Player-coach hangs up boots at Ballymoney ahead of new campaign

Ballymoney Rugby Club pictured prior to taking on Ballyclare in a friendly at Kilraughts Road on Saturday.INBM34-13 151L
Ballymoney Rugby Club pictured prior to taking on Ballyclare in a friendly at Kilraughts Road on Saturday.INBM34-13 151L
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BALLYMONEY rugby club’s player coach Jason Taggart, now in his tenth year at Kilraughts Road, has hung up his boots and says the club will, this season, have the emphasis on developing young players.

Under Taggart’s reign Ballymoney have hauled themselves out of Qualifying Three and now strut their stuff in Kukri Qualifying One, on the fringes of senior rugby.

And Taggart was also in charge in 2010 when Ballymoney landed the prestigious Towns Cup for the first time in their history.

But time waits for no man and Taggart, who previously played senior club Ballymena, joked it was not so much a decision just to hang up his boots but rather to “throw them over the hedge”.

However, he wouldn’t reveal what number of years he has reached to pre-empt his big decision.

But joking aside, Taggart is deadly serious when it comes to developing rugby in Ballymoney and he is aiming for a top four finish in the new season which opens the way to inclusion in the all-Ireland junior cup.

Last year due to injuries Ballymoney had a bit of a blip as they have normally featured in the top third of Qualifying One and they ended up in seventh position out of ten.

Said Taggart: “Our aim this year is to get in the top four which would then put us in the All-Ireland Cup and it would be nice to possibly win a cup. We won the Towns Cup in 2010 and we are ready for a bit more.

“We are rebuilding and we have a lot of youth players coming up, especially Under-19 players developed by people like Jonny Hanna.

“We lost a few guys who have moved up to senior sides and we wish them all well - Cormac McCartney at Dungannon; Chris Watson at Ballymena and Ewan Strang at Harlequins.

“We are all looking forward to the new season,” said Jason.

Ballymoney’s first league match is away to Clogher Valley at 2.30pm on Saturday August 31 and they have a tasty home league debut at 2.30pm on Saturday September 7 when they entertain derby rivals Coleraine.

The week after that they are at home to Lisburn, who play a league below them, in the cup.

An interesting season awaits but with Taggart’s boots now on the other side of the hedge he will be aiming to coach his team to bigger and better things.