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Braidmen are hoping to home in on a top-two finish

By Michael Sadlier

Published 05/03/2016

Big boost: Dave Shanahan has been released by Ulster
Big boost: Dave Shanahan has been released by Ulster

Ballymena are facing a crunch game in Dublin this weekend as they seek to make up vital ground on Dublin University, who are a place above them in second.

With games running out, coach Andy Graham's squad are focusing all their efforts on overhauling the students - who are seven in front with three to play - to snatch a home play-off with notions of topping the table now looking rather remote.

Indeed, one more point will be sufficient for the Braidmen to copper-fasten a top-four finish which will be a major boost, though the main intention is still very much about pushing on as far as possible up the table.

"Making the play-offs is a priority and then we're in with a chance of getting promotion and after the break in games coming up after this weekend, we'll hopefully get a few (injured) boys back and be in great shape for the play-offs," said Graham.

Ballymena are hopeful of having Alan O'Connor and Clive Ross while Dave Shanahan is a definite release from Ulster.

Down at the bottom, it looks like curtains for Belfast Harlequins as their bid to wriggle off the hook when it comes to automatic relegation is now a virtual impossibility.

Tenth-placed Quins are a whopping 14 behind UL Bohemians and need bonus-point wins from all three remaining games, and the Limerick side to get nothing from their run-in, in order to escape their predicament.

Quins meet Bohs in the penultimate round of games but the likelihood of the Deramore side still being alive after this weekend looks a long shot.

Coach Adam Larkin's men host play-off chasing Old Wesley and have Mark Best, Paul Jackson, Frank Taggart, Conal Boomer, Conor Young and Mark Kettyle all on board.

"We know the situation, but while it's still there we're going for it," said Larkin.

In Division 1A, Ballynahinch's quest to get off the bottom sees the challenge steepen as they try and take the scalp of leaders Clontarf at Ballymacarn Park.

Hinch have to catch Terenure to dodge the straight drop but with time running out and the Dublin side four in front with a game in hand, Derek Suffern's squad's chances are narrowing.

Belfast Telegraph

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