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Armstrong is hoping Malone can maintain their place at summit

Strong selection: Adam McBurney will be in action
Strong selection: Adam McBurney will be in action

By Michael Sadlier

Bragging rights but, more pressingly, an Ulster derby battle with top spot in Division 1B at stake for the winner means that Malone hosting Banbridge has plenty to whet the appetite.

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Leaders Malone are only two ahead of Bann, and with three teams then sitting three points behind the Gibson Park side, the need to keep winning is an ever pressing priority in the clogged-up 1B table.

After a break in games since the end of last month, Malone are under no illusions that so much regarding their ambitions to remain top of the table now hinges on this next block of four games, with others also gunning to take that place from them.

Malone coach Paddy Armstrong said: "We're into a big spell and we'll know where we are at the end of it.

"We also know how tough it is going to be and I think an 80-minute performance is the key against these guys."

Malone have Graham Curtis at scrum-half with a strong Ulster release which also includes Jack Owens, Joe Dunleavy, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney and Matty Dalton.

Bann beat Malone back in December when the sides met at Rifle Park and coach Simon McKinstry is hoping to have Caleb Montgomery, Greg Jones and Jonny Stewart as well as David McCann in his squad, while James Hume and Rob Lyttle may yet feature depending on Ulster bench time.

Fifth faces fourth as Ballynahinch host Old Wesley and the Co Down club are intent on using their second home game in succession to back up last month's win over Ballymena.

Hinch will have Zac McCall and Jack Regan, while Johnny McPhillips is also available.

City of Armagh sit in sixth but are also very much in the mix for a play-off position.

After retaining the First Trust Senior Cup last week, Armagh host Buccaneers, who are in eighth. Bottom side Ballymena are facing a must-win outing at Old Belvedere, who are just one place and two points above them.

1B: Ballynahinch v Old Wesley, Malone v Banbridge, Old Belvedere v Ballymena, City of Armagh v Buccaneers

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