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Young stars are aiming to rise in Floodlit series


By Jonathan Bradley

The draw has been made for the 40th annual Nutty Krust Floodlit Tournament, with the first round to take place next month.

While it began life as a competition for junior clubs, and the 2nd XVs of junior sides, the competition now brings some of the best of Ulster's Under-18 rugby players together in what is always a well attended tournament.

British and Irish Lion Stephen Ferris is one notable past player in the competition, while Ulster hooker Adam McBurney has also togged out in the past.

Players from teams across the province will take part in the tournament which kicks off with a preliminary match between Malone and Banbridge at 7.45pm on February 20 at Chambers Park, home of Portadown Rugby Club.

The four quarter-finals are set to take place on Wednesday evenings throughout February and March, leading to semi-finals on March 26-27 and then the final on Wednesday, April 10.

Northern Ireland's leading bakery Irwin's will return as title sponsor for the 40th consecutive year. Speaking at the tournament draw, and celebrating with birthday cake, Brian Irwin, chairman of Irwin's Bakery, was confident that this anniversary edition would again provide a good standard of rugby.

"In this special anniversary year, the Nutty Krust Rugby Tournament will once again bring together some of Northern Ireland's best young rugby players," he said.

"A highlight in the calendar for everyone at Irwin's, it's set to be an extra special set of matches as we celebrate the successes of those who have competed over the past four decades and look to the future with the rising stars of the sport.

"We are a family-owned business, with a history of baking bread for over 100 years, and we are committed to supporting grassroots sport not only in Portadown but across Northern Ireland.

"By supporting the tournament, we are helping young people in NI stay active as well as form habits which will help them live a healthy lifestyle in the years ahead.

"I would like to thank the organisers and officials who make the tournament possible, and I encourage everyone to come along and support the first-round matches that will kick-off on February 20.

"The young players always appreciate the cheering from the sidelines as they compete for this hotly contested tournament."

City of Armagh, looking to win the title for the third time on the bounce, will begin their defence against City of Derry on the second matchweek.

Enniskillen and Randalstown, meanwhile, meeting seven days later.

First Round and dates: Malone v Banbridge (Feb 20); City of Derry v City of Armagh (Feb 27); Enniskillen v Randalstown (March 6); Omagh/Dungannon v Rainey OB (March 13).

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