Braidmen deploy Marshall plan in hour of need
Ballymena's bid to extricate themselves from the lower regions of the 1B table has been given a considerable boost by the unexpected inclusion of Luke Marshall for today's home clash with leaders Shannon.
The Ulster and Ireland player lined out for Ulster 'A' last weekend, in his first game since suffering an ankle injury in October, and the need to give him further game-time sees the 26-year-old now togging out for his club in their hour of need.
Ballymena's troubled season has seen Andy Graham's squad only register three wins in 11 games which sees them located in a lowly eighth in the table as they bid to derail Shannon at Eaton Park.
Marshall will combine with Callum Patterson in midfield though Shannon's attention will now surely be mostly focused on the surprising appearance of the 11-times capped Ireland international.
Digging out a result is the priority for the Braidmen and Graham feels that they could pull off a shock win.
"It is going to be a tough challenge for us," he admitted.
"But we have to start trying to get wins and weren't far away when we played them down there," Graham added of the 27-15 defeat in November.
The Braidmen also have Ulster prop Andy Warwick while Marcus Rea is in the side and Dave Shanahan starts at scrum-half.
Ballynahinch are expecting quite a battle when they host UCC following the Co Down side's narrow victory against the students in Cork, back in November, and Brian McLaughlin's second-placed squad are fully primed for what will be one of their most difficult assignments.
Hinch come into the contest against the students, who are in fifth and six points behind, with a reasonably strong line-up thanks to the availability of Aaron Cairns, Zack McCall, Rory Butler and David Busby.
Banbridge coach Dan Soper is aiming to leave the disappointment of failing to win at Old Belvedere, in the previous round, firmly behind when his side take on Old Wesley at Rifle Park.
Soper's men are in third, three adrift of Hinch, and have Eric O'Sullivan and Caleb Montgomery released by Ulster.
Div 1B: Naas v Old Belvedere, Ballymena v Shannon, Ballynahinch v UCC, Banbridge v Old Wesley, UL Bohemians v Dolphin