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Bann can build on first victory, says McDowell

Jonny Stewart
Jonny Stewart

By Michael Sadlier

Banbridge got their season moving in the right direction last weekend and are intent on keeping things going when Naas call at Rifle Park tomorrow.

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Last weekend's bonus-point result over Shannon was Bann's first win of the campaign and was a welcome relief and a more than useful springboard to take forward as the first of two straight home games.

The Co Down side importantly rose clear of being at the foot of the table and are now in eighth place, while Naas are one spot and three points behind them.

"The overriding emotion was relief in a certain regard as it was nice to get the first one ticked off," said Bann coach Mark McDowell.

"We didn't feel a huge amount of pressure after the first three games because we felt that we were not only in all those games but that we should have also got a positive result in at least two.

"We didn't feel we were far away (from winning) so we never really panicked and we never talked about it being a big game (against Shannon) or necessarily a must-win."

Crucially, Bann's start to last Saturday's meeting with their Limerick visitors was key to them pushing on to earn the bonus point and score five tries with Ulster squad member Greg Jones crossing for two of them.

"We just focused on the details that we hadn't quite been getting right," stated McDowell.

"Last Saturday it bore fruit and we started to get that attacking shape and quality that we've been after.

"We had a good release of Ulster players too which added a bit as well as each of them put in really good performances."

McDowell is hoping to have a similar number of players released to him with Callum Reid and Jonny Stewart probably the most likely to be back at Rifle Park.

Meanwhile, Malone are going for three wins on the spin when they play St Mary's College at Gibson Park.

After seeing off Banbridge, Chris Henry's squad came away from Naas with an impressive 38-27 victory and the sixth-placed side now meet the team one place below them.

Third-placed City of Armagh are at Thomond Park where they face Shannon (kick-off 1.30pm) for what is the second away game running for Willie Faloon's squad.

"We've already had two away matches and had two away wins and last year, when we were outside Ulster, we didn't get any wins on the road," said assistant Chris Parker.

"So it has given the group confidence and hopefully we can take that forward but this (Shannon) is going to be a far bigger and a different challenge to what we faced last weekend at Navan."

In 1A, Ballynahinch are in danger of losing touch with the sides just above them if they don't manage to break their losing streak which has now stretched to four games.

The basement side host Lansdowne, who are having their own struggles as they are in eighth.

Hinch, who lost at Garryowen last week, are not expecting to have prop Kyle McCall as he is believed to be travelling with Ulster while centre Hayden Hyde is thought to be unavailable due to Ireland U20 commitments.

Brian McLaughlin will, however, be able to call upon Clive Ross, Zack McCall, Tom Stewart, Jack Regan and Marcus Rea.

1A: Ballynahinch v Lansdowne.

2A: Banbridge v Naas, Shannon v Armagh, Malone v St Mary's College.

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