Ballymena and Ballynahinch enter derby eager for morale boost
With neither Ballynahinch nor Ballymena exactly setting Division 1B alight with their form, there is an added backdrop to their meeting as both strive to bring some consistency to their seasons.
Hinch host this Ulster derby clash and the sixth-placed Co Down side come into the game off the back of another disappointing showing last time out against UCC when the students left Ballymacarn Park with a victory.
And with Derek Suffern's side currently 10 points back from second-placed UL Bohemians - the Limerick side have gathered up 28 points while leaders Buccaneers are further ahead by five - the onus is now on trying to put together a string of decent results to avoid drifting too far off the upper end of the table.
The Braidmen have the same issues and though in fourth, they are eight adrift of Bohs. As with Hinch, Andy Graham's squad have not been in dazzling form and their wafer-thin win at Galwegians last time out halted a two-game losing run so they also need to get some momentum going.
Hinch should have Mo Simpson, Jonny Murphy, Craig Trenier, Conor Joyce, Sam Windsor and Johnny McPhillips all released by Ulster but go into this pivotal-looking clash without the injured Aaron Cairns, John Donnan and Lorcan Dow while David Busby is on Ireland Sevens duty.
"It's been a while since we met in the AIL but this will be a full-on Ulster derby," said Hinch head coach Suffern. "We beat them easily enough earlier in the year in the Ulster League but that will have no relevance to this game.
"Who knows what will happen in this match? It's the same for Ballymena in that whoever just manages to click on the day will get the result."
The Braidmen also have a number of injury issues but are hopeful of having Kieran Treadwell and John Andrew released while the trio of Mark Best, Stephen Mulholland and Dave Shanahan are all playing.
"Hinch are a good side and we know we'll have to be very tight in defence," Graham said.
Fixtures: UCC v Dolphin (FRI), Ballynahinch v Ballymena, Naas v UL Bohs, Shannon v Old Wesley