Ground Breaking Rugby Tour Hits Dublin
|The tourists - 25/02/12|
After what seemed like months and months of planning Friday saw the children from Castle Tower School and Ballymena RFC’S Under 15 rugby team board the bus to head off on a joint tour to Dublin and the Ireland Italy Six Nations game. This was the start of what may have been a ground breaking event where children with special needs joined boys from a rugby club on a rugby tour.
The minute they were on the bus both groups of children relaxed and it was obvious this was going to be a great weekend. No matter where they were all that could be heard throughout the weekend was laughter and the sound of boys and girls enjoying the freedom of being away for the weekend.
The hotel was another great success and its location meant it was easy to both walk into Dublin or stroll out to the Aviva. Friday night’s activities saw both groups head to ‘the pictures’ where they went into one of the biggest cinemas anyone had seen with over 15 different films on offer. Then it was back to the hotel to get an early night before the big day on the Saturday. The hotel staff remarked on the Saturday that it was great to see the kids from the special school and the club mixing together. They also said that the children from both groups were probably the best behaved groups they had ever had in the hotel and that they were a credit to both the school and the Club.
Next morning saw the children from Castle Tower head off to St Stephen’s Green where as luck would have it they bumped into some of the Ireland squad and managed to get a chat with the players and some photos. The rugby boys who had gone shopping then stopped at the Ireland team’s hotel. The manager of the hotel allowed the boys to come into the hotel and provide a guard of honour to the team clapping them out of the hotel as they boarded the bus for the Italy game.
Again the children thoroughly enjoyed what was to be an entertaining game with the Castle Tower children marvelling at the crowds and the atmosphere. Their teacher Cairan McCaughan said ‘ It was a wonderful weekend. The school strive to give the children life experiences which will improve their social skills. The opportunity to mix and relax with boys their own age was invaluable and is something the children will never forget’. Tom Wiggins the Community Rugby Development Officer for Ballymena RFC and Ballymena Council was equally enthused by the weekend. ‘At the Club we try to ensure the boys experience more than just rugby. Watching the boys chatting and mixing with the children from Castle Tower made everything worthwhile. At the Club we are committed to giving every child the opportunity to experience the joys of sport and the weekend built on our already strong partnership with the school. I have to say though we could not have achieved this without the generosity of our sponsors. Both Michael McKillop from Glens of Antrim Potatoes and Alex McNeill the owner of the Olderfleet Arms in Larne deserve recognition for their support of this very worthy venture’.
After seeing Italy sent home by a dominant Ireland team it was back to the bus and heading home. The bus was a bit quieter on the way home with both sets of kids chilling out after a busy fun filled two days. The success of the weekend has only made Tom and Ciaran more determined to undertake similar ventures in the future and they hope that their example might be followed by other sporting Clubs in the area. Ballymena RFC’s efforts actually continued on Sunday morning with the first outing for the Ballymena Bears, where children with disability can experience rugby every Sunday morning between 10 – 11am.