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Ulster heroes of the past still going strong

By Ronnie Ingram

Two of Ulster's 1999 European Cup winning heroes, Rab Irwin and Andy Matchett, are still playing and actively encouraging the younger players on Ards IV, a team that has won the McCambley Cup five times in the last decade.

On Saturday this blend of youth and experience helped the Hamilton Park side to a 47-7 victory over Randalstown III in Minor East 1.

Two under-18 players, Paddy Boyd and Joel de Pledge, were making their senior debuts and each scored a try.

Hooker Boyd played mini rugby at Ards before moving on to Bangor Grammar, while centre de Pledge first showed his skills at Holywood before joining the Ards Youth programme.

"With talent such as Paddy and Joel and the other under-18's that still have to move up, there is plenty of potential which will be developed into the future first XV squad," said Ards Director of Rugby Stephen Nutt.

"Andy Matchett and Rab Irwin have put a lot back into the club along with players like Keith McIlwaine, a Youth pastor at Bangor Baptist and 47-year-old prop Gary Dempsey.

"We had already beaten Randalstown 27-19, but with home advantage and wet conditions that helped our style of play we ran in nine tries on this occasion.

"Our forwards were dominant and they scored all but one of the tries; Andy Matchett got the other."

Back row forward Luke Schuler (3), second row Jack Matthews (2) and McIlwaine, playing his first game of the season, contributed the other tries. Stevie Bell, another former firsts player, directed the proceeding from out-half and added one conversion.

Randalstown's only reward was a converted Adie Johnston try.

East 1 results: Armoy 62 PSNI II 3, BHSFP II 3 Malone V 35.

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