The 2018 interpro schedule for the Northern Knights has finally been released, with the NCU side looking to end Lightning's hold on the competition.
While the Knights aren't playing pre-season matches similar to last season when they hosted the Western Warriors from Scotland, coach Simon Johnston will be able to see his charges in action before the tournament begins.
The Northern Knights will host Ireland Wolves in a three-day contest at Stormont from May 1-3, with the game being used as preparation ahead of the maiden Test the following week.
While this sounds a great idea in principle, quite how it works in practice remains to be seen as player availability is certain to be a major problem for what is essentially a midweek friendly in a very congested season.
They kick off their inter-pro campaign with a T20 match against the Warriors at Carrickfergus on May 18th, in what is always a carnival atmosphere as Middle Road aims to put on more of a show than most.
Their first encounter with the reigning treble champions Lightning also comes in T20, with Shaw's Bridge - which saw one of the biggest crowds in 2017 - the venue the following week on May 25th.
They make the long trek to the Mardyke on June 8th, while in a new addition to the T20 format, Pembroke hosts a 3-day Festival of Cricket from July 6th-8th.
Comber has taken on the hosting of both the Knights' home championship games, while Stormont is the chosen venue for their two IP50 games.
There's more than a six week gap in the schedule between their three-day contest away to the Warriors at Bready on July 19th and their next game at Malahide on September 4th.
One can only surmise the gap is to accommodate the expected visit of Afghanistan on tour in August, where they are pencilled in for as many as six matches at Stormont and Bready.
Northern Knights 2018 Schedule