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Bann aim to build momentum with derby win

Callum Reid
Callum Reid

By Michael Sadlier

It's back, but just for the one week which will, at least, conclude the back-to-back rounds of games which began back in mid-December.

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This staccato feel to the AIL will hardly do much for continuity though it's highly unlikely that the second successive Ulster derby between Banbridge and City of Armagh will be an issue in terms of both squads being in any way off the boil ahead of doing battle again.

It's advantage Bann so far after their pretty conclusive 43-18 win over Armagh last month at Rifle Park.

The Co Down club are now in third off the back of five wins from their last six AIL matches while Armagh sit in eighth spot and have tasted victory once from their previous five outings.

There are, admittedly, just seven points separating the sides in what is a fairly congested table, so the complexion of 1B may well undergo some further alteration.

"That's the nature of this league," said Bann coach Mark McDowell.

"You get two or three wins in a row and you're putting yourselves in a good situation.

"We're very happy with where we are but we're under no illusions of what one or two bad results can do in terms of going to the other end of the table.

"There is no doubt we're entering into the more difficult half of the season and we're going to have to keep improving and not stand still," he added while praising his side for their bonus point result over Armagh last time out.

Bann have Academy players Callum Reid and Bruce Houston released to them while Jonny Stewart and John Andrew are with Ulster.

Armagh arrive at this point following their narrow loss at Lansdowne in last weekend's Bateman All-Ireland Cup semi-final.

"We wanted a good hit-out after Christmas and go into the Banbridge game with an improved performance," said Armagh's assistant coach Chris Parker.

"We're certainly looking up (the table)," he added.

"Obviously we're in eighth, but we're looking at that fourth spot and if we can string a couple of wins together we'll be challenging for the play-offs.

"It would be nice to start with a win at the weekend but we also know that Banbridge, and a lot of other teams in those positions, will be thinking the same."

Also in 1B, Malone, who are in fifth, are at second-placed Old Wesley with Chris Henry's side having beaten the Dubliners in the previous round.

Up in 1A, basement team Ballynahinch host Clontarf and are hoping to halt a three-game losing run.

Hinch have Marcus Rea back from injury and also include Zack and Kyle McCall as well as Jack Regan and Conor Rankin.

Both Ryan Wilson and Aaron Cairns are also available.

1A: Ballynahinch v Clontarf.

1B: City of Armagh v Banbridge, Old Wesley v Malone.

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