Ballymena ready for challenge of table topping Buccs
The challenge is certainly on for Ballymena, before the AIL signs off until the New Year, as they face the formidable task of hosting 1B leaders Buccaneers today. The Connacht side have only lost one of the eight games played so far and are nine points in front of the Braidmen who are in fourth so getting something from this weekend is imperative for Andy Graham's men in the first of what will be back-to-back league games against the same opposition.
"Everybody is beating everybody and Buccs are the one team that have been consistent," said Ballymena head coach Graham.
"If we can get this win it will leave us in great shape going into Christmas," he added.
The Braidmen, fresh from seeing off Ballynahinch last weekend, have veteran Bryan Young in the front row and are waiting to hear if Ulster lock Kieran Treadwell will be released.
They will also be without the injured Aidy Kirkpatrick and Adam McBurney but do have Dave Shanahan, Mark Best, Rodger McBurney and Ritchie McMaster in their backline.
It's not been a great run for Ballynahinch who have now managed to win just one game in their last five.
Indeed, that hard-earned victory was a touch and go affair at Galwegians three matches ago so losing at home in consecutive games to UCC, and then last week going down to Ballymena, has certainly upped the ante for the trip to Dolphin.
The Cork side are two places below Derek Suffern's squad in eighth but there are only five points between them so the Co Down club know they must deliver something ahead of January's encounter at Ballymacarn Park.
Hinch's injury worries are extensive with Craig Trenier, John Donnan and Aaron Cairns all out while Conor Joyce and Lorcan Dow all face fitness tests. Sam Windsor is not available while David Busby is still with Ireland Sevens.
Angus Lloyd - currently on loan to Munster - might tog out with Hinch if not involved in any way with the southern province.
"All this might just bring out the best in us," said Suffern.
Div 1B: Ballymena v Buccaneers, Dolphin v Ballynahinch, Galwegians v Shannon, U.L. Bohemian v UCC