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Braidmen and Hinch are hit hard by 'A' call-ups

By Michael Sadlier

Published 07/10/2016

Big effort: Andy Graham wants Ballymena to bounce back in style
Big effort: Andy Graham wants Ballymena to bounce back in style

The ramifications of tomorrow evening's friendly between Ulster 'A' and their Leinster counterparts - a hit-out for both ahead of next weekend's start of the B&I Cup - have, as expected, had quite an impact on Ballymena and Ballynahinch's plans.

After the disappointment of losing by a mere point at UCC - Ballymena's first defeat - the fourth-placed Braidmen now host Dolphin without half a dozen Ulster-contracted players.

John Andrew, Adam McBurney, Matty Rea, Stephen Mulholland and Mark Best are all believed to be required for the 'A' friendly in Dublin, while scrum-half Dave Shanahan is benching for Ulster in Connacht, meaning that Ballymena coach Andy Graham goes into the game with a reshaped selection.

Hardly ideal as the AIL's first four-game segment comes to a close, but Graham just has to deal with the situation as he prepares to meet Dolphin, who are in ninth.

"We're feeling aggrieved about that (losing at UCC) so we have to go out and set out our stall and get the win," he said.

Ballynahinch are missing more players than Ballymena due to Ulster squad members and Academy players being required for the 'A' game.

And with Hinch kicking off at 4pm at Old Wesley - due to the earlier PRO12 clash between Leinster and Munster - which will then be closely followed by the 'A' game at the same venue, Hinch coach Derek Suffern will actually be in the vicinity of the players he has lost as he attempts to plot a third win from four on Wesley's artificial surface.

Third-placed Hinch are without Ulster-attached regulars Craig Trenier, John Donnan, Lorcan Dow and Conor Joyce (though he is out with concussion), while Jonny Simpson may also be with the 'A' side after time out through injury.

In the backline Suffern is missing Angus Lloyd, Sam Windsor (who is injured), Aaron Cairns and Johnny McPhillips, but has more strength in depth here to deal with this situation.

Hinch, though, should have hooker Johnny Murphy back making his return after injury, but there is no getting away from the fact that a fair number of forwards who have no AIL experience will be involved tomorrow.

"It is what it is and it's not ideal," said Suffern of the 'A' game's impact on his side's meeting with fifth-placed Wesley.

"We're bringing up some guys who haven't actually played in the AIL before but are going well for the twos.

"We'll be going down to give it our best shot."

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