Tributes paid on passing of Magherafelt’s Rainey Rugby legend Winston McCracken

Winston McCracken
Winston McCracken

While the younger generation may not be familiar with the name Winston McCracken, others will readily recall the considerable contribution he made in his time with Rainey Old Boys.

He was a regular on the wing as Rainey Old Boys started to go places in the ‘60s and was on the team which lifted the Past Players’ Cup as Section Two winners in 1971.

He then featured for cup winning sides at 2nd and 3rd XV levels before a coaching opportunity cropped up.

As a PE teacher, he had the organisational and motivational skills and decided to have a go.

Winston had two spells as coach, with a three year term with Junior Ulster in between.

Having taken them to their first Towns’ Cup final, he led them to a joint top finish in Junior One, only to be pipped by Ards after extra time in a play-off.

At Easter 1976,however,his squad appeared three times at Ravenhill in a ten day period, winning the league and cup double after losing to Ballyclare in the Towns’ Cup final.

When Winston returned in the early ‘80s after his Juniors experience, the coaching job was still a long way from what it is today. Training gear was minimal and facilities primitive, but he just got on with it.

After a quiet spell, results began to improve again, especially in cup competitions. Rainey were twice winners of Portadown’s new Nutty Krust competition and Winston was in the Bahamas where they won the annual eight team trophy.

The Towns’ Cup finally came to Magherafelt in 1983 when he coached the team to victory over County Derry rivals Coleraine.

Winston McCracken, a former tourist and recreation officer with Magherafelt District Council died suddenly at his Rainey Street home, Magherafelt, on April 11. He was in his 70s. He was laid to rest at Woodschapel graveyard.