Aubrey Bourke Cup…St Stephen’s Day

Ballina rugby supporters have missed out on an important local sporting and social event during the Christmas holidays for the last two years.

When frost and snow made pitches unplayable and grounds unsafe the traditional St Stephen’s Day game between the Captain’s XV and the President’s XV for the Aubrey Bourke Cup had to be postponed until Easter two years in a row. Although great games of rugby eventually unfolded on both occasions, great satisfaction will reign supreme for club President Marc Loftus if the weather behaves this time around (on St Stephen’s day).

The mild and mellow weather forecast has prompted talk of tag rugby game on the new astroturf pitch if the main pitch is wet, such is the determination to have some kind of event follow through this year.

Many people home for the Christmas make a point of attending the match, minding this year’s mettle, catching up with old acquaintances, and reacquainting themselves with the fun and banter.

Fierce competition by both sides testifies to many things including a demonstration of the regard with which Aubrey Bourke (a legendary player who played for Leinster and was a final Irish trialist) is still held in Ballina. His on-field exploits (and in the clubhouse) live long still in the hearts of those who played with him throughout one of Ballina’s most successful eras during the 1970s.

Each year a fitting tribute to such a wonderful rugby man emerges and the respect for the quality of team the Presidents manage to put out adds to the occasion, with the players drawn as they are from the ranks of Ballina rugby players who ply their trade in other clubs but who are home for Christmas and demonstrate their desire to maintain their link with Ballina RFC by playing in this match at the President’s invitation.

This year players of the quality of David Heffernan and Brian Moylette who have both been capped for Ireland at under20 and under19 level respectively, as well as first division AIL players like Francis Cooney from De La Salle Palmerstown are expected to take part. It promises to be a hugely entertaining game which kicks off at 2.30pm and those there early will see the skills of the mini rugby section who will play before the match, while the ladies under16 team will play at half time, so there’ll be plenty going on in Heffernan Park. Hopefully a day to remember for more than turkey and the weather.

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