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...Rainey Old Boys at their clubhouse in Magherafelt...

Saturday marks an historic day in the lives of the Rainey Old Boys players, but in effect, the inaugural AIB Junior Cup final is just the first of four successive cup finals this month for the Magherafelt club.

In what has already been a hugely successful season for player-coach John Andrews and his side, April is truly the month of all months. Apart from the little matter of Saturday afternoon's outing at Lansdowne Road, Rainey are also contesting the AIB League Round Robin play-offs.

They face a trip to the Connacht Junior champions Westport on April 15, a re-match with Youghal at their Hatrick Park base a week later and they bring their bid for Senior status to a close on April 29 with a home tie against Monkstown. Rainey beat Monivea for their only win in last season's Round Robin run.

Andrews, a former Irish Schools international who started his club career at Ballymena as a lock and number eight, took up the reins at Rainey four seasons ago. An affable and popular figure in Ulster rugby, he led the side to the Kukri Qualifying League title last season and an appearance in the Towns Cup final.

This season has gone even better with last month's 53-3 thumping of nearest challengers Limavady securing them a second League crown. The Randalstown tournament and the Past Players Cup, thanks to a morale-boosting win over Ballymena 2nds, were also won.

The Old Boys club was founded in 1928 as Magherafelt RFC, changing its name to Rainey in 1947. However, it was not until Rainey Endowed came to be a force in schools rugby in the 1960s that the Olds Boys began to make inroads on the Ulster junior club scene.

Picking up an All-Ireland Under-20 final appearance on the way, the current Rainey squad contains a number of homegrown players, including the Paul twins, Richard and Rodney. Director of rugby Liam Eastwood has cultivated a strong underage set-up with youth development officer Nathan Moore, who coached the Ulster Women's side this season.

Rainey's pack is a powerful one. Prop forward Neil O'Kane is the side's top try scorer, whilst Ulster junior player Jerome McMurray, at centre, possesses a fine rugby brain and boot.

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20 June 2018
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