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Last Updated: Friday, 14 September 2007, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Rugby player comes up smelling of roses
By Claire Savage
BBC News

Ian McNeill
Ian McNeill runs the family florist business
As the Rugby World Cup gets into full swing, one County Antrim player has decided to tackle a career not normally associated with men - flower arranging.

Ian McNeill, who plays for Carrickfergus Rugby Club, is a tough guy on the field, but when he is at work, it is a different story.

The wing forward loves nothing more than to be at one with mother-nature because he is hooked on flowers.

He qualified with a BTEC in floristry at the Greenmount Campus in Antrim and has started a blossoming career running a florists called The Flower Shop in Whitehead.

Ian said working in the business was not a bed of roses with the long hours he often has to put in, but having fractured his ribs and split his head on the pitch, he is well-equipped to tackle a few flowers.

Ian explained that he gets a bit of abuse about his chosen occupation from his fellow players.

Glitter

"There was one time I was working late and I went down to the rugby club to see the guys and I walked in and I had glitter all over my face and that was it really the banter started from there," he said.

Ian's mother used to run the shop but when she retired, Ian decided to take over the family business.

Carrickfergus club captain Paul McIlrath said Ian was used to handling a bit of stick both on and off the pitch.

"Ian is a good lad and takes the jokes very well, but come birthdays, anniversaries or Valentine's Day he gets his own back," he said.

"When the lads need to buy flowers for their girlfriends, the orders come flooding in."

Club coach Billy Montgomery said: "Yep, when the lads are bad boys with their other halves, Ian gets lots of orders."

So, if you are a budding florist, Ian would urge anyone to sign up to learn the trade:

"I loved it, I was the only guy in the class, so I was with all the ladies - maybe not a bad thing for some," he said.


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Ian McNeill at work in the shop





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