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Ballymena need strength in depth to stay in front

By Ronnie Ingram

Ulster Senior League leaders Ballymena will be weakened for the visit of Ards tomorrow, but should still have too much power and experience for their more Junior opponents.

The Eaton Park side, who have a one point advantage over both Ballynahinch and Rainey, will miss their three Ravens' players and have promoted players from the Seconds.

Wing forward Mike Entwhistle also returns with Johanson Foster included and Paddy James being given his first start in the centre.

City of Derry disappointed against Queen's in the AIL last Saturday and injuries have enforced seven changes for their trip to Belfast Harlequins.

Adam Doherty starts at out-half for Banbridge's home encounter with Queen's. He is the third player to fill that position in as many games, while John Porter is on the wing in the absence of Hugo Harbinson.

Ulster under-20s prop Calum Boardman will be given game time off the bench and Wellington College's Keir Patterson, who has recently showed his capabilities for the Seconds and the under-19s, will be watched with interest.

The students will miss the injured Grant Bartley and Paddy Farrell is unavailable. A number of players will be rested following their extraordinary efforts on Wednesday evening when they defeated Ballynahinch to win the First Trust Senior Cup, so Justin Rea will be at out-half, Nigel Simpson in the second row and David Swann at hooker.

Instonians travel to Armagh and give all five bench players from last week their opportunity.

In the remaining fixtures Ballynahinch are at home to Rainey, and Dungannon to Malone.

* Ballynahinch III will start their defence of the Crawford Cup at Carrickfergus II tomorrow.

In last season's final they narrowly defeated Coleraine II and are as strong as ever with a few personnel changes and a number of younger players given their chance.

Captain Andy Glenn said: "We have played nine games and only lost once, against Omagh II.

"Carrick will be difficult to defeat on their own territory and with their Firsts not having a game it will be tough so we must be committed from the start."

The Coleraine club lost a number of key players at the start of the season so the performances of most of their teams has been disappointing.

Their Seconds face an uphill battle at CIYMS II, a side that has already defeated them 22-7. Section One's Omagh II have won all eight league outings and should be too strong for City of Derry III who have lost all seven in Section 3.

Crawford Cup: Bangor II v Banbridge III (tonight), Ballyclare III v Portadown II, Ballynahinch V v Ballymena III, Ballynahinch IV v Omagh III, Belfast Harlequins III v Rainey III, CIYMS II v Coleraine II, Carrickfergus II v Ballynahinch III, City of Derry III v Omagh II, Dromore II v Cooke II, Enniskillen II v Malone III, Limavady II v Ballyclare II, Lisburn II v Dungannon III, Queen's III v Larne II.

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