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News - 01/09/2002

By Stephen Swann

18 Months of Preparation Pays Off for President's Encounter...

Centenary Events don't just happen. A lot of work is involved in trying to make the event a success.

Five years ago, the prospect of fielding a team which could compete against an Ulster Branch President's XI was first mooted. Eighteen months ago, plans were laid. Yesterday, the event happened and everyone had a great day.

Pitch hire, sourcing umpires, organising dignatories, selecting teams, acquiring equipment, find a "Living Legend" coach, obtaining sponsorship, organising the press, ensuring new kit was available, printing match programmes, providing refreshments, finding a post-match reception venue...

The day started with the 1st XI squad getting some expert coaching FROM Paul Cooke - 91 times capped for Ireland. The 2 hour session was a definite success, with every player benefitting FROM the experience. The enthusiasm of Paul was matched by the response FROM the players.

A coaching session for other Club members was then taken, again by Paul Cooke. Paul then made good use of the Flipcharts bought for the occasion by giving a 35-minute team talk.

The teams then proceeded to the pitch were they were met by Alderman Paul Girvan, Mayor of Newtownabbey and Ronnie Blair, Ulster Branch President.

The usual photo opportunities ensued before the main event of the day. The spectators saw a very strong President's XI did give the men in green a tough time. Indeed by half-time, goals FROM Martin Coulter, Michael Scott and two FROM Chris Gregg separated the teams. The half-time team talk, though, seemed to sort out one or two problems as the second half was drawn 0-0.

A final score, therefore, of 4-0 to the President's XI was the only dampner on the day. That was soon forgotten though... free food and drink at the Chimney Corner Hotel ensured the misery of the defeat was a distant memory.

Speeches FROM Alan Burgess, Ronnie Blair and Paul Cooke were entertaining. The umpires, Bill Gowdy and Terry Templeton, each received a bottle of whiskey and Paul Cooke took home a specially made frosted beer mug (and plenty of cans of Heineken!).

All-in-all... a terrific day, enjoyed by all.


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