrove Integrated, Castlederg High School, Foyle College and St Columb’s College.

The five teams played each other once with the top two teams progressing to the Mowbray Shield final and the third and fourth placed teams competing in the Subsidiary Shield Final.

The Subsidiary Shield went to St Columb’s College after their 24-0 win over Castlederg High School, while Foyle College were crowned Mowbray Shield champions, with a strong performance seeing off an improving Strabane Academy side 17-0.

Foyle ran in three tries with a hat-trick from captain Thomas Cole, but credit must go to Strabane as they battled to the final minute of the game.

Foyle College Rugby Development Officer, David Funston, was keen to thank Micky O’Kane and Nathan Deeney for helping to referee, the coaching staff at each school, and the hosts, City of Derry RFC, for the use of their pitches.

Barry Willis, Community Rugby Manager at the IRFU Ulster Branch, commented: “The festival of rugby in Derry has been a hugely successful event with over 250 participants involved over the two days. The pupils involved have shown a huge enthusiasm for rugby at both Primary and Secondary School level and there has been some excellent rugby played in both events. Thanks to our partners at Foyle College, Derry City Council and City of Derry RFC, these young participants have had a first experience of rugby.

“With our continued efforts to work together we hope to use this as a starting point that will allow more local young people to excel in the game.”