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Experienced names return as Queen's aim to bounce back

 

By Ronnie Ingram

Queen's have a stronger hand for their First Trust Senior Cup tie at Rainey, following their depleted side's 21-17 league defeat against Banbridge last weekend.

The Students started the season with wins over Ballymena (33-26) and Banbridge (19-7) but were without a number of their experienced players for that second meeting with Bann.

Queen's president Ian McAvoy revealed: "Our half-back pairing of Conor McAuley and Ritchie McMaster will be back in action, and hopefully Rory Bell and Conor McKee will be in the centre.

"Conor was injured 10 minutes into the Banbridge game and Rory hasn't played for the last couple of weeks."

Queen's have won the Senior Cup on 23 occasions - more than any other club, the last time being in 2014 - and are determined to make up for last season's disappointing 20-15 first round home defeat to Dungannon.

"We are still missing a few players, including April's AIL 2A Try of the Month scorer Falemara El Vave who hopefully will return to the wing shortly," McAvoy added.

"Johnny Milliken moves to that position and former Portadown full-back Michael Orr comes in. Other changes see hooker Andrew McGrath back and Andy Weir at tighthead and Tyler Arnold at open side."

Rainey's latest recruit, New Zealander Connor Fitzsimons, flew into Dublin on Wednesday and trained last night and it is hoped he will make an appearance in the centre.

Scott McLean, who contributed 12 points in their 27-8 defeat of City of Derry, will again be at out-half as Andy Magrath is not fully fit. Tim Barker has a neck problem and Paul Pritchard a calf injury so a decision will have to be made on them.

The second round gets under way this evening when holders Armagh entertain Omagh at Palace Grounds (8pm).

Armagh will have gained confidence from their first round defeat of Bangor (50-14) while Omagh are still not at full strength and have lost their first two league games.

Meanwhile, there is more at stake than just a Cup quarter-final place at Eaton Park as Ballymena also face Malone in the first AIL 1B game at the same venue in three weeks' time.

The Belfast team are still undefeated, including the first round 29-24 defeat of Belfast Harlequins, so would like to gain a psychological advantage before their 1B debut.

In the other tie, Ballynahinch are also unbeaten and have already opened up a three-point gap at the top of the league after two games. The improving Derry have one win to their credit against Bangor (24-21) so the might and all round strength of the visitors will be difficult to cope with.

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