SLIDESHOW: Curtain falls on successful cross-community rugby initiative

Last week saw the culmination of a unique project involving children from both St. Brigid’s and Ballykeel Primary Schools.

Whilst the Borough has seen many worthwhile programmes focusing on the Catholic and Protestant communities, this ‘Town of Three Halves’ project aimed at fostering closer relations between children from these cultural backgrounds and children from the Eastern European community.

Joshua Keene of Ballykeel Primary School and Gabriel Comsa of St Brigid's Primary School take part in rugby coaching with Ballymena RFC at Ballymena North. INBT 11-171CS

Joshua Keene of Ballykeel Primary School and Gabriel Comsa of St Brigid's Primary School take part in rugby coaching with Ballymena RFC at Ballymena North. INBT 11-171CS

Both Ballykeel Primary and St. Brigid’s determined to develop closer relations through a range of fun and educational activities and TAG rugby was seen as an engaging activity which would be enjoyable whilst getting the children to work as part of a team.

The rugby element of the programme saw over 90 P7 children attend Ballymena North Sports Centre where Tom Wiggins and Jamie Smith from Ballymena RFC were assisted by Shaun Bloomfield from Ulster Rugby in organising 3 sessions to give the children an introduction to the basics of TAG rugby.

Shaun said: “Ulster Rugby were delighted to get involved in this project. This was a great opportunity to assist our local club in such a novel programme.”

Rugby is a game which is growing in all communities across the Province and it was great to see children from the three communities coming together to enjoy some TAG sessions’.

Tom Wiggins, Ballymena RFC’s Community Development Officer was also delighted with his club’s involvement in the programme.

Tom said: “When we were approached by St. Brigid’s and Ballykeel to become involved in this venture we did not think twice.

“We have provided rugby sessions to both schools in the past and I have worked closely with Jim Brady on a number of cross community projects. The chance to become involved and foster closer relations between the three communities through their engagement in rugby was a tremendous opportunity.

“Whilst coaching 90 children indoors was a massive challenge the enjoyment the children took from the programme made it all worthwhile,” added Tom.

The rugby element of the programme saw the children attend the recent Ulster v Scarlets game at the Kingspan Stadium where they met local rugby star Ian Humphreys.

On the last day of the indoor sessions, rising Ulster star Stuart Olding came along and took part as well as being grilled in a ‘question and answer’ session.