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A Message from our President

2020 has been a strange year for rugby. The onset of Coronavirus has left us facing obstacles that we never could have imagined. At the moment, rugby is not the priority for many of us as we navigate our way through the new challenges affecting our everyday life. 

The season is still waiting to get going, and although the IRFU plans to start playing again at the start of February, this looks highly unlikely.  This is a real pity as the momentum building right across the club was promising a great year. We had record turnouts in pre-season training across all our sections. Our mini rugby and youth sections had over 350 players registered with record numbers turning out for training right into October, before rugby was suspended. The ladies section grew again with another strong recruitment drive and if they continue to grow at this rate it will not be long before they will be fielding a second team. The men’s senior section had 40-50 players turning out every night. The influx of young players into the senior ranks was also encouraging to see with many players from the youth section and Portadown College made the transition into senior rugby. 

The Panthers continue to be a source of inspiration for us all and were the subject of a recent social media campaign by Bank of Ireland promoting the message “never stop competing”. Our thanks to Bank of Ireland for picking the Panthers as their partners for this project, it really brought to light what a fantastic team they are. The team was the brainchild of the late Willie Gribben and it’s hard to think that it has been just over a year since his passing. Willie is never too far from our thoughts as his legacy is everywhere in our club.

Off the pitch, we are at the final stages of receiving grant funding for work to the floodlights on the 1st XV pitch. This process should complete shortly, allowing the full refurbishment of the lights in the next couple of months. A new boiler has just been installed and this will see us through the next 20 years. There have been several COVID support packages and grants available which the club have been able to avail of, and the finance team are currently working their way through the application for IRFU support scheme. 

Our thanks to our volunteers that are, as always, working hard behind the scenes to keep the wheels turning. They are vital to the continued success of our club. We are always on the lookout for new recruits to help. If you have the time, energy and want to be part of a team off the pitch, and are interested in getting involved, please get in touch through our social media. Even if Rugby is not your primary interest, we would be delighted to have more people help as we push to develop the game and increase the interaction of the club in our local community.  Our Club is about much more than Rugby, and this has been very evident in 2020 when we have been unable to play the sport that has brought and kept us all together.

Our sponsors, as always, have been fantastic and have once again dug deep to support rugby in the local community. We really could not do it without them and are delighted to welcome Granco and BPS Group on board this year. It would be remiss of me not to mention Shelbourne Motors who continue as our major sponsor. Their ongoing contribution to the health and wellbeing of their local community is phenomenal. Please continue to support all our sponsors with every opportunity.

Thankfully there appears to be some light on the horizon regarding the pandemic and with that, we hope, a return to rugby. However, we are not out of the woods yet. Rugby has always been about looking after the people around you, both on and off the pitch. Please continue to live these values and work to keep those around you safe and healthy. Check in on each other, you do not have to be alone to be lonely.  Just as we look after our physical help, remember too our Mental health and that of those around us.  If you need to speak to someone remember the Club as a Chaplain, Jonny Hampton and his details are on the website.

Finally, I would like to wish all our members, friends, and families both near and far, a healthy and prosperous 2021. Looking forward to seeing you all soon at Chambers Park.

Ciaran O’Kane

President

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