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Smith's return will help Ballyclare in trophy bid

By Ronnie Ingram

Ballyclare are joint Powerade Towns' Cup holders with City of Derry II and they should take the first step to retaining the trophy with a comfortable win over Ards II tomorrow afternoon.

They are undefeated after eight games in Qualifying 2 and heading for promotion while their opponents in the 2nd Division 2 are still looking for their first win of the season.

Following their recent Junior Cup final 17-7 defeat at the hands of Ballynahinch II, Ballyclare made six changes for the 20-13 league win over Academy so those players will be back in action and full-back Bobby Smith and winger Gareth Byers will be considered for selection.

Both have been out with long term injuries and Smith, their efficient place kicker, showed his class in the IV's victory at the weekend and Byers showed he had lost none of his speed with two tries for the II's.

Clogher Valley have an important few weeks ahead culminating with the All Ireland Junior Cup final against Enniscorthy on Feb 1. Manager Ritchie Haire hopes that Richard Primrose will be back on the bench at home to Limavady after a shoulder injury sustained against Portadown a couple of months ago.

Haire said: "He is a big asset to the side and his presence will instil confidence. We have been resting players due the pressure ahead but unfortunately No 8 David Sharkey pulled a hamstring at Ballymoney and will be missing but we are fortunate to have the services of Eugene McKenna who was outstanding in the line-outs at UUC 91-0 at the week-end.

"The students were very weak due to the unavailability of players in the holiday break so the Limavady observers that turned up to watch learnt nothing and left at half-time."

Portadown coach Richard Hedley will have a strong team in action at home to Ballymena II.

Hedley said: "All our players are available but we are using a squad system as there are important league fixtures against CIYMS and Clogher Valley as well in the next couple of weeks.

"Loosehead prop Mark Neilly, who has played top level rugby for years, will be rested but we will still be fielding a formidable team."

Ballynahinch II, aiming for their second trophy, are undefeated in 2nd XV League 1 and, with home advantage, should advance at the expense of Qualifying II's Lisburn who have only four wins from ten outings.

Dungannon II are having a disappointing time with no successes in 2nd Div 1 and should find it difficult at Omagh who are strongly challenging Ballyclare for promotion from Q2.

Towns Cup draw: Ards II v Ballyclare, Armagh II v Rainey II, Ballynahinch II v Lisburn, Bangor v City of Derry II, Carrickfergus v Dromore, Clogher Valley v Limavady, Coleraine v Randalstown, Larne v Lurgan, Omagh v Dungannon II, Portadown v Ballymena II

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