On behalf of Banbridge Rugby Club it is my pleasure to welcome our visitors, members, sponsors, supporters and match officials to Rifle Park.
I have many happy memories of my playing days and it is a great honour and privilege to be elected Honorary President of Banbridge Rugby Club for the 2018-19 season in this our twentieth season of senior rugby. Our progress over the years has been steady, culminating last season where we were narrowly beaten in the play-off final to gain promotion to AIL Section 1A and we now sit among the top clubs in Ulster and Irish Rugby. This progress has been achieved by a lot of effort and commitment from players, coaches and support teams. Our coaching team has been led for the past number of seasons by Dan Soper and the success Dan has achieved both here and at RBAI has been recognised with his appointment to a full time role with Ulster. I speak for everyone at Banbridge RFC in wishing Dan every success in his new role and am delighted that we have been able to retain Dan as a consultant guiding our team of coaches now led by Simon McKinstry. I look forward to players, coaches and team managers at all levels within the club having a successful and enjoyable season.
Our youth section continues to thrive from mini rugby through under age levels. Again a lot of effort and time is given by a dedicated group of volunteers. This forms the bedrock of our club providing a continuous feed of players into the senior club.
Behind the scenes our executive committee and sub-committees keep the club running smoothly and efficiently. Continued investment and improvement has provided facilities that compare with any club in Ireland. We are indebted to our vibrant and hardworking Ladies Committee who give up their time on Saturdays throughout the season catering for pre-match lunches and for the players after the games. I would take this opportunity to thank all volunteers for the time and effort they put into the running of our club.
Over the past few years many of our players have gone on to play representative rugby at all levels for Ulster and Ireland and the list on the honours board in the entrance to the clubhouse continues to grow. We are especially proud that the current Irish captain Rory Best has come from within our ranks. Rory continues to give support where possible and is a great leader and ambassador for Irish rugby. We wish him well for the upcoming season leading into the next World Cup.
The cost of running a club such as ours could not be sustained without the support of our sponsors and I would like to record our thanks and appreciation to our main sponsors who continue to give us crucial financial support. Details of our main sponsors are on the back of this programme and can also be found on our website and app. We are also grateful to the large number of local businesses and individuals who sponsor lunches, kit and the signs around the pitch. Without your very generous support we could not operate as a successful club. In return I would ask members to support our sponsors where possible.
My thanks to our faithful band of supporters who travel the length and breadth of Ireland to give the team much needed and valued support. We have a great club and while we strive to win it is important we retain the values of the game and the friendships that we make both on and off the pitch. I look forward to meeting friends old and new in what I hope will be a successful and memorable season.