The high temperatures of recent weeks have not been able to curb the enthusiasm of Ballymena players, who are turning out in large numbers for the pre-season training sessions, with upwards of forty turning out every week (and it is still only July).
Since I last wrote about those few players leaving the club and those joining , two significant signings have been made.
Graham Harriman, a second row forward, who was part of the recent USA Eagles squad, has committed to the Club and will arrive in Ballymena at the beginning of September.
At 6 feet 6 inches and weighing in at nearly eighteen stones, 25 year old Graham promises to be a great addition to what already appears to be a strong Ballymena squad.
He has had experience at the highest levels of USA Rugby and spent some time in South Africa with the Sharks, so he will undoubtedly bring a new dimension to the club.
Another player to commit himself to Ballymena for the incoming season is centre, Mike McKeever, joining us from Dublin Club, Blackrock, where he was named ‘Player of the Year’ last season. He will be taking up a teaching post in Ballyclare, and will add valuable experience to the mid-field.
Coach Andy Graham is also in a very positive frame of mind about the new season, and is of the opinion that the bunch of players he will be taking into the 2013/2014 Ulster Bank League is as strong and balanced as we have seen in Eaton Park for some years.
However, he is acutely aware that Division 2A will present a challenge every week, and that a high level of commitment from coaches and players will be needed for a successful season.
The scheme to install match quality floodlights at the Park took another step forward with the submission to Ballymena Borough Council of Part B of our application for grant aid, which will be considered at the August Council meeting.
The scheme will involve the erection of four large pillars to support the 200 lux lights, and a major issue has been the impact that this would have on cricket, as two of the pillars will be sited inside the cricket boundary.
The engineering consultants, WYG, have come up with a solution that will enable those two pillars to be taken down at the end of the Rugby season and cricket to be played without hindrance, which is really important. Cricket at Eaton Park has a long, proud history and it is essential that this tradition is maintained, so the solution of demountable pillars will meet the needs of both Rugby and Cricket.
The official launch of the major sponsorship that we have been fortunate to secure will be announced on Monday 5th August, so keep an eye on the local and national press for details.
To say that we are pleased with this partnership would be something of an understatement, but I have to await the formal announcement before I can say more.