Aug 17 2012 Ayrshire Post (main ed)
AYR kicked off Irvine’s 50th season celebrations at Marress last Saturday before vacating the stage for the youngsters, writes Ron Evans.
Veterans matches are simply an excuse for a bunch of guys, who ought to know better, to run around sweltering in the heat, proving that the mind might be willing but the flesh – lots of it – is weak as they try to settle old feuds going back to last century while spectators make sure the local A & E is on their speed dial.
It all ends with handshakes, mostly sincere, drinking copious amounts of beer and hoping that they can get blootered before the wife (or mammy) knows they are out.
Am I being overcritical, cynical or holier than thou? Nope, simply envious that I wasn’t invited to be in one of the teams!
After the field was cleared of bodies from the curtain raiser, Irvine took on Ayr and gave a pretty good account of themselves particularly in the pack where the Millbrae men were several players short of the side that will take on Boroughmuir a week on Saturday but which nevertheless included players who could be called on to step up depending on how injuries affect the squad
Coach Kenny Murray claimed: "Credit to Irvine, they worked hard but our fitness told, particularly in the backs.
"We ran in around nine tries and, with only Ross Curle missing behind the scrum, we showed what we could do if we had good ball.
"It wasn’t so good in the pack where we were missing the likes of Nick Cox, Denford Mutamangira, Stewart Fenwick and Colin White which is four out of five of what could be our starting front five and add to that Graham Fiskin and Andy Dunlop missing out of the back row.
“However, it did give some of the lads who could be pushing for a place during the season a decent run.”
Of the youngsters on show, Peter McCallum, Hayden Wysnewski and D’Arcy Rae caught the eye and it was a first run out too for Sylvain Diez who has returned to run with Ayr after running with the bulls in Pamplona and losing several teeth in the process. RBS Premier rugby should be a skoosh after that!
Murray added: "We took a couple of bumps but nothing too serious and I expect we will have all our backs available and close to full strength for the final warm-up against Blaydon.”
As we revealed last week, Calum Forrester has been appointed captain for the current season and he confirmed just how much he was looking forward to the league campaign ahead.
The former Glasgow Warriors back-row is no stranger to Millbrae having been a draft pro-player in the 2009 side who won the club’s first ever league title and more recently playing for them in last season's British and Irish Cup campaign.
Forrester said: "It's a great honour to be appointed as club captain for Ayr. I'm delighted to be playing here.
"Ayr is a busy, well-organised club with a big enthusiastic support and everyone has made me feel really welcome. We've had a good pre-season, so far, and I can't wait to get started in the new 10 team RBS Premier Division which kicks off in a fortnight.
"It will be a highly-competitive league and we'll have to work hard to achieve our ambition, which is ultimately to win the league."
Murray reckons Forrester will be an influential player both on and off the park.
He said: "Calum brings a professional attitude to training and is determined to succeed. We're delighted he chose to come to Ayr. He’s very familiar with the place and I'm sure he'll enjoy it here.”
The pro draft was announced this week and of the 10 players who are allocated to Ayr, seven have already pulled on a pink and black strip, whether coming up through the ranks at Millbrae, guesting in the Premier or in the British and Irish Cup.
They are: Ryan Grant, Gordon Reid, Ed Kalman, Jon Welsh, Pat MacArthur, James Eddie, Tommy Seymour, Ruaridh Jackson, Villiami Ma’afu and Colin Shaw.
On Saturday, Ayr have their final warm up against Blaydon and after the cross border raid, it is straight into the league campaign against Boroughmuir at Meggetland on August 25.
The squad in the warm-up games has given the backs a chance to become acquainted but it will be essential that the pack get a decent run in the final rehearsal on Saturday before what will be a massive opener.
Don’t forget Thursday. August 23 when Millbrae hosts Glasgow Warriors v Exeter at 7.30pm. Glasgow supporters in the city are running transport down the M77 for the game so get along early to grab a good seat for what should be a cracking game.