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Lutton returns to familiar surroundings for Cup showpiece

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Former Ulster prop Ricky Lutton will be in familiar surroundings this afternoon when his Ballyclare side take on Portadown in the River Rock Towns' Cup final (2.30pm).

The tight-head prop, who has been a fixture for the Co Antrim side in his first season while also assisting coach Mike McKeever, played his last pro game a little under a year ago in a win over Leinster and will be back at Kingspan this afternoon.

"Yeah, we got the home team designation so hopefully I'll be able to get my old spot back," he laughed.

"It'll be nice but once you get out there it's the same as anywhere else I suppose and it's just a big day for the club.

"We haven't won the competition outright since 2004 so it's a big deal."

Lutton, who played semi-professionally in New Zealand and Canada as well as attending Oxford University before five seasons with Ulster, admitted he has been surprised by the quality on show in the junior ranks of the club game.

Ballyclare lost out to Instonians, where Lutton's former Ulster team-mate Roger Wilson fills a similar player-coach role, for the league title and a chance to make it into the All-Ireland League next season.

"Fair play to Instonians, they were the best team this year," conceded Lutton. "But talking to Roger, he'd say the same, the standard in the league has been really good.

"Certainly I'd say when you're an ex-pro you have a target on your back to an extent but there's no doubt that there's still the big hits.

"It's been great, Ballyclare have given me the chance to really enjoy playing rugby again.

"When you look at the way the club is building the last three years, fourth, third and now second, hopefully next year it's us winning it."

For now, the Towns' Cup would be a more than satisfactory end to the campaign, and the side will be favourites for silverware against a Portadown outfit who finished 40 points behind them in the league. Lutton, though, is taking nothing for granted.

"You have to show up for these games," he said. "We played them twice and had two good wins but you only have to look at our game against Enniskillen to see that there isn't a huge difference between sides at one end of the league and the other."

The traditional Easter Monday fixture will again have a curtain-raiser this year, with the McCrea Cup final between Malone seconds taking on Cooke at 12.30pm.

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