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Rugby aficionados have had the Lions' exploits in New Zealand to keep them entertained for much of the close season and now that the eagerly-awaited fixture lists for the Ulster and All-Ireland Leagues have been announced, clubs can step up their preparations.

Rainey Old Boys are looking forward to returning to Division 2B which looks wide open.  They have been training since late July and will take their preparations up a level when they travel to Fivemiletown on Saturday for the annual Derek Lee Memorial Match against Clogher Valley.  Both sides take the opportunity to give all their squad a run out in this fixture.  The juniors are always difficult opponents at the Cran, which is one of the best playing surfaces in the country.  Then, on August 19, a bright,young Omagh, back in the AIL after a long absence, come to Hatrick Park for a friendly.


The build-up to the more serious business of the AIL continues with Ulster Senior League games against Bangor (a) and Omagh (h), with a Senior Cup tie with Banbridge at home on September 2  sandwiched between them.  On September 16, the first week of the AIL, Rainey are at home to Limerick club Old Crescent, who reached the play-offs last season following their promotion from Division 2C.

The Committee charged with trying to improve the playing strength of the club has been working for several months drawing up targets and talking to players and they deserve great praise for their efforts.  Some very good players have been signed, while a few others are coming back to the club.  A few others, who have not featured for a year or two, have threatened to don the boots again to play down the club where their experience would surely help the talented lads who are filtering through from the U18s.

Tommy O'Hagan, who made a big impression last season, has been rewarded with an improved contract with the full Ulster squad, while second-row John McCusker has been brought into the Academy, having been called up to the Ulster "A" squad on a couple of occasions last season.  When all these players get together, they will be a formidable group.  What they need now is reasonable luck with injuries.