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Special needs sports club receives helping hand from Co Armagh optician

'We wanted to ensure those players who needed to wear glasses were able to play the game safely'

Michael Kennedy (Left), Specsavers Portadown, with Portadown Panthers team members Robert Crory, Reece Massey and Joel Gordon and Rory Best; captain of Ulster & Ireland Rugby (centre).

A special needs sports team in Portadown has received a generous donation of sports goggles to help those who need glasses to play and enjoy tag rugby safely.

The Portadown Panthers learning disability tag rugby section of Portadown RFC received the donation from Specsavers Portadown and Craigavon to help players with sight impairments.

Portadown Panthers play a non-contact form of rugby, using tags, and is for boys and girls aged six and over who have a learning disability.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) have approved the wearing of sports goggles and Specsavers Portadown and Craigavon have supplied these to members of the Portadown Panthers.

Each pair of goggles have been made to match the player’s’ glasses prescription, whilst staying in place with a head band and rubber grips.

The Panthers’ Ambassador is Ulster, Ireland, British and Irish Lions player Dr Rory Best OBE.

Michael Kennedy, Director of Specsavers Portadown, said: “We were inspired to support Portadown Panthers young and talented team of players because they are passionate about rugby and we wanted to ensure that those players who needed to wear glasses were able to play the game safely by providing them with sports goggles.

“Tag rugby may be a non-contact sport, however, occasionally players do bump into each other and if they were wearing glasses this could cause eye injuries.

“We are delighted that the IRFU has supported that all professional and amateur players should wear sports goggles, which means everyone at all skill levels can play rugby without compromising their sight or safety.”

The Chairman of Portadown Panthers Learning Disability Tag Rugby Club Willie Gribben said they were very grateful for the donation.

He added: “Our players love playing rugby and the sports goggles, provided by Specsavers, will help those who would normally wear glasses to participate safely and to be more confident on the pitch.”

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