Rainey Old Boys may be the newest team in the AIB League but they have been around for quite some time. They have been knocking on the door of the AIB League recently and finally clinched their spot through last season's play-offs. But who are Rainey Old Boys?
Originally called Magherafelt RFC, the club was founded in 1928. Some success at minor level came the club's way before the outbreak of war. A few games were played during the war years and from 1947, the club became known as Rainey Old Boys RFC. After initial success, a barren period followed and it was not until the mid '60s that the club began to go places.
Rainey Endowed School, coached by Dawson McConkey, became a power in Ulster and when Dawson joined the 'Old Boys' as player/coach, they rose to the top of the junior ranks with a very talented young side. By the mid '70s, Rainey were the leading side in junior rugby in Ulster - winning most of the major trophies.
...Club President Alan McLean - an Ulster regular who toured Australia with Ireland in 1979...
In 1982 the club went on tour to the Bahamas and the following year won the Towns Cup for the first time. On that team were twelve times capped Harry Steele and brother-in-law Alan McLean, who is now the Club President.
The President from 1984-1990 was Dr. A.A. McConnell (Bertie), who was a member of Ireland's Grand Slam side in 1948.
FORTUNES WAX AND WANE:
Rainey proved to be a good cup side but were relegated to Section 2 in 1986. They won Section 2 the following year but slipped back down again in 1994 despite reaching the Towns Cup final for the sixth time in 20 years. With former Ulster lock Charlie Simpson as player/coach, they won the Towns Cup in 2001 and were promoted as champions the following season.
Former Ballymena number eight John Andrews took over as player/coach when Charlie moved on to Dungannon, and led the side to the Qualifying League 1 title in 2005. In the play-offs they beat Monivea 21-8 at home before losing 14-13 at Naas and 18-17 at Nenagh Ormond.
Having added some strength in depth to the squad, they started last season by beating Ballymena 2s in the Past Players' Cup Final. After twelve straight wins in the league, they came unstuck at Armagh on New Year's Eve but regrouped to beat second-placed Limavady 53-3 and retain the title.
In the inaugural AIB Junior Cup the luck of the draw helped them to beat Kanturk 47-9 and Seapoint 31-12 at home. A big crowd travelled south to see them beat Youghal 27-5 at Lansdowne Road in the final on April 8. Then on successive Saturdays, they beat Westport 36-0 away, Youghal 34-0 and Monkstown 32-16 at home to win the round robin play-offs and clinch their place in the AIB League.
Many of the present Rainey squad have earned Interprovincial recognition and are looking forward to testing themselves at a higher level. The club has come a long way in the last 25 years and another twelve months should see the completion of further development work at Hatrick Park.
Regarding the club's aspirations for their first season in the AIB League, player/coach John Andrews feels that the players have benefited from the experience of competing in two round robin play-off series. Games against Ballymena, Harlequins and Malone in the Ulster League this season have shown the players that they need to adjust their game style to suit different opponents.
...Rainey Old Boys Squad 06/07...
Club President Alan McLean, the former Ballymena and Ulster stalwart, is "looking forward to renewing old acquaintances from the various provinces during our forthcoming AIB League games." Alan feels that if the players consistently play to their maximum potential they will consolidate their position as an AIB League club.
The squad has been strengthened during the close season and a healthy competition for places has increased the players' resolve. Several former University players have joined the club and, in addition, former Rainey School captain Michael Glancy has returned to the fold. Michael has represented Ireland Under-19 and Under-21 sides and played at out-half for Belfast Harlequins in last season's AIB League.
...Club captain Neil O'Kane in action...
Club captain Neil O'Kane, a former Ulster junior interprovincial prop, is a product of the club's vibrant youth development system. Neil is looking forward to leading the club to further success in their historic first season as a senior club in the AIB League.
The team at IrishRugby.ie would like to wish Rainey Old Boys all the best for their first season in the AIB League.
Photographs courtesy of Rainey Old Boys / David Shaw