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Ballynahinch face duel to preserve their upper tier status

By Michael Sadlier

There is one piece of unfinished business to be done in the AIL with Ballynahinch's chances of making a second season in Division 1A hinging on how they fare in tomorrow's play-off when they host Buccaneers.

It's a straight shoot-out for Hinch – who finished ninth in the table – against Buccs, who ended up second in Division 1B with the winner bagging a place in the AIL's upper tier next season.

The Co Down side still go into the play-off in confident mood after impressively winning and taking bonus points from three of their last four games to ensure that they moved clear of Garryowen, who went straight down after finishing in bottom.

And even though Hinch lost out two weeks ago in a dramatic final day at Clontarf, in a game which saw the Dublin side clinch the title in unexpected circumstances, the Co Down outfit are still looking in good shape to get what they require at what is expected to be a packed Ballymacarn Park when Buccs come calling.

On the field, coach Derek Suffern has a strong looking selection available with, as usual, David McIlwaine and Kyle McCall released to the club from Ulster with the former doubtless keen to sign off on a high before he hooks up with Leeds for next season.

Indeed, McIlwaine should make up one third of a potent back three with Rodger McBurney and Aaron Ferris hopefully togging out while Harry McAleese will again bring direction at out-half.

Suffern will also be deploying the returning Stuart Morrow and Matthew Arneill in what should be a strong-running midfield

"We're quietly confident," said Suffern, "but we have to respect Buccs as this is a one-off, a cup final if you like.

"But we're happy enough about being in the play-off and having home advantage makes you feel much more comfortable," he added. "We've got to back ourselves that we're still good enough to play at this level, which I think we've shown.

"We're very conscious of being favourites, but we've got to appreciate that Buccs are a dangerous side."

* Dungannon are believed to have lined up former Ulster player Nigel Brady as part of their new coaching ticket for next season as the Tyrone club prepare to bounce back after being relegated from Division 1B to 2A.

After two years at the helm, Paddy Johns is taking a planned step back from first team involvement and with Brady now finishing up his playing career after moving last year to French club Stade Aurillacois, the timing seems right for the 34-year-old to return to his old club in their time of need.

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