Ballynahinch Rugby Club Honours Joe Carlisle

Joe Carlisle, a founder member and driving force within Ballynahinch Rugby Club, is honoured for his long service and received the Spence Cup

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Joe Carlisle, a founder member and driving force within Ballynahinch Rugby Club, is honoured for his long service and received the Spence Cup.

For the first fifty years of rugby at Ballynahinch one name was synonymous with our club, a constant presence as we established ourselves on the rugby landscape, writes James Kirk.

That name was Joseph Kirkpatrick Carlisle, or ‘Wee Joe’ to everyone who knows him in rugby circles in Ulster, Ireland and all over the world. He is a founder member of the club and fulfilled the role of 1st XV Captain, Match Secretary, Chairman, Groundsman and Tour Manager as well as having the honourable distinction of being the only man to have served as President twice.

Joe Carlisle who received the Spence Award for 20-21.

Joe was an ever-present on the Club Council and served as club representative to the Ulster Branch for 45 years until 2004.

These bare facts hide the colossal influence of Joe in the early years of this club as he drove it on from very humble beginnings in 1954 to a much sought-after Town’s Cup triumph in 1964. Despite his diminutive stature, Joe was a wing forward on that team and was known for his relentless training regime. His 30-year playing career ended on The Evergreens in the early 80’s.

Joe’s role as Match Secretary for twenty years was absolutely crucial given his unique ability to dig out players when all seemed lost, and recruiting players at Down High on Saturday mornings to fulfil fixtures later that day. Complete strangers would often turn up for 2nd XV matches in the early days saying that Joe had instructed them to turn up and play!

Despite his tireless work on behalf of the club, Joe’s greatest pleasure throughout his rugby life has been the friends he has made along the way. A keen tourist, he has travelled the world to follow rugby and even took in some of the 1974 Lions fixtures in South Africa.

The Spence Cup.

He was tour manager on the legendary 1984 Ballynahinch tour of Canada as well as partaking in a few trips away with the Evergreens. When promotion to the AIL was secured in 1996 Joe was a regular spectator at games all over the country and could be seen at every 1st XV home fixture in his familiar spot on the 22m line until very recently.

The flat cap, long navy Adidas coat, familiar cough and half pint of Harp should conjure up an image of Joe to everyone who knows him, and to countless others who have passed through our club in recent years not knowing the huge influence he has had on rugby in these parts.

We are therefore delighted to award Joe the coveted Spence Cup this season. He is a truly deserving recipient and it is life-affirming to see that friendships gained through team sports run deep as Sam Robinson, himself a Spence Cup winner, acts as carer for Joe as his health deteriorates. Rugby it seems, is giving something back to one of its finest local servants. 

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Spence Family Says A Huge Thank You To Joe K Carlisle.

On behalf of the Spence family, Emma Rice said: “The Spence cup is given to a member who shows an example of commitment to the rugby club. Joe Carlisle’s service to the club in time and deed epitomises this. 

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.” 

“We are often guilty of not noticing a tree that gives the shade we sit under. 

“Players of today may no longer see as much of that familiar face on the 22m line at Ballymacarn Park, but they will see the roots, the structure, the shade and benefit from what Wee Joe once planted.   

“Thank you and congratulations Joe.”