A night of nostalgia and humour for Ballyraine FC

Irish soccer internationals Julie Ann Herrity and Ciara Grant with Charlie Shiels and Andy O'Boyle at the Ballyraine FC reunion.

Irish soccer internationals Julie Ann Herrity and Ciara Grant with Charlie Shiels and Andy O’Boyle at the Ballyraine FC reunion.

THE Arena 7 complex was packed to capacity on Tuesday night as former players, coaches and committee members gathered for a night of nostalgia reflecting Ballyraine Football Club’s history.
From the start of the Letterkenny and District Schoolboys League in 1976, players residing in the Ballyraine area played with Ballyraine/Oldtown, before Ballyraine FC was formally affiliated to the league in 1979.
In Ballyraine’s first year (1979/80 season) there were two teams and within twelve months the club’s U14 team secured a league and cup double.
It was a time when young players packed into one or two cars to travel to the venue on match day, when players togged out in Marian Russell’s garage adjacent to the Ballyraine pitch and when you had to play for a team within the area in which you lived!
Many stories charting the forty year history of the club were shared by the four-person panel of former managers Andy O’Boyle, Charlie Shiels, Noel Sweeney and his son, Brian, who acted as MC before Tuesday night’s audience.
It drew plenty of laughs on a night filled not only with insight but plenty of humour as well.
Many, many players have worn the Ballyraine FC colours with distinction down through the years. They include an Olympic athlete (Mark English 800m), All Ireland winner (Rory Kavanagh, 2012) and professional cyclist (Philip Deignan).
Julie Ann Herrity was the first girl to play on the boys team while Ciara Grant, is now a full Irish international. She played in midfield was awarded player of the year in her final year with Ballyraine FC.
Others have gone on to play League of Ireland football, including Sean Houston, Gareth Harkin and Josh Mailey – all three of whom played with Finn Harps in the Premier Division last season.
Julie Ann, Ciara, Rory, Sean and Gareth were all called to the stage during the night and talked about a special time in their young lives when they lined out for Ballyraine in the Letterkenny and District Schoolboys League.
Indeed, many of them took part in a five-a-side competition earlier that day and although the skills were still clearly evident the speed of both movement and thought, in some cases at least, has started to slip.
Ballyraine/Oldtown would finish runners-up to Lurgybrack in the inaugural Letterkenny and District Schoolboys League (1976) with Christy Bell and Stephen McMenamin (who both reside in the USA), the late Declan Russell and myself the ‘Ballyraine’ men on that particular team while my younger brother Johnny, Simon Francis, Clive Ramsay and Graham Bell were among some of the other Ballyraine boys to play for Ballyraine/Oldtown.
The first Ballyraine FC committee was made up of President, Finley Russell (RIP), Secretary, Fred Bell (RIP), Treasurer Michael Doherty with team managers Andy O’Boyle, Noel Sweeney, Michael Toner (RIP), Charlie Shiels and Vincent Murphy (RIP).
Today, there are almost 180 players registered with the club from U9s up to U16s.
“They’re all competing. They’re all getting stuck in and we have serious numbers every week at training,” Oran Grimes, PRO, said.
The club also competes in the prestigious Foyle Cup each summer. The future is bright for Ballyraine FC.

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