New cup is presented in memory of rugby player James (19)

Jimmy and Grace McMaster present the McMaster Cup for rugby to Neil Cully in memory of their son James.INPT44-624.
Jimmy and Grace McMaster present the McMaster Cup for rugby to Neil Cully in memory of their son James.INPT44-624.

A CUP has been presented to Portadown College in memory of former pupil James McMaster who died suddenly last May at the age of 19, writes Mairead Holland.

James was a talented rugby player and the cup, presented by his parents at the recent Portadown College Prize day, is for rugby. It was won by Neil Cully.

The 19-year-old, who was studying civil engineering at university, had been in Craigavon Area Hospital for five weeks prior to his death.

When his condition suddenly worsened, he was admitted to the intensive care unit and died just three days after his 19th birthday.

Speaking at the College prize day, principal Simon Harper paid tribute to James and thanked his parents, Jim and Grace, for presenting the cup in “such difficult circumstances”.

He said, “Last May our College community was plunged into mourning following the tragic and untimely passing of James McMaster. James had only left the College less than a year before these sad events unfolded.

“He was a very popular and vibrant student with a real passion for life and rugby in particular, with the tour to Barcelona featuring as a highlight of his time with us.”

James’s father Jim helped out with the school coaching during his son’s time at the College and also travelled on tour to Barcelona.

Mr Harper added, “James enjoyed strong friendships with many here at Portadown College and this is reflected by comments noted in the College Year Book. where he is described as ‘the definition of a mate’, ‘a little beaut’ and an ‘absolute character’ by his friends.

“Indeed the plethora of stories about high jinks and various antics only serve to remind us of his wonderful attitude to life. His own plans were to ‘do something meaningful’ with his life. He already had through touching so many lives in such a positive way. The outpouring of grief at his funeral was further testament to his popularity.”

He said Mr and Mrs McMaster had been staunch supporters of the College over many years and that the James McMaster Cup for Rugby would serve both as a permanent reminder of James and a motivation for future generations of rugby players at the College to strive to be the best they could.

Before his death, James had just finished a memorable season at Portadown Rugby Club, having been voted the seconds’ Young Player of the Year during the awards night in April. That evening, team mates took time out from the celebrations to telephone James in hospital and share the good news with him.

James, a former pupil of Moyallon Primary School, Killicomaine Junior High School and Portadown College, also represented the town club in senior fixtures towards the end of the Qualifying League season.