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Ballynahinch's title defence faces an early challenge

By Staff Reporter

There's no easy start for Ballynahinch in the defence of their Ulster Senior League title as they face formidable opposition in Ballymena at Ballymacarn Park tomorrow afternoon (2.30pm).

Hinch finished last season with 49 points and only four ahead of the second place Eaton Park team who they defeated 22-3 in the competition last February.

Ballymena have gained the services of former Queen's out-half Ritchie McMaster who is following in the footsteps of father Terry in the black strip.

Another new recruit is Gary Clotworthy who has played in the Ballyclare centre and Ulster Juniors for the past couple of seasons.

English Counties' player Sean Taylor will be a great asset at full-back. He turned out for Preston Grasshoppers where he holds the record for scoring the most tries. He also represented Lancashire in the Counties' final.

A couple of players returning are No 8 Stephen Mulholland from Rainey and Stephen Douglas, formerly with Instonians.

Director of Rugby Pete McKenzie said: "With the All-Ireland starting in a fortnight it has been essential that we have as much match practice as possible and what better opponents than Hinch.

"This will be an experimental side as we are still building and are without our Ulster under-18s, under-19s and under-20s."

Hinch will be without Stuart Morrow and Neil Faloon. It is the start of a new era for them as they venture into the AIL 1A but Ballymena are equally ambitious after gaining promotion to 1B.

Other fixtures: Ards v Banbridge, City of Derry v Armagh, Dungannon v Rainey and Queen's v Malone.

Belfast Telegraph

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