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Rainey need no extra incentive against Braid rivals: Smyth

AIL Divisions Two

By Michael Sadlier

It's sure to get tasty at Hatrick Park tomorrow as local rivals Rainey Old Boys and Ballymena meet for the first time in the All-Ireland League in what is expected to be a full-on derby.

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While Ballymena's once mighty star has been somewhat on the wane, hence their presence in this season's Division 2A where they are currently seventh, Rainey have been a side steadily on the rise and with ambitions to break into Division 1B.

Both will want to sign off what is the last full AIL weekend of the year with a result to take forward into January when hostilities will resume with the sides meeting again at Eaton Park.

Rainey, still with memories of the beating they took from the Braidmen back in 2012's Senior Cup final, arrive at this keenly anticipated derby clash off the back of two narrow defeats, both away, to leaders MU Barnhall and Queen's University.

Though the Magherafelt club, coached by John Andrews, who was in charge at Ballymena for the 2012 Cup final meeting between the sides, are still second in the table, they are now nine points behind Barnhall and are being hunted down by both Cashel and Old Crescent.

The upshot is that Rainey badly need to taste victory again.

They welcome back former player Tommy O'Hagan after the prop was released from his contract by Ulster and then permitted to leave Ballynahinch.

O'Hagan is on the bench, while Rainey also have hard-running centre Conor Fitzsimons returning from injury.

Rainey director of rugby Brian Smyth said of the game: "This is one we've been waiting on.

"I don't think our boys will need any sort of incentive to get out of the traps."

The Braidmen will be boosted by narrowly beating Queen's last weekend but will know they face a formidable task against a Rainey side now very much on an upward curve.

Also in 2A, fifth-placed Queen's host lowly Nenagh Ormond and they might have scrum-half Conor McKee and Ben Power released as they are subs for today's Ulster A game against Leinster.

In 2B, there is another Ulster derby as Belfast Harlequins host Dungannon, with both sides battling relegation issues.

As for 2C, Bangor, who just about beat Omagh last weekend, are at leaders Enniscorthy, while City of Derry go to Midleton and Omagh host Sundays Well.

2A: Queen's University v Nenagh Ormond, Rainey Old Boys v Ballymena

2B: Belfast Harlequins v Dungannon

2C: Enniscorthy v Bangor, Midleton v City of Derry, Omagh v Sunday's Well

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