RATHFRILAND FC held a memorable 50th anniversary night at the idyllic venue of the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle on Saturday past.
The setting certainly befitted the evening as a 230 strong crowd of players, officials, supporters and sponsors from past and present mingled with guests from Banbridge District Council and representatives of the three leagues against a backdrop of murals of the history of the club in every decade since the club was formed in 1962.
The untimely passing of former Northern Ireland player Alan McDonald earlier in the day was recognised with a minute’s silence.
Then Chairman Howard Murray opened the evening with a brief introductory speech on the club formation which was followed by a five star meal by the hotel.
The restart saw the 50th birthday cake cut by Barbara Murray, wife of current Chairman Howard Murray, and Elizabeth Ingram, wife of the inaugural Chairman, the late John Ingram.
A book on the history of Rathfriland FC was then presented to three of the inaugural team of office bearers back in 1962 – these were Mr RGB Bell (first President), Mr Dessie Davenport (first Secretary) and Mr Hubert McKee (a first committee member) (not in attendance).
Mr RGB Bell made a brief speech thanking the club for marking the occasion so well and offering the club best wishes for the future.
A letter of tribute and best wishes from one of the Vice Presidents George Wilton, who could not be in attendance, was also read out to the large crowd by Vice Chairman Mark Ingram.
A powerpoint slideshow history of the club by Chairman Howard Murray certainly pulled at the heartstrings of everyone in the room at some point as they reminisced of the 50 years of sport of a cross community and family orientated club.
Four presentations were made to the club from Brian Larkin Chairman of the Mid Ulster Association, Terry Pateman Vice Chairman of the IFA and Chairman of the Amateur League; Sean O`Neill, Chairman of the Mid Ulster League and Robert Horeth, Chairman of the Newcsatle Legaue with a common thread in their speeches that Rathfriland FC was a template and a benchmark to all other clubs up and down the country.
Next on the agenda was comedian Gene Fitzpatrick who had everyone in the grand ballroom splitting their sides in laughter as he told endless tales of typical Northern Ireland humour.
A raffle was sandwiched between two great sessions of live music as everyone rounded off the evening by dancing the night away to local band Shogun.
The raffle prizes and prize winners were as follows: 1st, David Murray - 42 inch Sharp LCD television (part sponsored by Scott`s Maple Leaf Café, Rathfriland); 2nd, Coleen McCabe – one night bed and breakfast for two persons in the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa Newcastle; 3rd, Jayne Jackson – a Spa voucher worth £75; 4th, Laverne Moorhead - £50 hamper; 5th, Shanine Lowry - £30 hamper; 6th, Diane Jackson - £25 Milestone voucher (sponsored by Sarcfield Downey.