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Hinch aiming to make it a successful road trip

 

Positive: Hinch director of rugby Harry McAleese
Positive: Hinch director of rugby Harry McAleese

By Michael Sadlier

The potential difficulties of life in Division 1A made themselves familiar again for Ballynahinch last weekend as they lost their first game back in the very top flight which just happened to be at home too.

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Though the margin of defeat was narrow - Terenure won 22-19 at Ballymacarn Park - and Hinch missed a late drop goal which would have stolen the result, it still gave the club a flavour of how unforgiving it can be to be back again in 1A.

Now, Brian McLaughlin's squad have had to hit the road, and clock up a fair mileage too - another ramification of being in 1A with no other Ulster sides - as they are in Cork to meet UCC who won with a bonus point at Dublin University last Saturday.

It looks a formidable challenge even before Hinch take to the field. But, admittedly, they have headed south with some confidence as the Co Down side did battle back from looking right out of things at 19-6 against Terenure to at least claim a losing bonus point and, on the whole, performed reasonably well at a weather-beaten Ballymacarn Park.

Hinch's starting pack is likely to be the unchanged with flanker Aaron Hall hopefully producing another big game for the club. Hooker Tom Stewart, who benched against Terenure, is not available as he is with Ulster 'A' for tomorrow's Celtic Cup final against Leinster in Dublin.

Also with Ulster 'A' is key utility back Ross Adair who togged out for Hinch against Terenure but has played, and impressed, in all but one of the province's Celtic Cup clashes.

Conor Rankin, if not required by Ulster 'A' will probably come in for Adair at full-back and either Aaron Cairns or George Pringle look set to come in off the wings to slot in at centre as dual-registered player Stuart Morrow is unavailable.

"It was very disappointing and we played well," said Hinch director of rugby Harry McAleese reflecting on that loss to Terenure.

"If you're 19-6 down you can't be too disappointed but then getting back level, and having the momentum, I thought we were then more likely to win the game than lose it.

"We had a lot of territory and possession but they were the more clinical so there's probably a bit of a lesson somewhere in there about that," he added.

In 2B, City of Armagh did win their opener when narrowly beating Naas at a weather-hit Palace Grounds and they travel to Dublin where St Mary's College, who also tasted victory seven days ago, await them.

"We were happy with the points but not the performance," said Armagh assitant coach Chris Parker when summing up the first-up win.

"We're expecting a big improvement and hopefully the conditions will allow both sides play a bit of rugby." Acknowledging St Mary's as a real threat, Parker added: "Last season we went there in good form and came unstuck very quickly."

Malone will be planning to bounce back after a heavy loss at Highfield with Shannon the visitors to Gibson Park.

Both coach Chris Henry and skipper Ross Todd will be calling for the squad to hit some good form.

Banbridge will be getting their first look at Highfield, when the Cork side tog out at Rifle Park, and Mark McDowell's squad will be aiming to make up for losing at Old Wesley.

Div 1A: UCC v Ballynahinch; 2B: Banbridge v Highfield, Malone v Shannon, St Mary's College v City of Armagh (k-o 3.00).

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