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Bann can kick on in Ulster duel, insists McDowell

AIL Division One

By Michael Sadlier

The first Ulster derby of the season brings Malone and Banbridge together with quite a bit at stake for both teams ahead of next week's break.

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Neither side has won yet this season and hosts Malone (the game has a 4pm kick-off) are propping up the 1B table without having collected a point after two substantial beatings.

Banbridge are two places above them but earned themselves a try bonus last weekend when hosting Highfield and ultimately losing 42-28.

It brought Bann their first point and new coach Mark McDowell reckons the squad have the ability and belief to kick on, with their opening-day loss at Old Wesley - Bann were beaten 13-3 - seen as a game that was there to be won.

"We're making improvements each week and the players have bought into it. I feel that when it clicks it's really going to work for us," said McDowell.

Looking ahead to taking on Malone, he added: "Any Ulster derby in the All-Ireland League is sure to be spicy and we're looking forward to the challenge.

"They are, like ourselves, in a period of transition with Chris (Henry) and a new coaching team coming in.

"I'm sure they're quite disappointed with their start but we know they are a very good team and we're certainly preparing in the appropriate way for this challenge."

Both sides should have a number of Ulster releases coming their way, with Bann only able to confirm the availability of Academy prop Callum Reid, who played for the A squad in last Sunday's Celtic Cup final.

Also in 1B, fourth-placed City of Armagh are going for three wins from three when they face Old Belvedere, who also have two wins to their name and are second, at the Palace Grounds.

In 1A, Ballynahinch have been licking their wounds following two straight losses and know that hosting UCD offers them a potential opportunity to put things right as we reach the end of this three-game segment.

In ninth, with just a solitary point, Hinch are taking on the team two places in front of them in the table and Brian McLaughlin's side look strong as it has been bolstered by the availability of Ulster squad members Kyle McCall, Clive Ross, Marcus Rea and Tommy O'Hagan.

McCall, returning to his home club, packs down alongside brother Zack, while Jack Regan is also back with the club, as is Ross Adair.

Div 1A: Ballynahinch v UCD; 1B: City of Armagh v Old Belvedere, Malone v Banbridge (4pm)

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