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Suffern departs Ballynahinch as Braidmen seek a boost

 

By Michael Sadler

This final round of regulation games arrives with huge significance for both Ballymena and Ballynahinch, but for different reasons.

While the Braidmen, struggling in eighth, go in search of a home win over Shannon to ensure they stay clear of a ninth-place finish, and relegation play-off, Hinch, who are safe in sixth, will be at champions Buccaneers for Derek Suffern's last game in charge.

The game will mark the end of an era for Hinch as Suffern has decided to step aside after an impressively lengthy, and successful, 11-year coaching tenure at the club.

During Suffern's time, Hinch have gathered up a notable collection of silverware with the senior team having won an All-Ireland Cup, been divisional winners in the AIL three times, gaining promotion to 1A in 2013, as well as winning four Ulster Senior Cups and four Ulster Senior Leagues.

He was also in charge during Hinch's Grand Slam season of 2008-09 when four titles were secured.

"It's been hugely enjoyable and bringing silverware to the club, as well as getting into Division 1A, have been great highlights, but it's time for a change," said Suffern.

In a statement, the club paid tribute to their long-serving coach, who also works with Wallace High School.

"Ballynahinch RFC wish to formally record their deep thanks and appreciation for the work of Derek Suffern over the past 11 years," it read.

"Derek has transformed rugby at Ballynahinch and is held in the utmost respect by all connected with the club, for the manner in which he has conducted his service but also the manner which he has managed his withdrawal from his position as head coach over the past year to allow the club time to search for a suitable replacement."

It is believed that Hinch will be announcing their new coaching structure within the next week.

Meanwhile, Ballymena will be seeking the win when they host Shannon, the side one place above them in seventh, with both teams seeking to avoid the possibility of being sucked down into the relegation play-offs.

With ninth-placed Dolphin only four back, there is an outside chance that the Braidmen could end up in ninth.

Andy Graham's squad will be chasing a result not only to be certain of staying clear of ninth but also end a run of six defeats in their last seven AIL games.

Fixtures: 1B: Ballymena v Shannon, Buccs v Hinch, Galwegians v Naas, Wesley v UCC, Bohs v Dolphin.

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