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Annadale old boys were the heroes of their time

While St Patrick's Day was a major occasion for the pupils of MCB and Regent House, a special group of men were taking a trip down memory lane at Ravenhill.

For those who remember, 1958 was a year of sporting achievement in Northern Ireland for many reasons.

The football team reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, Ards won the Irish League title and Ballymena United caused an upset by defeating Linfield 2-0 in the final of the Irish Cup.

But the big shock of the year came at Ravenhill when the boys of Annadale Grammar School defeated hot favourites, Campbell College 5-0 to claim the school's only success in the now 132 year-old competition.

Call then one team wonders - there have been a few over Schools' Cup history - but Annadale's achievement was something special as it came after only four years playing competitive rugby.

In 1978 the school returned to the final, but lost 17-9 to Bangor Grammar

Eleven members of the famous Annadale class of '58 were at Ravenhill on Monday to celebrate the golden jubilee of the school's remarkable achievement, including one member who flew from Canada to attend the annual showpiece final.

Annadale Grammar School may no longer exist in name - it is now known as Wellington College, and one famous pupils is Ulster and Irish star, Neil Best - but there are still a bunch of hardy men who strive to keep the memory of the Belfast school alive.

Annadale Grammar School Former Pupils Association are organising a special dinner on April 22 in the Great Hall, Queen's University, to officially remember the feats achieved on March 17, 1958.

Joining those VIP guests will be members of the team who played in the 1978 final and and also those who competed in Medallion Shield finals.

And, although it may seem a little late now, a special invitation has gone to Billy Brown to honour him as an Irish rugby international.

Looking back to that 1958 success, Annadale were the side which broke a domination from Belfast's big three schools, MCB, RBAI and Campbell - for 15 years the trio had contested the finals.

The talk before the final was by how many Campbell were going to win, but Annadale refused to read the script, showed no signs of nerves as they took the pitch and after a scoreless first half, stuck the crucial blow 10 minutes into the second.

As reported by the News Letter, the only try came when centre, John Crowther intercepted at the Campbell 10-metre line, but was hauled down inches from the try line.

The ball went loose, but there was centre Victor Beavis to pounce on the ball and get the try. Ernie Hewitt confidently converted.

That left the score 5-0 (it was three points for a try and two for a conversion, recorded as 'one goal', back then), and that was how it finished at the final whistle, although it took a try-saving tackle from winger Tom 'Leo' Lyons to deny Campbell.

Lyons flew over especially from Canada to be with his special team-mates on Monday and the 11 surviving members of the team enjoyed a reunion dinner after watching MCB lift the trophy against Regent.

Fullback on the day in 1958, Ken Young, who was the third youngest of the players on the team at 16, remembers celebrating the success by going to the cinema.

"The other boys were a bit older, so they went to the Inst dance that evening. Dickie Mears did the same, but nowadays I am sure the boys are not heading off to the cinema.

"Having said that, immediately after the game we did go for a meal to Mooney's Pub, but when it was finished we went our separate ways.

"Because I was so young, I was not really into going to dances - it is an entirely different culture nowadays, " Young added with a smile.

Chairman of the Former Pupils Association, Bob Armstrong, said anyone wishing to attend the reunion dinner on Tuesday April 22 should contact him on 02890 790360 or email him on fashionsport@btinternet.com

He said: "We have to limit our numbers to 150, so reservations will be on a first come, first served basis.

"But it will be a night of nostalgia for the players of 1958, 1978 and the other school sides who did well in the Cup and Medallion competitions over the years."

He added: "Former members of staff have also been invited and our guest speakers include Jim Irvine, a former Schools' Cup referee and John Wilson, chairman of the Ulster Schools' Committee and principal of Larne Grammar."

 
 
 

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