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Suffern hopes Hinch can buck trend to grab more Cup joy

By Michael Sadler

The spin-off for retaining the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup kicks in this weekend for Ballynahinch as they travel to meet Old Belvedere in the semi-final of the Bateman All-Ireland Cup.

It's a familiar enough situation for Hinch, who have lifted the Ulster Senior Cup for the last three years, which has regularly brought them to this point in the hunt for All-Ireland silverware.

And though Hinch have faltered in their previous two Bateman Cup semi-finals - they did lift the trophy in 2009 when it was played under a different format - they are still hopeful that this trend is about to end.

However, the odds do look rather stacked against them as coach Derek Suffern's squad have been weakened by Ulster 'A' call-ups, never mind the fact that Leinster Cup winners Belvo are a division above them in the AIL.

"It's going to be a tough ask for our guys but we're putting out the strongest team we can to give it our best shot to get through," said Suffern.

"And it's a great opportunity for some guys to test themselves at that next level and this team has spent three or four weeks together (in the SONI Ulster Premiership) so you can surprise yourself in games like these."

Skipper Michael Graham will be part of a pack likely to include Chris Stevenson and James Simpson and if Hinch can secure the right amount of possession then their backline, which should contain David Nicholson, Chris Quinn and Jordan Grattan, can do some damage.

Meanwhile, it's a full programme for Division Two as all three sections return from the break in AIL games by completing the back-to-back encounters which were begun in the last round at the start of December.

In 2A, Banbridge will be gunning for revenge after being turned over at Highfield in a result which knocked Dan Soper's squad off top spot into second place in the table.

And the Rifle Park outfit will definitely need the result against the Cork side as the top end of 2A is looking rather congested with just four points separating leaders Nenagh Ormond and Malone, who are back in fifth.

"Winning will be the first objective and it's important to build momentum," Bann coach Soper said.

Third-placed Queen's University travel to Cashel and the students will also be out to overturn the last round's result when the Munster men made off with an unexpected victory.

Malone did tog out in the AIL last weekend and came away with a very useful 37-5 triumph at Sundays Well in a re-arranged fixture, and they will be in confident mood going to Deramore for their Ulster derby clash with bottom side Belfast Harlequins.

In 2B, leaders Armagh are at Wanderers and are expected to stretch their winning run to all 10 games played. Sixth-placed Dungannon are on the road at Old Crescent while City of Derry host Barnhall.

Rainey Old Boys are still leading in 2C but will be looking to get the win when hosting Bruff, who beat them in December, while Bangor entertain Sligo.

Belfast Telegraph

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