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Willie John McBride brings his class to the launch of Carrick Sevens

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster heroes from past and present were on hand last week to launch this year's Guinness Carrick Sevens.

The legendary figure of Willie John McBride was joined by Andrew Trimble and Michael Allen from the current Ulster squad, as well as Ulster Branch President John Kinnear, as details of the 43rd edition of the competition were revealed.

Taking place on the weekend beginning Friday May 1, organisers are expecting this year to be bigger than ever with over 50 teams set to descend upon the County Antrim town.

Squads from all over Ireland, Scotland, England, and even as far afield as Fiji, will enter six competitions over the course of the three days with some new events in place for this year.

Once again the tournament will benefit the Wooden Spoon charity that has been long associated with McBride and the former Lions captain is thrilled that the relationship will continue.

He said: "It's great that Wooden Spoon can be involved again. I think it's really important that we do something for people who would never have been able to have all the fun that we did playing rugby, whether that's providing various facilities or just anything that can make their lives easier.

"Any money raised in Ulster stays in Ulster and, with the amount of volunteers, every pound raised by the charity goes to the charity."

The weekend will kick off with the Kukri Sportswear U-18s tournament on Friday night that will see the likes of Edinburgh College and Carrickfergus go head to head.

For the first time the opening evening will also feature an U18 girls tournament with Carrickfergus, Bangor and Belfast Harlequins already confirmed to take part.

As usual, Saturday will see the hotly-contested Quigg Golden Open competition and, with recent victors the Ulster Exiles not entering, it is sure to be a wide open field.

Celebrating the club's 150th year, it is a special season for Carrick - they will put on a gala dinner with Ireland legend Brian O'Driscoll in June - and the occasion will be marked on the Saturday with the hosting of the Ulster versus Munster Junior Interpro contest.

The concluding day of the weekend will see the Abbey Insurance Ladies competition make a return with last season's winners Queen's expected to do well once again while, after debuting last year, the Ladies Development tournament will also be back. In addition, the Manvik Qualifying League competition takes place on the Sunday with CIYMS aiming for their fourth consecutive title.

Away from the pitch, there will be plenty of entertainment throughout the weekend with a barbecue, kidzone and craft fair as well as evening entertainment from Flash Harry, Sunshine and the Discobeards.

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