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Promotion The Aim As Barker And Smyth Give Rainey Fresh Impetus

Promotion The Aim As Barker And Smyth Give Rainey Fresh Impetus

Rainey's new head coach Tim Barker and returning director of rugby Brian Smyth are pictured with club coach James Doherty, Chairman Bobby Carmichael, club captain Daniel O'Neill, and President Arnie McLean ©Rainey RFC

Rainey RFC have appointed a couple of familiar faces to key positions ahead of next season, with Tim Barker taking over as head coach and Brian Smyth returning to the director of rugby role.

Barker has been Rainey’s forwards coach for the last number of seasons, and even came out of retirement to play on a few occasions last year when injuries impacted the team selection.

Originally from Bangor, the 42-year-old former lock played for Malone, Dungannon, and Rainey at club level. During his professional career he had three stints with his native Ulster, as well as lining out with Glasgow Warriors and Castres Olympique.

He married into the infamous Rainey dynasty of the Glover/McLean families, and is seen as the ‘perfect fit’ to take the reins at Hatrick Park from former Italy international Ian McKinley.

Rainey finished seventh in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2B this season, just three points above the bottom two, so Barker is understandably eager to get them back in consistent form and mounting a promotion challenge in 2024/25.

Speaking about his appointment as head coach of the Magherafelt club, he told IrishRugby.ie: “I am delighted to be appointed as Rainey’s head coach for the upcoming season. I care a lot for this club and the players, and my family’s involvement there goes back many years.

“We have a great Chairman and President behind us in Bobby Carmichael and Arnie McLean who lead a strong committee off the pitch.

“It’s great to have Brian Smyth back as director of rugby, and this was a key early appointment as we look to the new season ahead.

“Rugby matters are the key focus for the head coach, and I look forward to my role in developing the players and helping to bring through the next generation.”

Former Rainey winger Nicholas Stirling will be part of Barker’s coaching team as the new backs coach, while a short pre-season tour to Scotland in August will see them play Glasgow Hawks, a club Barker was affiliated with when he was with the Warriors.

The new Rainey head coach can count on the support of a former Ireland international and British & Irish Lion, as he explained: “I’ll also seek guidance from some of the great coaches and team-mates I’ve worked with, including my old mentor Jeremy Davidson.

“He’s already offered his support from Castres, one of my former clubs where he is currently head coach. The experience I’ve gained over my rugby career in all different aspects of the game – professional and amateur – will help me immensely.

“This group of players excites me. I believe they have a lot more in them with honesty and hard work, two of the key fundamentals as we look towards the first block of pre-season.

“I acknowledge it will be challenging at times and this new group has achieved nothing yet. However, I’m committed to give it everything I’ve got through my passion and love for both rugby and Rainey RFC.”

Meanwhile, Magherafelt man Smyth is back as Rainey’s director of rugby having made the decision to retire at the end of the 2022/23 campaign after 10 years in the position.

There were some notable highs for Rainey during that time, including winning the Ulster Rugby Premiership title in 2019, and moving up two divisions of the Energia All-Ireland League between 2017 and 2019, before their relegation from Division 2A in 2022.

With Malone, Dungannon, and Clogher Valley making it a mouth-watering Ulster quartet in Division 2B next season, Smyth said: “After several conversations with Tim, the players, and club officials, I’ve decided to return to the role and help push our club forward to achieve our goals.

“Our main goal is to gain promotion back up to Division 2A. We’ve a very exciting and talented squad with a great mix of senior and younger players, and with hard work and commitment comes reward.

“I’m delighted that Tim has taken on the head coach role. After retiring from professional rugby, he played for us for several years and had many successes with us as a player. I know he’ll give everything to replicate those successes as a head coach.

“I’m really looking forward to the season ahead and, as a collective, our rugby group will commit fully to achieving further success for our great club.”