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Cup holders Hinch braced for backlash from hurt Braidmen

By Michael Sadlier

As fate would have it, or rather the luck of the draw, Ballymena and Ballynahinch come together again at Eaton Park in tomorrow's First Trust Ulster Senior Cup semi-final (kick-off 2.30pm), eight days after they met in the All-Ireland League.

And after being horribly turned over in their own back yard last Friday night by Hinch, who triumphed by the rather emphatic margin of 27-0, the struggling Braidmen will be eager to avenge that humiliation.

There is also the considerable incentive of making the Senior Cup final and having another tilt at silverware - Ballymena last won the cup in 2012-13 - while there will be extra motivation in bidding to halt Hinch from potentially winning the competition for the fourth year in a row, a feat not achieved since North of Ireland won seven on the bounce at the close of the 19th century.

But in-form Hinch are definitely up for this one and Brian McLaughlin's squad will have Aaron Cairns and Johnny McPhillips on board, as well as 'Mo' Simpson and Zack McCall, though Aaron Hall, Jack Regan, Rory Butler and Stuart Morrow will all be missing.

"This cup competition means a huge amount to the club and ultimately we want to win it," said Ballynahinch director of rugby Ronnie Duncan.

"It doesn't matter what sort of team we have out, we'll be going all out to get a result.

"We know that they want to take us down but we're hoping to be ready for that."

Ballymena, whose most recent final appearance was two campaigns ago when they lost to tomorrow's opponents, again have home advantage, though that will count for little after last week's hammering under the Eaton Park lights.

Andy Graham's squad have been boosted by having Brett Herron and Dave Shanahan released to them.

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