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Ashbourne Shrovetide Football - the teams

Ashbourne Shrovetide Football
Up'ards and Down'ards battle for the ball in the Henmore

The Henmore, which flows through the centre of Ashbourne, is a central part of the Shrovetide football culture. Not only is it a place where the ball and hug often spend several hours, but it also decides which team you play for.

The only thing that distinguishes players in the two Shrovetide teams is their place of birth.

The Henmore, which flows through the town, is central to this. The starting plinth is built on the Henmore (as it flows under the Shaw Croft car park) and the two goal posts are located on the banks of the river - albeit three miles apart.

Shrovetide players in the Henmore
Players wait for the ball as they anticipate it moving along the Henmore

It seems only natural, then, that the river determines which team you play for or support.

Up'ards and Down'ards

Quite simply, if you were born north of the Henmore you are an Up'ard - if you were born south of the river you are forever a Down'ard.

Tradition holds strong and many old Ashbourne families still form a key nucleus of each side.

Names like Sowter, Allen, Bott, Grant and Handley have all made their mark.

One Sowter, though, holds a unique place in the history of the game. In 1972, Douglas Sowter, a Down'ard by birth, goaled a ball for the Up'ards!

Douglas Sowter

Rumour has it that members of his family didn't speak to him for some time after that.

Some players switch sides and help the ball to whichever end looks like getting the ball goaled first!

In the weeks leading up to Shrovetide, many regular players train specially for the event.

Some train to be part of the 'hug' - the central scrum of the game. Some train to be runners with the sole intention of having the ball thrown to them and running as fast as they can with it towards their goal. Yet others train as 'river specialists' and are there to battle for control of the ball during the many hours it may spend in the River Henmore. River specialists dress appropriately - it gets cold in that river!

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