Ballymoney Rugby Club veteran Toss Skelton was presented with a tanker to mark his incredible 700th appearance by Club President John Campbell on Saturday.
On receiving his award Toss commented: “It is great to receive this award and great to receive all the comments from friends and family.
“It was great to see some of the older players come to the Club today and especially my first captain Joe Killen was here today, giving me some needed advice as normal!
“I never thought when I started playing all those years ago, that I would go on to play 700 games and make history for the Club. “A big thank you must go to my wife Wilma for all the support she has given me over the years and not to mention washing all those dirty kits every week!
“Today’s game was the icing on the cake as we played well and deserved the win. However to be honest the nicest thing was to play alongside my two sons in the winning team, Thomas and Andrew. It is something which I am proud of and will be something I will remember for the rest of my days. I consider this Club to be one of the best in Northern Ireland and to be a part of the Club over the years has been special and I can only see it going from strength to strength.”
Ballymoney’s 3rd XV overcame Ballymena 4th XV in the Foster Cup on at Kilraughts Road.
The 17 – 5 victory saw tries scored by Ryan Moore, Norman Finney, David Dunlop. Thomas Skelton Jnr got one conversion. And it was one of many wins ejoyed by Toss during his long and illustrious career with the club.
Toss has been a stalwart for the Club for many years. He was Club and 1st XV Captain for 5 seasons in 1980-82, 1986-88 and 1992-93, meaning he is the only person to Captain the team on three separate occasions.
Toss has played an important part off the pitch also being Club Chairman from 2001-03 and playing a large part in the structure of rugby at the Club as Youth and Game Development Co-ordinator for more years than anyone can remember. However, his playing career at Ballymoney began on Saturday 23 March 1974 when he made his debut under Captain Joe Killen away to Bangor 2Bs in the league as a young raw 16-year-old.
At 16-years-old Toss’s dedication and enthusiasm would mean he would play for Dalriada School in morning and then Ballymoney Rugby Club in the afternoon. Toss’s first full season at the Club was 1976-77 where he played for the firsts under Captain John Paul which highlighted in him being part of the 1st XV who reached the semi-final of the Towns Cup. Another Towns Cup semi-final appearance came in 1979-80. In Toss’s first year as Captain he led the 1st XV to win the league and go on to win the Past Players Cup Final at Ravenhill, 24-13 against a very strong Ballymena 2nd XV.
Further success came for the 1st XV and Toss Skelton as they won the North West Cup in 1992-93 and on a personal level he represented Junior Ulster and played a major part in Ulster winning the Inter-provincial title. After “retiring” from the 1st XV in the mid 1990s Toss was persuaded to play for the 3rd XV and nearly 20 years on he is still enjoying the “Crack” playing down the club and winning the odd league title in Junior Rugby on the way! Toss has gone on to play with both his sons at Ballymoney RFC all 3 Skelton’s appeared together again last week! All players, members, supporters and associates of Ballymoney RFC would like to congratulate Toss Skelton on being the 1st Ballymoney player to make 700 appearances and we wish him the best of luck for this game and for the rest of his playing career. Well-done Toss and “Come on The Toon”!
Toss Skelton is a well known face to most people in Ballymoney as he is the current headmaster of Dalriada Grammar School.
It is no coincidence that since his involvement at the school, its rugby has grown from strength to strength each year.