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Revamped Malone hoping to begin new Division 2A chapter in style

By Michael Sadlier

Published 11/09/2015

High hopes: Flanker Neil Alcorn will skipper Malone
High hopes: Flanker Neil Alcorn will skipper Malone

A new season and another restructure comes into view with three Ulster clubs now in the streamlined Division 2A and four having to make do with life in 2B.

There are two derbies across both divisions - the newly constituted 2C is an Ulster free zone - with Malone's hosting of Banbridge the most eye-catching clash in 2A while Armagh and Dungannon cross swords at the Palace Grounds in their 2B encounter.

For Malone - who were relegated from 1B last season and have undergone a complete coaching restructure - this is an all-important outing as they bid to put a dismal last campaign behind them under new coach Jarrett Truscott's watch.

Flanker Neil Alcorn skippers the side with fellow club stalwart Josh Pentland at out-half. Truscott has made one change from last weekend's friendly win over Rainey with Mark O'Connor in for Adam Liddell at full-back.

Bann include new signings Mike Bentley, Lee Steenson and Kallen Martin in a powerful-looking side ready to do battle in the derby meeting.

"Last week's friendly at Ballynahinch was a great test for us," said Bann coach Dan Soper of the defeat against 1A opposition. "And we're fielding a strong squad at Gibson Park for our opener."

Elsewhere, Queen's University are at Galway Corinthians with Josh Atkinson leading the students in this campaign.

In 2B, new Dungannon coach Andy Hughes returns to Armagh where he pits his squad against the side he coached up until last season.

"You'd think someone had set it up that way," Hughes joked over having to return to the Palace Grounds for his first AIL game in charge at Dungannon where he was part of the Tyrone side which won the league back in 2001.

"To be honest I'm glad to get it out of the way but win, lose, or draw this game will not define our season," Hughes added.

Armagh - with ex-Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin on board as a consultant and Willie Faloon assisting head coach Alex McCloy - will have out-half Johnny Pollock making is club debut.

Elsewhere, City of Derry travel to Barnhall and Rainey are at Seapoint.

The Ulster-20 coaches have made two changes to the squad that narrowly lost to Munster for the encounter with Connacht at the Sportsground this afternoon (5.00pm).

Rainey's Ronan McCusker displaces Harry Cleland in the second row while Ethan Harbinson, who helped Inst win the Schools' Cup in March, is included in the replacements.

"We expect a game similar to last week but need a big improvement knowing that it will be more difficult in Galway," stated manager Hugh McCaughey.

"We forfeited too many penalties and certainly did not play to our potential against Munster.

"We expect a game similar to last week but need a big improvement knowing that it will be more difficult in Galway."

Ulster Schools' will have four players back from last year for their Inter-Pro against Leinster at Deramore Park tomorrow afternoon (3.00pm).

In the other game Ulster under-19s travel to face Connacht (2.30pm) hoping to make amends for their narrow 17-13 loss to Munster 17-13.

Belfast Telegraph

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