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Ballymena and Hinch set for relegation showdown


By Ronnie Ingram

Either Ballynahinch or Ballymena will be relegated and playing in Division 2 of the SONI Ulster League next season and the matter will be finalised when the two meet at Ballymacarn Park this afternoon.

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It has been a disastrous Division 1 season for both sides with each having only won their first game of the five match competition last weekend.

For a club like Hinch, who play in the All Ireland League 1A - although they are joint bottom at the moment - to go down is a major setback as they will be then facing Ulster teams in Divisions 2B and 2C which is far from the best preparation for the start of a new AIL season.

Ballymena coach Andy Graham is confident going into the decider despite the fact they have to travel.

"Our win over Malone was uplifting and we should have won by a greater margin but missed a couple of scoring opportunities," he reflected.

"We also need to tighten up our attack and watch for the interceptions. It will be a good test. Put simply, if we want to stay up we have to win.

"I know little about Hinch except they play in 1A and after a few recent losses will no doubt want to get back to winning ways before the competition restarts."

Lewis McClinton returns to the Ballymena front row after injury while Matty Dick deputises for Phil Campbell at No.8.

Rodger McBurney is unavailable at full-back but the versatile Matthew Morris has proved to be a very able stand-in.

The bench will be strengthened with the return of Chris Condell and Ali Burke.

In the other games, the champions Rainey travel to Malone and Banbridge entertain Queen's.

The promotion issue in Division 2 has still not been settled, although undefeated City of Armagh look like reclaiming their place in the top section.

They could become champions this afternoon with a home win over Dungannon if leaders Omagh lose at Bangor and Quins fail to earn five points at City of Derry. That will leave one game outstanding - Belfast Harlequins v City of Armagh.

Presently, the points are Omagh 16, Armagh 15, Dungannon 12, Quins nine, Bangor six and City of Derry two.

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