Braidmen look to Ross for home comfort from Hinch battle
This should be some clash when Ballymena and Ballynahinch do battle tonight under the Eaton Park lights (kick-off 8.00pm).
The Braidmen, down in a lowly seventh, badly need the win which, if achieved will actually be their first home victory of the season following last weekend's narrow loss at Eaton Park to UCC.
But Hinch, in second, will pose a formidable challenge and Ballymena coach Andy Graham will need a big effort up front where Ulster player Clive Ross will hopefully deliver a stand-out effort.
"This will be a feisty derby," said Graham.
"We're expecting to win but we clearly have to play better than we have been to achieve that and we need to win games."
Though the Braidmen have Ross and Marcus Rea, up front they are without key forwards Stephen Mulholland and David Whann who are injured while, at out-half, Ulster's Brett Herron is not available.
Hinch's director of rugby Ronnie Duncan feels that this derby also looks pivotal for Brian McLaughlin's squad.
"I think if we have any pretensions about finishing in the top four then we have to win," he said.
"Ballymena haven't been winning too much lately but they're playing well enough.
"Ballynahinch versus Ballymena is always a big occasion and, actually, this is just the first of two straight games as we go back there next week for the Senior Cup semi-final."
Winning tonight, though, is the priority and Hinch have Johnny McPhillips back at out-half where he will link up with Aaron Cairns.
They will be without Ulster's Pete Browne with James Simpson expected to return and pack down with fellow lock Jack Regan.
Meanwhile, Banbridge's first defeat of the season came at leaders Shannon and they will be looking to bounce back tomorrow when coach Dan Soper's men host Old Belvedere.
Ian Porter returns at scrum-half meaning that Josh Cromie moves back to 10.
Ulster squad member Rob Lyttle is also released.
Friday: Bmena v Hinch, UCC v Dolphin
Saturday: Naas v Shannon, Bann v Belvo, Bohs v Old Wesley