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Hinch clocking up the miles for key game in Cork

 

By Michael Sadlier

All three Ulster clubs in the upper tier are on the road as the AIL returns with second-placed Ballynahinch leading the way and clocking up the most miles as they journey to UCC.

Not that there is much in the travelling as Ballymena, down in eighth, go to leaders Shannon while third-placed Banbridge have considerably less road ahead of them at Old Wesley.

Hinch, still smarting from their Senior Cup exit last week at Ballymena, begin their three-game segment before the festive break with a stern examination of their credentials at the Mardyke against the fourth-placed students.

Brian McLaughlin's squad travel in fairly rude health as they seek a third straight AIL victory and have Ulster releases Pete Browne, Zac McCall, Aaron Cairns, Johnny McPhillips, Rory Butler, David Busby and Jack Regan, though flanker Aaron Hall is with the senior squad.

With Jonny Simpson sidelined, Stuart Orr comes in at tight-head prop while club player Stuart Morrow is also available to bolster the midfield and utility back Richard Reaney returns from injury.

"We need a win on the road," insisted Hinch director of rugby Ronnie Duncan ahead of the sides' first meeting this season.

"UCC are a handy team and we know it's going to be a hard game but we know that we're capable of getting a result.

"We have a job to do, we've a plan and if we execute the plan we believe we'll win.

"We should be able to go and get something out of this game but we're really looking for a win," he added.

Bann coach Dan Soper should have Rob Lyttle and Tom O'Toole on board for their game on the Donnybrook 4G surface and Greg Jones may be there depending on his game-time with Ulster tonight.

"Wesley look like they have picked up a bit of form of late so it will be quite a challenge," said Soper of the Dublin side who are in seventh.

Regarding the artificial surface Soper added: "We've only played once on it and we scraped a last-minute victory. It should encourage us to keep the ball alive, and defensively it is a bit easier."

Ballymena have quite a task at Shannon but coach Andy Graham has Ulster releases David Shanahan, Callum Patterson, Adam McBurney and Brett Herron all making the trip.

Veteran prop Bryan Young may also be available.

Div 1B: Old Belvedere v Naas, Old Wesley v Banbridge (2pm), Dolphin v UL Bohs, Shannon v Ballymena, UCC v Hinch

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