NEW HEAD COACH AT RIFLE PARK
The Club is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Head Coach. Mark McDowell has taken over from Simon McKinstry after the Seapatrick man was forced to relinquish the position because of family circumstances.
The new man arrives at Rifle Park with an impressive pedigree in the playing and coaching side of the game. He is a former pupil of RBAI, with whom he won the Medallion Shield in 2004 and the Schools’ Cup in 2007 playing in the second row. He went on to play for the Old Boys’ Club, Instonians, and was part of the squad which won Division 3 of the All-Ireland League in 2008.
After three years of AIL rugby he went to New Zealand where he played a season with Marist North Harbour. Unfortunately a series of concussions brought an early end to Mark’s playing career. But he was far from finished with the game, taking on a coaching role with the Medallion side at his old ‘alma mater’ before being appointed Strength and Conditioning Coach at the same establishment, a post he held for four years.
He was part of the 2015 coaching team, headed up by former Bann Head Coach and now Ulster Rugby Skills Coach Dan Soper, which led RBAI to the first of three successive Schools’ Cup wins.
At that stage Mark left RBAI to complete his teaching degree, following which he took up a post as a PE teacher at Grosvenor Grammar School.
Having held the post of Assistant Coach at Instonians for three years and then Head Coach for a season, he moved in 2017 to Ballynahinch, where he was one of the Assistant Coaches working under Brian McLaughlin.
Speaking following his appointment, Mark said that he was very excited by the prospect of coming to Rifle Park to work with the Bann squad. “Banbridge has a very high social media profile and I’ve been following it for a number of years. And obviously having been at ‘Hinch for the last couple of seasons I’ve been keeping a very close eye on affairs at Rifle Park. So I already know a lot about the club and the players that I’ll be working with.
“In fact”, he added, “I played with a number of the guys who are still playing at Banbridge, including club captain Michael Cromie. Michael and I played Ulster U-19s and U-20s together. Robin Thompson and Paul Ross were also involved with those squads.
“And of course there are a lot of former RBAI pupils now playing at Banbridge, like Conor Field, Michael Lowry, James Hume and Calum Reid, whom I would have coached at different points in their school rugby careers. I’ve also worked in PE with Andrew Morrison so there are quite a lot of the boys I know and obviously I’ve heard about a lot of the other lads so I know how good they are.”
Mark will be joined in the new coaching set-up by Rob Logan. Rob has been with the club for a number of seasons, helping Simon McKinstry on the training ground and with match analysis. But he will take on a more prominent role next season as Assistant Coach with responsibility for the forwards.
Mark said he was coming to the post of Head Coach with high hopes for the new season. “I’m very, very excited to be joining Banbridge – from what I see from the outside it’s a phenomenal club that’s really trying to continually go places. That’s the kind of environment I want to be involved in.
“I really enjoyed my time at ‘Hinch but, to be honest, there was really only one option when Banbridge came calling.”
Club Director of Rugby Andy Duke said that he was delighted that Mark had decided to take up the position of Head Coach at Rifle Park. “Simon McKinstry did a great job last year, with the team just missing out on a play-off spot, and we thank him for all his good work.
“I believe that in Mark we have identified a well-qualified, very enthusiastic coach who will pick up where Simon left off and continue with the building of a coaching structure which will raise skills and fitness levels throughout the club.”