Malone 22 Cashel 17
Gibson Park Avenue - East Belfast
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Malone Football Club was founded in 1892 by residents of Malone Park, Belfast. In 1896 Malone obtained senior status after two victories in the junior league. Malone first played a non-Irish sidewhen it hosted Furness in 1903. The current name Malone Rugby Football Club was adopted in1932. Malone moved to its present location in Gibson Park, Belfast in 1935, eventually purchasing it in1953.The present clubhouse dates from 1967.
Malone's nickname is 'The Cregagh Red Sox' and the club is based around the Cregagh Road area in South-East Belfast . Just off the Cregagh Road are two locally well-known sporting venues,Cregagh Cricket Club and Malone Rugby Club.While having separate facilities, they are situated onthe same road, namely Gibson Park Avenue. Cregagh Cricket Club celebrated its centenary in 2006.
The cricket ground is also used by Northern Amateur Football League club Orangefield Old Boys' Association F.C. and is part of Cregagh Sports Club, effectively a merger of the cricket and association football clubs, with both sharing the same Gibson Park Avenue facilities.This alliancewas concluded in the early 1980s, with the two clubs being previously unconnected.Ravenhill Stadium, the home of Ulster Rugby,lies a short distance away, about halfway between the Cregagh Road and the Ravenhill Road to the east.
Troubles, Catholics even joined in local vigilante patrols under the auspices of the Cregagh Tenants Association.
The late footballer George Best grew up in the Cregagh Estate, and as a boy played football on the open playing fields at the centre of the estate and today you can find his life commemorated by amural in the Cregagh estate. Before the roaring crowds and showstopping goals, you could have found a young George Best on Cregagh Green. Stepping back to in time to the 1950s, Cregagh Green Estate’s local football pitch was where it all began. It was here that the raw, undiscovered talent of the Belfast Boy began to blossom. One of the locals told me “They actually want top reserve the field so that in future years we might find another George Best”. The space is legally protected “in perpetuity” after a legal deed of dedication between Belfast City Council and Fields inTrust. It seems only fitting that the mural overlooks budding stars and Belfast boys with the same passion for football as George Best himself showed all those years ago.
Todays opponents Cashel are based in Tipperary across the border in the south around 250 miles away. They looked a very well drilled team and played a strong game and they pushed the league leaders all the way to the final whistle. Many a team would have buckled under the Malone pressurebut Cashel stood strong and went toe-to-toe.
The intensity and speed of the match was fantastic as both teams smashed in to each other. It was a fantastic match. The locals turned out in force and both bars were doing brisk trade. Whilst the 1s tteam were in action there were two other matches on the other pitches and as usual they were all competative. The sportsmanship from every one was excellent.
When I arrived,I was immediately welcomed by a club official who also knowing how far I had travelled immediately invited me to the pre-match luncheon which was just about to be served tothe 300+ strong club members. It was delicious and the company was excellent including my new photographer friend John Coffrey who produces excellent photography .
The final whistle blew to cheers from the Malone supporters after Cashel had finished the match strongly.It was followed by hugs and handshakes between everyone involved.It was an afternoon in the East Belfast sunshine of non stop pulsating entertainment, which i thoroughly enjoyed.This was my first experience of All Ireland Rugby and I was very impressed.I will certainly be back for more in the future.
Despite their defeat the Cashel players were fantastic and they can hold their heads high as they head back South to Tipperary because ….. its a long way !