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Festival of rugby takes place in Armagh to celebrate Rory Best

A festival of rugby has taken place in Armagh to celebrate Rory Best being given the Freedom of the Borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.

The Ulster legend took part in a throwabout with those turned out for the event.

The event featured players from various teams in the region, including Banbridge RFC, Dromore RFC, Lurgan RFC, Portadown RFC, and City of Armagh RFC.

Portadown Panthers, a non-contact tag rugby club for people aged six-years-old and over with learning disabilities - which Best is a patron of - started the day with an exhibition match.

“What a privilege to have the Portadown Panthers kickstart the day with an excellent display at this great rugby ground. It really has been a festival of rugby today with brilliant performances from all the teams here and a fantastic atmosphere," he said.

“Given the skills on display and the enthusiasm from all the players here today, it’s clear that the future of rugby in the area is in safe hands.”

President of the City of Armagh Rugby Club William Boyd said it was "heartening to see such enthusiasm for the sport".

"With Rory’s help rugby will go from strength to strength in this borough and hopefully some of our players will follow in his footsteps,” he said.

Lord Mayor Julie Flaherty said: "The turnout today from all over the borough and beyond is testament to the popularity of the rugby here, and also to the popularity of Rory Best. He has been a great advocate of the sport and has inspired everyone here today."

As part of the festivities some of the most notable pieces of memorabilia from his playing career will be going in display.

These will include the match ball from the Ireland rugby team’s historic win over the New Zealand All Blacks in Chicago in 2016; Rory’s shirt from the Six Nations Championship Grand Slam winning game against England in 2018; the boots worn by the hooker on his 200th cap for Ulster in 2017 and his captain’s shirt from the Lions game against the Chiefs on the tour of New Zealand in 2017.

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