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Hinch woes are bottoming out after recent successes

By Michael Sadlier

The two upper tiers of the league return to action on the New Year's first weekend with all three Ulster sides completing their back-to-back clashes from last month.

In 1A, relegation-battling Ballynahinch are at Lansdowne and will be seeking to repeat the dose on the Dublin side after the Co Down outfit recorded their first win of the season over them last time out at Ballymacarn Park.

Though Hinch are still firmly rooted to the bottom - they are eight adrift of ninth-placed Galwegians and nine away from Cork Constitution who are in the safety zone - they still travelling with some confidence off the back of not only already seeing off Lansdowne, who are in seventh, but also after having claimed the Ulster Senior Cup just over a fortnight ago.

Though Lansdowne's artificial surface is a far from ideal environment, Hinch, at least, are taking a strong selection down to Dublin as they continue their bid to escape the foot of the table.

"We're now in so much better a place than we could have been," said Hinch coach Derek Suffern in light of the league and cup victories. "And though this time it will be totally different, and on their artificial surface, we have that confidence from beating them before."

Hinch have Sam Windsor, Conor Joyce, Ruaidhri Murphy, Jonny Simpson and John Donnan all back from their B&I Cup duties with Ulster A to bolster their cause.

In 1B, second-placed Ballymena - who Hinch defeated in the Senior Cup final - entertain Old Wesley and will be gunning to do the double on them after winning down there last month.

Ballymena coach Andy Graham has Ulster's Clive Ross, Bronson Ross, John Andrew, Stephen Mulholland and Dave Shanahan in club colours again while Andrew Magrath is at out-half ahead of Richie McMaster.

"Back-to-back games are difficult and just because you beat them first time you have no right to expect it again," said Graham who is seeking to keep the pressure up on leaders St Mary's College.

Also in 1b, basement side Belfast Harlequins are at pacesetters St Mary's and go to Dublin still in search of a first win and are increasingly looking destined to take the drop.

Meanwhile, in Division 2B, Armagh travel to Seapoint for a rescheduled game.

Belfast Telegraph


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