Ballynahinch dreaming of pulling off a great escape
Ballynahinch go into the last round of regulation games clinging to the hope that they will miraculously escape being automatically relegated from Division 1A.
Bottom-placed Hinch host Garryowen and not only have to beat them with a bonus point but must also rack up a big score and keep the visitors' total down if the Co Down side are to also overcome a horrible-looking 44-point differential between themselves and Galwegians, who are five in front and in ninth.
But that's not all. For Hinch to pull off this last-ditch rescue and send Galwegians down - and should they do so Derek Suffern's men still aren't safe as they will enter a play-off to maintain their 1A status - Cork Constitution must also hammer the Connacht side and prevent them from gaining a losing bonus.
It looks like a no-hoper for Hinch but there is some traction to them managing a miracle escape as Garryowen arrive at Ballymacarn Park with nothing to play for while Cork Con host Galwegians and are chasing down a second-placed finish and an all-important home semi-final.
Long-serving Hinch coach Suffern, who is believed to be staying at the club regardless of their fate, said: "Avoiding the straight drop is a slim hope so we have to approach this game by, first and foremost, looking after our own house and then it's just a case of wait and see."
Hinch are in buoyant mood after unexpectedly winning at UCD and have a strong selection with Lorcan Dow, Conor Joyce, David Busby and Chris Quinn all in the side, though Paul Rowley's knee injury may rule him out from linking up with fellow half-back Sam Windsor.
In 1B, third-placed Ballymena already know that they will be heading to Dublin University for their play-off and Andy Graham will want to build for this clash by seeing off already-relegated Belfast Harlequins at Deramore.
The Braidmen have Dave Shanahan, Stephen Mulholland, John Andrew and Rodger McBurney all on board. As for Quins, they have regulars Frank Taggart, Mark Best and Conor Young but will be without Mark Kettyle and Rory Blake-Knox, who are both injured, for Adam Larkin's final game in charge.