For two rugby clubs, the Six Nations took a backseat this weekend as Dunbar Rugby Club joined with friends from across the water to take part in the 67th Friendship Shield match – this year hosted here in East Lothian. The Shield this year is retained by the Irish Club who beat Dunbar 33-26.
Dunbar first played against the Skerries Club from Dublin back in 1952 and the fixture has flourished as an annual calendar highlight ever since. This year was the 67th fixture and saw not only the team travel over, but 40 additional supporters to watch the game and take part in the after-match dinner.
The fixture has created lifelong friends over the years, and reinforced links between the two communities which have many similarities as well as their love of rugby. This year, through a sponsorship boost from local company Tarmac, the event is also providing an opportunity to develop the sport around Dunbar.
David Wilson from Dunbar Rugby Club explains: “This sponsorship has allowed our Club to work with Tarmac to provide much needed support for rugby in Dunbar. Without support from local companies it would be extremely difficult for us to provide the correct support for those taking part. The Club employs a development officer who goes into all the primary cluster schools and Dunbar Grammar to support Rugby prior, during and after school time. The Club also provides strength and Conditioning classes for 15-18-year olds. We may be working with youngsters who will play in the Friendship Shield match in the future!”
Tarmac Dunbar Cement Plant manager, Oliver Curtin adds: “Tarmac plays an active role in the communities around its operations and we get involved in local projects where we can. We were very pleased to be able to support this fixture and through this sponsorship, boost the development of rugby in schools around Dunbar.”
The Skerries team currently includes a player from Dunbar – Blair Mills – who kicked four conversions during the game. Ex-Scotland player Peter Brown spoke at the after-match dinner. In 2020 the Dunbar team and supporters will travel over to Ireland for the 68th fixture.
Picture caption: Getting ready for the game: Left to right: Skerries Captain, Vinny Watson; Skerries President, Donough McGowan; Dunbar RFC President, Justin Pearce; Dunbar Plant Manager Oliver Curtin; Dunbar Captain, Greg Patrizio.