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Hinch hopes of derby joy boosted by Ulster prop McCall's inclusion

 

Returning: Ulster’s Kyle McCall
Returning: Ulster’s Kyle McCall

By Michael Sadlier

Ballynahinch are intent on hitting the ground running after the break in games and their hopes should be boosted by having Ulster prop Kyle McCall available for his first involvement of the season.

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The 26-year old loosehead prop, who has played 49 times for Ulster, underwent surgery after sustaining an elbow injury in the province's pre-season training, and is likely to be packing down alongside younger brother Zack in the Hinch front row as they host Banbridge in what is expected to be a closely-fought Ulster derby.

Hinch, who disappointingly lost last time out at leaders Naas, are in fifth spot and, though they are only three points back from Bann who sit in third, they are just five points ahead of ninth-placed Buccaneers.

With the table so congested, much is at stake at Ballymacarn Park where Hinch will be hoping to undo last season's hoodoo when Bann beat them in both regulation AIL games and then did so again in the promotion play-off semi-final.

Ulster player Peter Nelson could also be released for duty with Hinch.

Bann, who surprisingly lost their last game at home to Old Wesley to halt a three-match winning run, should have Academy player David McCann on board.

The last few weeks will have involved plenty of thought process and preparation at Malone for what looks to be a huge clash at Gibson Park between the hosts and Naas as Paddy Armstrong's second-placed side meet the league leaders.

With Malone being four behind their visitors, this is a crucial test of the Ulster club's ambitions in their first season back in the top flight.

Ulster prop Ross Kane and centre Stewart Moore have both been released while Michael Shiels returns from injury.

"Naas are going to be a handful," said Armstrong.

"I think (the game with Naas) will be a good indicator of where we are and how we are coping with the demands of 1B," he added.

Struggling Ballymena are at Old Wesley and Clive Ross and Marcus Rea have been released by Ulster to boost the Braidmen's ranks as they take on the Dublin side on Donnybrook's artificial surface.

Fourth-placed City of Armagh host Old Belvedere at the Palace Grounds.

1B: Ballynahinch v Banbridge, Armagh v Old Belvedere, Malone v Naas, Old Wesley v Ballymena

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