AYR rounded off a stunning season at Murrayfield last night when they picked up the RBS Club of the Season award, even if their coach was not there to witness it.
Kenny Murray had a good excuse. His wife Kirsteen gave birth to their second child, Orla, on Thursday and while his players and fellow coaches were enjoying a night out in the capital he was returning home from hospital with his wife and daughters.
That has merely added to the feeling of celebration around Ayr RFC, however, after the club claimed its first league and cup double. Club president Billy McHarg stood in to lift the silverware last night and assistant coach Peter Laverie admitted it was an emotional end to a season that Ayr will never forget.
“Everyone is delighted for Kenny and the family,” he said, “and it does sum up what has been a very special season for the club.
“Looking back, the first league win [in 2008-9] changed the whole feeling around the club, from being perennial challengers, under-achievers, boys from the backwater maybe, to a team that deserved its place among the Melroses, Hawicks, Curries and Glasgow Hawks of the game. To then win the cup in 2010 and 2011 and compete in the British and Irish cup kept interest high at the club, and maintained the momentum among supporters.”
So, which was the more important – the league, cup or the first “double” for Ayr, which lifts the club into an elite group with Melrose, Hawick and Glasgow Hawks of “double” teams in 18 years of league and cup competition? “To get the double was a hell of an achievement, but the league was particularly satisfying because it was so close and tight all the way through.
“I don’t know what to say about the cup. To play Melrose for the third time certainly meant we knew what to expect but there was such a dramatic finish to that game.”
The benefit to rugby in Ayrshire has been significant with the under-18s and under-16s also successful, women’s and girls’ teams being launched this season and more than 300 youngsters signing up to play regularly in the youth set-up. Laverie added: “This is not about one team, or one title. I could praise all the players, particularly Calum Forrester and the leadership he has brought, but there are so many people putting in a lot of time and commitment to this club now and most of that goes unseen, as at any club .
“This is their club, they are contributing, and topping it off with a first Club of the Year award is a great tribute to everyone, and great way to finish the season.”
There was further success for Ayrshire rugby at the awards night when Craig Redpath was voted RBS Coach of the Year for leading Marr to their double of the West Regional Division One and RBS Shield titles.
Redpath, the Scotland B full-back at a time when Gavin Hastings was holding down the senior jersey, was the creative force in first moving Ayr through the leagues and with the club building on the foundations he left, he is now hoping to create a second Ayrshire force in the game.
More than 400 club members attended last night’s event with 18 awards handed out and it was a very west coast affair. The RBS Women’s Club of the Season went to Hillhead/Jordanhill, while Glasgow Hawks’ John Coupar collected the RBS Youth Coach of the Season and Allan Wilson of Irvine was the RBS Volunteer of the Season.
Edinburgh Accies got in on the action with Dan Teague voted the Premier’s Player of the Season, while Andy Hill of Hamilton was the National Player of the Season, Grant McDonald (GHA) the Championship A’s top player and Peebles’ James Hemara the Championship B’s prize-winner.
A special Ginger Grouse Spirit of Rugby award was presented to former Gala forward Ken Macaulay, who has been a driving force in rugby development in North Berwick and through his charity work.
SRU president Alan Lawson said: “Rugby at the heart of communities is what we strive for and I congratulate all the players, coaches, volunteers and committee members who give of their time so generously for the good of club rugby in Scotland.
“Congratulations to all of tonight’s winners and to all the unsung heroes who do so much for rugby in Scotland.”