Ballynahinch U21s Win Club Academy Cup

But Ballynahinch Firsts lose out in playoffs after defeat to Cork Constitution

AIL League Div 1A,

Saturday 30th March 2024,

Cork Constitution 10 7 Ballynahinch.

The door finally closed on the playoffs for Ballynahinch as they were defeated narrowly by a Cork Constitution team aiming to avenge their last-minute defeat at Ballymacarn Park earlier this season and push for a home semi-final writes James Kirk.

Adam Craig’s preparation was disrupted by the late withdrawal of props James French and George Saunderson, leading to a start for Kelvin Hamilton and a debut for Callum Smyth.

However, he had a full-strength backline on show and hopes were high that Armagh could do their Ulster rivals a favour by beating Lansdowne and allow Ballynahinch to sneak into the playoff places with a win, setting up a monumental home fixture versus champions Terenure on the final Saturday of the season.

Ballynahinch started well and took the lead through Aaron Sexton’s tenth try of the campaign.

The defining moment of the match came moments later when Con deliberately slapped the ball to ground as Ballynahinch looked odds-on to score.

Referee Peter Martin deemed the offence worthy of a yellow card but not a penalty try and Con managed to weather the storm.

Ten minutes later Ballynahinch had a man in the bin for a needless off-the-ball incident and had conceded an intercept try which levelled the scores.

Division 1A is such a competitive league that these small swings of fortune within a match can make all the difference. Instead of holding a fourteen-point advantage the locals had to battle hard in defence while a man down just to go into the break with the scores even.

The second half continued in the same vein with a physical battle and Ballynahinch fell behind to a Con penalty on the hour mark.

However they continued to attack and despite another yellow card they looked the better side and had chances to win as the game reached its climax.

Con used all their experience to defend their lead but were  relieved to see the final whistle as Ballynahinch saw their playoff hopes end for another season.

To have stayed in the hunt until the end of the penultimate match deserves enormous credit and they will rue the games against Young Munster where they threw away the points.

Despite the huge differential in rugby budgets their performances against the perennial contenders have shown that a semi-final place is achievable.

However, the glass ceiling remains as hard to break through as ever.

Everyone is welcome as another big gun comes to town this weekend and coaches, players and management aim to sign off on a high.

Ballynahinch 1-21s: Kelvin Hamilton, Claytan Milligan, Kyle McCall (Capt), Bradley Luney, Declan Horrox, Reuben Crothers, Zack McCall, Greg Jones, Conor McKee, Jack Milligan, Aaron Sexton, Mark Best, George Pringle, Ben Carson, Conor Rankin, Josh Hanlon, Callum Smyth, Callum Irvine, Chris Gibson, Ethan Graham, Paul Kerr.


Ballynahinch U21s Enjoy Club Academy Cup Win

Club Academy Cup Final,

Ballynahinch 41 27 Portadown.

Kingspan Stadium was bathed in sunlight as the talented Ballynahinch U21 side took to the field for their first appearance in the showpiece final for the recently created Club Academy Cup writes James Kirk.

The idea of the competition is to allow young players to keep playing with their peers as they transition into adult rugby and it definitely galvanised the squad into a cohesive unit as the season progressed.

The UI21 Ballynahinch players celebrate after winning the Club Academy Cup Final between Ballynahinch RFC and Portadown RFC at Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill Park, Belfast. Skipper Philip Crichton raises the trophy. (Photos: John Dickson/Dickson Digital ©).
The victorious Ballynahinch team.

Coaches Johnny Cullen and Brian Wilson were able to select a strong side for the final with a core of players with first and second fifteen experience leading by example.

Matthew Booth, Kyle Gill, Stephen Campbell and Arthur Johnston have all played AIL 1A rugby this season while Alex Murphy, Matthew Sweetlove and skipper Philip Crichton have all had excellent seasons as part of the wider senior squad.

Their experience was vital as Portadown set the tone early with a high degree of physicality and an early score.

Philip Crichton carries hard.
Kobi Dunn in open space.

Backrower Wilson settled the nerves when he ran a superb support line for a try and lock Gill used all his physical advantage to battle his way over to give his side the lead.

However, Portadown stayed in the fight and scored again to level the scores.

Ballynahinch were guilty of overplaying a little and several try-scoring opportunities went begging before a Sweetlove penalty took them into the break with a three-point advantage.

Stephen Campbell blasts through the Portadown defence.
Ross McKee looks for a gap.
Kyle Gormley breaks the line.

From the stands it was clear that Portadown were defending very narrowly and Ballynahinch visibly upped the tempo and sought to put width on the ball early in the second half.

They were rewarded with a four try blitz as Portadown wilted.

Booth danced his way over to send the locals ten points clear and after some brilliant defence restricted Portadown to a penalty replacement full back Ross McKee scored the best try of the afternoon with a brilliant reach for the line after a sweeping counter-attack given real momentum by the abrasive Kyle Gormley.

Ben Wilson has plenty of support. (Photos: John Dickson/Dickson Digital ©)

Replacement hooker Matthew Foster then dotted down after a perfectly executed maul from 22m out and tricky winger Zac Carey capped an impressive display with a fine finish after the excellent Wilson burst a couple of tackles to breach the Portadown defence.

To their credit Portadown rallied and scored a couple of late consolation tries but Ballynahinch were not to be denied and Crichton raised the trophy amidst jubilant celebrations.

The unity of the squad was on full display and the commitment of both sides was a credit to their clubs and the competition itself.

Celebrations lasted well into the Bank Holiday Monday and beyond and many of the players will be eligible for another crack at silverware next season.

Ballynahinch 1-22: Logan Mallon, Harry McCarroll, Kobi Dunn, Kyle Gill, Johnny Shannon, Philip Crichton (Capt), Ben Wilson, Stephen Campbell, Arthur Johnston, Matthew Sweetlove, Rory Fulton, Matthew Booth, Kyle Gormley, Zac Carey, Alex Murphy, Andrew Coard, Matthew Foster, Jake Hamilton, Ross McKee, Owen Wright, Peter Gordon, Jake Nixon.


Ballynahinch RFC Round Up for 30th March 2024

Club Notes.

The 5ths clinched their league title with a big win over Instonians 4ths and will be aiming to add a Ravenhill Cup this weekend and a third successive McCambley Cup on 20th April when they take on Ballymena 4ths at Kingspan Stadium.

The Club/School window is open. Contact Clifton Quinn for details.

The final pre-match lunch is SOLD OUT.  

Youth Training continues on Mondays at 7pm for boys and Wednesdays at 7pm for girls. All players U12/U14/U16/U18 welcome and no experience necessary. Contact Clifton Quinn for details on 07501228045.

Mini rugby continues on Saturday mornings from 9.30-11am. Boys and girls from P1 – Yr8 are all welcome, with training run for each age group in their school year. Mini rugby news is posted weekly on the club Facebook page – For more details contact David Martin – Mini Convenor on 07837944892 or email

Results 30th March 2024.

Cork Constitution 10 Ballynahinch 7 (AIL Division 1A)

Ballynahinch 41 Portadown 27 (Academy Cup Final)

Instonians 4 0 Ballynahinch 5 47

Fixtures 6th April 2024.

Ballynahinch vs Terenure (AIL Division 1A)

QUB vs Ballynahinch (Women’s Premiership) Sun 1pm

Ballyclare 2 vs Ballynahinch 3 (Provincial Premier 1) Weds 7.45pm

Ards 3 vs Ballynahinch 5 (Ravenhill Cup Final).