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Bann deploy big guns in bid to rock Armagh and earn derby spoils

 

Bann-bound: Greg Jones is likely to be with Banbridge
Bann-bound: Greg Jones is likely to be with Banbridge

By Michael Sadlier

With only 10 points separating top from bottom, the 1B table is now a zone of high congestion with much movement available from either winning or losing.

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So, no better time to complete the back-to-back rounds with two Ulster derbies as second-placed City of Armagh host Banbridge - who are in seventh but only four off leaders St Mary's College - and third plays fourth as Malone meet Ballynahinch at Gibson Park.

Armagh are certainly on a high at the moment and come into this game having not only made next month's First Trust Senior Cup final, where they will bid to retain the trophy, but coach Willie Faloon's players have also reached the All-Ireland Bateman Cup shoot-out for the first time in their history after seeing off Buccaneers last weekend.

Add to that their position in the 1B table and all is currently going really well at the Palace Grounds, where Armagh will be hoping to do the double over Bann after just shading matters in last month's previous round.

Chris Colvin is available again while Nigel Simpson is in the mix for back-row consideration after being out since October.

Bann, though, look to be well armed and should have Greg Jones, James Hume, Caleb Montgomery and David McCann all on release from Ulster.

At Gibson Park, Malone will be gunning to get one over on Hinch after not only narrowly losing their last AIL encounter at Ballymacarn Park but then also suffering defeat there again since in the SONI Ulster Premiership decider.

Coach Paddy Armstrong has Jack Owens returning from injury while the home side may also have Adam McBurney and Joe Dunleavy released.

Ballymena, in ninth, host bottom team Buccaneers with Andy Graham's squad seeking a fourth consecutive victory.

The Braidmen are also going for back-to-back successes against Buccs and Graham needs to keep the winning run going, especially as the Connacht side are just three points behind.

Clive Ross and Marcus Rea are released from Ulster.

1B: Malone v Ballynahinch, Ballymena v Buccaneers, Armagh v Banbridge.

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