Last weekend a group of local people received a very sad piece of news about the death of a man who had figured significantly in their early lives.
They weren’t the only ones to be shocked by the passing of former Ballymena Academy teacher James (Jimmy) Boyle but this particular ‘“’band of brothers‘”’ had particular reason to feel the loss very keenly.
On March 17th, 1972, Ballymena Academy 1st XV won the Ulster Schools Cup, the blue riband of schools rugby, for the first time in their history.
Having lost in the final the previous year, coach Jimmy Boyle guided the team back to a second successive Ravenhill appearance and on this occasion they celebrated with a great win over Belfast Royal Academy.
Those of us who were privileged to play that day in front of a 20000 crowd will forever be indebted to the time, effort and guidance that Jimmy put into coaching us.
Arguably more talented teams represented the school in the past without ever having won the trophy but this was a team with great spirit.
A large part of our success was due to our coach Jimmy Boyle.
A highly intelligent man and a talented player himself, Jimmy encouraged us to play with freedom and to express ourselves within the team structure.
He trusted you to make decisions on the pitch and to use your skill to best effect.
If it didn’t come off, then you tried a different approach.
One abiding memory will be those final seconds in the dressing room before we left to go out on to the pitch at Ravenhill.
To a man everyone united to ‘do this for Jimmy.’ That is what he meant to that team.
Jimmy was also a great history teacher as well as being a renowned raconteur.
But for the ‘Boys of 72’, he will forever be our coach, friend and a great human being.
Every year just before Christmas those team members who are in the country get together to have a catch up and remember those days.
There will undoubtedly be a glass raised to Jimmy when we next meet.
Thanks for the memories Jimmy, it was an absolute pleasure to have played for you.
John Montgomery (captain), Trevor Montgomery, Bill Wray, David Montgomery, Brian Aiken, Norman McConaghie, Ian Houston, Walker Rainey, Colin Robinson, David Mawhinney, Wilbur McDonald, Adrian Goodrich, Lester Davidson, Nigel Orr, David McKelvey