Rainey Old Boys hope to keep alive their chances of staying in Division 2 B of the Ulster Bank League when they face famous old South Dublin club Wanderers in a play-off semi-final at Hatrick Park on Saturday. Kick-off is 2.30 p.m.
The winners then play the winners of the other game between Tullamore and Bruff the following week.
After failing to impress in pre-season warm-ups at Clogher Valley and Portadown, it was clear that a difficult campaign lay ahead. Opening victories over Seapoint and Barnhall in the UBL only served to paper over the cracks.
It was obvious that the squad needed strengthening in certain areas, but the search proved unproductive and a never-ending injury list has meant that forty-one players have been used to date.
A rousing home win over eventual winners Highfield showed what was possible and at times against Armagh and Barnhall they looked like a decent side. But all too often there has been a lack of passion.
Hatrick Park used to be a fortress, but the fans have had little to cheer this season. Not nearly enough tries have been scored and the defensive record says it all.
Three players who missed the recent Seapoint game should benefit from the break and could make all the difference. Tim Barker had a big game at Barnhall with the other forwards responding to the example he set.
In the last game, too many forwards were guilty of standing out of the rucks waiting for someone else to do the work. Jonny Lees has been below his best since the turn of the year. He has been hampered by a succession of niggling injuries and the cancellation of games has not helped. A lot rests on his shoulders on Saturday.
A fit Lees could have a major impact. Damien Mc Murray also sat out the last game in order to shrug off a couple of little knocks and his inclusion in midfield is vital.
Ulster star Luke Marshall has taken the backs for a number of sessions in recent months, but turning possession into points remains a major problem for them.Now would be as good a time as any to alter this statistic.
Wanderers were Rainey’s opponents when they made their home debut in the All-Ireland League almost ten years ago. Wanderers lost that game 16-15 after leading 15-0 at a stage, but won the title without dropping another point.
The sides last met on the back pitch at the Aviva in 2011 when Rainey again came out on top. A new clubhouse was built there for the Wanderers club when Lansdowne Road was redeveloped. Wanderers then lost their senior status, but a steady improvement has taken them back to where they are now.
BIG HONOUR FOR TOMMY
Promising young Swatragh lad Tommy O’Hagan who was invited to join the Ulster Academy earlier this season, took a major step in his blossoming career last week when he was included in the Ulster ‘A’ squad for the game against Munster at Naas.
To make matters even better, Tommy came on as a replacement, getting plenty of game time and Ulster won the game.
Ulster fielded a strong team on the day with the likes of Tommy Bowe, returning from injury, given a run out for the victorious Ulster side.
In the Ulster Carpets sponsored cup competitions, visitors Virginia made the most of Rainey mistakes to win the Under 18 match by five points.
Rainey Under 16 side had a convincing win over Ballynahinch on the 3G pitch and the Under 14 team also did well to progress.