Ballyclare Rugby Club’s players have been hard at it in training for the past four weeks in preparation for the new season ahead.
In the past two campaigns the Section 2 outfit have been in the mix for a promotion shot, but, late on, fell away to Donaghadee, CIYMS and latterly to University of Ulster - all of whom made a successful step up to Ulster Rugby’s Qualifying 1.
The 1st XV had a real go at promotion last term but an injury to out-half Nial Lawther, and a slow start with early defeats, affected their progress.
Ballyclare coach Bob Young and new captain Mo Finlay have strengthened the panel with a few new faces, notably Michael Rainey from Dungannon. The return from injury of second row Robert Boyd, David Annett together with young guns Matt Dailly and Peter Ferguson should bolster the squad.
The only player missing from last year is winger Jonny Reid, however, this should be balanced by the return of Ricky McKnight.
Pre-season matches get under way on Saturday (August 11) at The Cloughan with the 1st XV taking on Coleraine (2:30pm kick-off). This weekend Ballyclare also plan to send a team to play in the under-19 event at the Ophir Sevens tournament at the Valley. On Saturday the club will also be represented in the main comepetition by a squad from its second-team.
The following weekend, (August 18) Ballyclare 1st XV have another home pre-season friendly lined up against Ballymoney (2:30pm) and the programme continues on August 25 with a short trip to Roughfort to play old rivals Academy. Their League programme kicks off on Saturday, September 1 with the visit of Omagh.