Last Friday night Ballynahinch United celebrated the clubâ€™s 50th anniversary with a gala dinner in the Millbrook Lodge Hotel. There was an attendance of one hundred and forty which included present and former players as well as their families. Club Chairman Gilbert Cromie welcomed those present and during his opening remarks he requested a moments silence which was respectively observed in memory of former club members.
A great reception was given to Gareth Bingham, Scott Brashaw, Anto Greene, Ross Hayes and Steven Jess who had conceived and organised the event on behalf of the club. Gilbert then introduced the host for the evening Liam Beckett the BBC Radio Ulster soccer and motor cycle racing commentator and pundit who entertained before and after the dinner. Prior to the food being served a representative of the Anthony Nolan Trust, the nominated charity on the night, gave a short talk on the work of the charity.
After the dinner Liam Beckett regaled those present with a series of humorous stories from his days as a player with Crusaders, Drogheda and Coleraine and as a mechanic with the motor cycling legends Joey and Robert Dunlop which were extremely entertaining.
Newry & Mourne and Down Council Chairman Mark Murnin was invited to make a number of presentations to club stalwarts Winston Brown and Jimmy Brown in recognition of their outstanding service to the club. Winston, the Club President, has been involved with the club for forty nine years undertaking a wide range of roles mostly related to the upkeep of the various club grounds from Fees Field in Dromara to Millbridge. Jimmy has for over thirty years maintained the Millbridge grounds and pavilion whilst also having carried out all manner of building, plastering and plumbing works.
A presentation was also made to Robert Creighton who is one of the clubs most dedicated and enthusiastic supporter. The club received gifts from Mervyn Martin, a former player, on behalf of the Northern Amateur Football League and Robert Howarth on behalf of the Newcastle & District Football League.
The Club Chairman referred to the outstanding service which the Hamilton family had given to the club over the half century. The late Billy who passed away last December had served the club as a player, Secretary, Trustee and league representative. His wife Sally who attends most home matches in the present day has supported the club faithfully over the years as well as undertaking a number of practical activities so vital to its running. Billy Junior was a very successful manager during the clubâ€™s years in the junior football while Graham still holds the accolade of being the all-time leading scorer. Wilson remains a dedicated committee member and supporter following a very successful playing career which included being in the clubs historic Border Cup winning team. In recognition of this outstanding service Sally accompanied by her sons was invited to unveil a plaque bearing the title â€˜The Hamilton Loungeâ€™ which the club has decided that its recreation area should be named.
Prior to the eveningâ€™s entertainment which was provide by the Renegades group the results of the raffle were announced for a series of valuable prizes including signed Carl Frampton Boxing Gloves. Northern Ireland, Manchester United, Ulster Rugby, Linfield and Glentoran shirts, football signed by the Manchester City title winning squad and a variety of other prizes.
Everyone at Ballynahinch United was absolutely delighted with the success of the evening which it felt was a very fitting way to commence its 50th anniversary season. The number of former players from all the five decades who attended was so encouraging and the complementary remarks which have been made since have been much appreciated by those who organised the evening.
The club would like to express its gratitude to BEC Electrical who were the main event sponsors, Peninsula Print, M.E. Crowe Ltd, AAD Brickwork, Millbrook Lodge Hotel, Ulster Property Sales, MMM Design & Build, Auto Valet, Carryduff Concrete, Kenneth Burtney and Somervilleâ€™s for sponsoring tables and Kelvin Graham, Lilliput and McClureâ€™s Funeral Services for their valuable help with other aspects related to the night. Many thanks also to club man Shaun Bonner for preparing the on screen photographic display and the staff of the Millbrook Lodge Hotel who could not have been more helpful during the planning stage and on the night.
A souvenir brochure was produced to mark the 50th anniversary and this can be obtained from the clubhouse on match days for a very modest charge of Â£2.