Ballymena Academy set to benefit from new Ulster Rugby initiative

Head of the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy, Mr Kieran Campbell, Mr. Stephen Black (Principal Ballymena Academy), 1st XV Coaches Mr. John Andrews and Mr. Gavin Murray with members of the school's rugby club.
Head of the Hughes Insurance Ulster Rugby Academy, Mr Kieran Campbell, Mr. Stephen Black (Principal Ballymena Academy), 1st XV Coaches Mr. John Andrews and Mr. Gavin Murray with members of the school's rugby club.

Ballymena Academy is set to benefit from a new partnership involving Ulster Rugby and leading rugby-playing schools in the Province.

Ulster Rugby has recently announced details of a new partnership model that will build on the existing strong engagement between Ulster Rugby and schools throughout the Province, to identify up-and-coming talent and advance player development.

The Ulster Rugby Schools Academy Partnership will work directly with the official School Partners and will focus on a player-centred approach, enabling young players to reach their full potential, while also ensuring all schoolboy players get the very best experience of rugby participation.

Five schools, who have been identified as implementing a rugby programme that focuses on the key elements of this initiative, will take part in the initial phase of the programme, namely Ballymena Academy, Ballyclare High School, Bangor Grammar School, Campbell College Belfast, and Royal Belfast Academical Institution.

The partner schools will be invited into Kingspan Stadium, the home of Ulster Rugby, for a week-long Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course during the summer where they will benefit from exposure to the Hughes Insurance Ulster Academy, Age-Grade pre-season programmes and the Ulster 1st XV pre-season programme.

Ulster Rugby will provide information and access to resources on key aspects of player development including personalised video analysis, strength and conditioning, nutrition and lifestyle management. The schools will also be able to attend a number of CPD events organised by Ulster Rugby, which will involve engagement with Ulster Rugby Academy staff, professional team staff and players.

Stephen Black, Principal of Ballymena Academy, welcomed the initiative and the additional support that it will bring to all the coaches and, most importantly, players who attend the school.

He commented that “given the long-standing tradition of Ballymena Academy within the rugby world and its association with many of the best known figures in the game, it is appropriate that we have been identified as one of the first schools to become an Ulster Rugby Schools Academy Partner.

“It further emphasises our track record not only in players progressing to Ulster and Ireland level but also in participation rates which are the envy of other schools.”

He also congratulated Marcus Rea, the captain of the 1st XV for 2015/2016, on his progression to the Hughes Ulster Academy for next season to add to the long list of players currently involved within the Senior Ulster set-up.

“This is welcome recognition for Marcus, not only for his outstanding contribution to Ballymena Academy, but also as captain of Ulster U19 and Ireland U19.

“We wish him well for the future but are delighted that his qualities will not be lost to us as Marcus intends to enlist as a member of our coaching team for next season,” added Mr Black.