Derek Suffern: Ballynahinch must show hunger or risk further misery
Ballynahinch are aiming to put last year's disappointment firmly behind them in their second successive First Trust Senior Cup final tonight when they meet Malone at the Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm).
Hinch went into last December's showdown for silverware as firm favourites to triumph over Queen's University but ended up losing 16-10 to the students so the focus this year for the AIL Division 1A side is to lift the trophy for only the second time in their fifth final appearance.
The Co Down side have only secured the cup on one previous occasion - in the 2008-09 season - and head into tonight's game buoyed by their victory over Division 1A leaders Terenure College last Saturday.
Malone, on the other hand, will be appearing in their 23rd final and have won it on seven previous occasions with the Division 1B side's last success being way back in 1992. Since then, the Gibson Park outfit have lost six times in the showpiece game with their last outing being in the 2009-10 season when they were hammered 37-0 by Queen's.
Hinch coach Derek Suffern is hoping that his squad's efforts in a close run game at a weather-blasted Ballymacarn Park, in the win over Terenure last Saturday, will not have drained his squad too much in what is a similar side to the one which defeated the Dublin visitors with Stuart Morrow coming into the line-up to partner Richard Reaney in midfield.
Hinch will look to get an edge in the back row battle where David McGuigan, Paul Pritchard and Michael Graham have been in good form of late though Malone have named Connor Joyce - who has recently been with the Ulster Ravens, who interestingly play on Saturday - at number eight.
One battle which is sure to be of importance will be at out-half where Hinch's Harry McAleese is up against another experienced campaigner in Josh Pentland.
"It's going to be tough for us to play again on Wednesday after the Terenure win but a big bonus for us is that we go to the final off the back of a good performance," said Suffern.
"Last year we just couldn't get going and Queen's wanted it more and we can have no complaints about that.
"We'll have to be better than that this time and we have to want it more. If we get it all right we'll hopefully be good enough, though we rate Malone very highly.
"We did play against them in the Ulster League and won but they are stronger now than they were then," the coach added.
"We've targeted it (the cup) this year and we're fully focused on getting some silverware for all the effort the guys put in week in and week out," stated Suffern.
Hinch will back themselves to make off with the prize this time and enter the All-Ireland Bateman Cup semi-finals but this Malone side look good enough to make it a very tight affair.
Ballynahinch: S McAuley, D Nicholson, S Morrow, R Reaney, R Adair, H McAleese, A Cairns; J Simpson, J Murphy, S Orr, J Simpson, J Madden, D McGuigan, P Pritchard, M Graham
Subs: C Trenier, C Pyper, A Harper, J Donaldson, C Napier, J McBriar, P Weir, J Grattan
Malone: A Bryans, M Barker, N Browne, K Joyce, A Liddell, J Pentland, J McMurtry; R Kane, D Maxwell, P Eadie, C Tipping, B Alexander, B McDonnell, J Burns, C Joyce
Subs: S Bailie, L Barlow, D Cobain, S Kelly, N Burns
Referee: R Kerr
First Trust Senior Cup Final: Kingspan Stadium, 7.30pm - Ballynahinch v Malone