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Graham expects Ballymena to flourish despite injury headache

By Ronnie Ingram

Ballymena are in the midst of an injury crisis and will be without a whopping 10 players as well as their Ulster representatives when they face Armagh in the first round of the First Trust Senior Cup this afternoon.

It was thought that their prolific try scorer Rodger McBurney would have recovered from a chest infection but he did not participate in Thursday's training session.

Coach Andy Graham is still expecting a positive result, however. He said: "It was a shock to the system when we lost to Armagh a fortnight ago but I feel we finished the stronger and that 50-14 league victory over City of Derry on Saturday showed that we are starting to put things together.

"Armagh are a settled team but we will be stronger up front this time and home advantage is always worth something."

Holders Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Malone, Dungannon and Bangor had first-round byes so there are only two other ties.

Queen's hope to be stronger for their second meeting with Rainey at Upper Malone after losing 31-17 in the league while City of Derry, another team beset by injuries, travel to Belfast Harlequins.

Meanwhile, Ulster Academy lost 46-20 to their Leinster counterparts last night.

Ulster started strongly to take a 17-5 lead but Leinster came back to reduce the arrears to 20-19 before dominating the second period to emerge comfortable winners at Shaw's Bridge.

Centre Jimmy O'Brien put the visitors ahead with a try after 12 minutes but Ulster stormed back when Johnny McPhillips kicked a penalty and converted tries by Aaron Cairns and Conor Field.

Leinster then took advantage of an error and Jordan Larmour crossed for out-half Conor Dean to convert. He then added the points to a Jack Power try before McPhillips kicked a second home penalty.

Leinster had further tries from Larmour, Power, Will Connors and Barry Fitzpatrick for Dean to goal two and add a penalty.

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