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Suffern admits Cup hat-trick would be huge for Hinch

By Miichael Sadlier

Ballynahinch will clinch their first ever hat-trick of First Trust Ulster Senior Cup victories should the Co. Down side overcome Dungannon in the domestic showpiece at Kingspan Stadium (7.30pm).

And if Hinch retain the trophy it will have been quite a week after their seconds lifted the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup on Tuesday night, the double being a rare feat and one which Ballymena managed in the 2004-05 season.

This will be Hinch's fourth straight appearance in the final - they shipped an unexpected defeat to Queen's University in the 2013-14 season - and the side from the AIL's Division 1B are favourites to make off with the silverware again against a Dungannon squad two divisions below them.

Hinch have brought the cup back to Ballymacarn Park on three previous occasions with their first success coming in the 2008-09 campaign.

Even though Dungannon are underdogs, the Tyrone club have a pretty decent pedigree in the competition having won the cup 10 times and their last time in the final was in the 2010-11 season when they overcame City of Derry.

Gannon have previously secured the title three times in a row and did so during the 1990s, when they were a powerhouse on the club scene, while Andy Hughes, their current coach, was part of the side which hammered Hinch 32-3 in the 2001-02 season's final.

Hinch come into the final off an impressive, and much-needed, AIL victory at Dolphin at the start of the month.

Despite the fact that their Ulster-linked players are not available for this game, coach Derek Suffern feels that the AIL result will have boosted confidence.

"The momentum we can take into this is brilliant and the confidence of the boys after getting that result (against Dolphin) is also excellent," said Suffern.

"To go for three in a row is great, but we'll just speak about potentially doing it pre-match. But from the club's point of view it would be massive."

Hinch will have a core of experienced players in their line-up with skipper Michael Graham at lock and Chris Quinn and Stuart Morrow taking their places at wing and centre respectively.

"We'll try and play at a high tempo that we'd be used to in 1B and hopefully use that to our advantage," stated Suffern.

Gannon, who are currently going well in the AIL's 2A after a difficult few seasons, know that the odds are stacked against them - they were even beaten in an earlier round by Armagh before Alex McCloy's squad were eliminated for fielding an ineligible player - but Hughes' side are ready to give it their all.

"If you'd said to me six months ago that Dungannon would be in a Senior Cup final I wouldn't have believed you," said Hughes, whose assistant is former Ulster player Seamus Mallon. "We're not going in with any big expectations.

"But the big thing is that we are turning the corner and it's a bit of good publicity for the club.

"If we're trying to recruit off the back of reaching a final that's what it is all about and it will help to further rebuild the club.

"All we want to do is go there and put on a decent show, but it's a final and you never know what is going to happen."

Hughes also added that City of Derry produced a huge shock by turning over a fancied Gannon back in the 1999-2000 season.

Ballynahinch: C Quinn, S McCauley, S Morrow, D Nicholson, C Orr, J McBriar, C Gibson; J Blair, A Harper, S Orr, M Graham (capt), J Simpson, C Irvine, C Philips, G Gill. Subs: C Stevenson, J Roe, S Evans, K Dickson, W Stewart.

Dungannon: J Finlay, M Montgomery, P Armstrong, A Mills, P Cashel, J Buckley, J Ravey; S Sinnamon, K Egan, G Sinnamon, P Doran, R McCaughey, S Todd, D Leyburn, J McMahon (capt). Subs: R Bennett, D Maxwell, M Riddell, J Kennedy, G Treanor

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