Close season, but there’s still plenty happening around Eaton Park
Those of us who played rugby in the ‘good old days’ could look forward to storing the boots in the shed sometime about the end of March and not having to go looking for them until late August, when the really keen players might indulge in a few light training sessions before heading off for some light refreshment.
It is a much more serious business altogether nowadays, with the season lasting until the end of April, sometimes into May, and pre-season training beginning in early July.
So, no matter what the time of the year, there is always something happening at Eaton Park.
Already the backs have had a coaching session with Nicky Wells and a fairly large band of players can be found in our gym every day.
The full training regime under Andy Graham begins on Tuesday, 7th July, and the first scheduled game is on the 17th August when the team will travel to Scotland to renew an old friendship with Hawick, one of the longest-established of the famous Border clubs.
The Ulster Championship will begin the following week, while the Ulster Bank All Ireland League kicks off on the 28th of September.
The details of the fixture list are not available just yet, and it will be mid August before we know what the season will look like for all our five senior teams.
Players and coaches that I have been talking to are full of enthusiasm for the new season, and we remain quietly optimistic about doing very well in our leagues.
The senior squad is more or less settled, but there are one or two exciting possible signings being negotiated at the moment, and if they materialise we will have a very strong squad indeed.
Last weekend we held a Midsummer Hooley in a big marquee just outside the club house, and a large gathering of nearly 250 enjoyed some great food by David and Jane Allen, and then danced the night away.
Freddie Patterson and Jonny Millar organised all this, and to make full use of the marquee they set up a “Breakfast with the Lions” event on the Saturday morning.
That was a great family occasion, all of us enjoying the slightly fortunate win that the Lions secured against the Wallabies. The final whistle was greeted with a huge shout, which I think was relief more than anything else.
During the evening we rounded off the 500 Club which has been running all season, with the draw this time deciding who would win the Star Prize, a Fiat 500, supplied by the Donnelly Group.
The lucky winner this year was Andrew Craig from Broughshane, and he will take possession of the car some time this week.
Since my last column we have secured a principal sponsor for the new season and details of that will be announced shortly. We are delighted by this development, and this gives me the opportunity to thank all our sponsors, whose support is absolutely vital.
We all take a very short break now, although in a few days we will entering a new phase of our floodlighting scheme, which I hope to be able to write about more fully next time.
Bill Wallace (chairman)