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Fate is in Rainey’s hands and we can have no excuses, warns Brian Smyth

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Rainey’s Tommy O’Hagan will hope to be available

Rainey’s Tommy O’Hagan will hope to be available

Rainey’s Tommy O’Hagan will hope to be available

With the halfway point reached before Christmas, the first fixtures of the New Year entail return legs of the previous round of games and, as such, there are three Ulster derbies back on the schedule.

In Division 2A, struggling Rainey Old Boys host Ballymena, though the hosts hope to have former Ulster prop Tommy O’Hagan back in their ranks after his mid-season release from Malone due to personal reasons.

Rainey should also be bolstered by the expected presence of scrum-half Jason Bloomfield for the first time this season, while hard-running centre Conor Fitzsimmons is also available.

The previous time the sides met, Rainey narrowly lost out at Eaton Park so Ian McKinley’s squad are intent on trying to turn the tables this time around.

Rainey director of rugby Brian Smyth said: “There are no excuses now.

“We need to win our next three home games starting with Ballymena and then later against Buccs and Bohs.

“This is in our hands and we need to do it now.” 

With the Magherafelt club also hoping that former Ulster player Ricky Andrew, who has returned from Spain, will become available later in the campaign, there is growing optimism that they can escape their current ninth place in the table.

Elsewhere, 2B sides Belfast Harlequins and Dungannon encounter each other yet again, this time at Deramore. Quins, in third, will be going all out to back up their previous 26-6 AIL result at Stevenson Park and their more recent Senior Cup success which was also away from home.

The other derby is in 2C and sees City of Derry travel the relatively short distance to Omagh as they bid to make it back-to-back victories over the Tyrone club.

Up in 1A, basement side Ballynahinch, who are still winless, are at second-placed Lansdowne a week after the Dublin side claimed their place in next month’s Bateman Cup final after seeing off City of Armagh.

Meanwhile, in 1B, Armagh travel to high-flying Old Wesley with the Ulster side aiming to stay in touch with the top four, while struggling Malone host St Mary’s College in what could be an entertaining clash after the sides finished level on 42 points apiece in the previous round.

Bottom side Banbridge are at Old Belvedere, who they defeated last time out to snaffle a first victory of the campaign.

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Division 2A leaders Queen’s University are on the road at Buccaneers, while in 2C Bangor are heading to Skerries.

Division 1A: Lansdowne v Ballynahinch.

Div 1B: Malone v St Mary’s College, Old Belvedere v Banbridge, Old Wesley v City of Armagh.

Division 2A: Buccaneers v Queen’s University, Rainey Old Boys v Ballymena..

Division 2B: Belfast Harlequins v Dungannon.

Division 2C: Omagh v City of Derry, Skerries v Bangor.


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