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Ulster Senior League: New-look Instonians are early test for champions

By Ronnie Ingram

Dungannon are ready to kick-off their Ulster Senior League title defence after after undertaking a summer tour to Boston.

After winning the double last season they will launch their bid to retain the league crown against a new look Instonians at Shaw's Bridge tomorrow afternoon.

The home team will have newcomer Bruce Cornelius as head coach and Stuart Hooks as his assistant and they will also have five new players in their line-up, including Ulster Exiles front row Ryan Joblinski.

Armagh make their first appearance in the league with a home encounter against Ards, with player-coach Andy Hughes recruiting well over the summer.

“We have five new signings which will give us some much needed strength,” said Hughes.

“Ethan Allen and Chris Knipe have come from Dungannon, Richard Reaney from Quins, James McCall from Ballynahinch and Gareth McGaw (from Queen's.

“We have had a quiet start to the season, but will use these coming league fixtures as warm-ups for the All-Ireland League.”

Queen's, with so many absentees, have a difficult start against 'Hinch at Upper Malone. They have lost nine players from last season and will be without their Junior Inter-Pro squad members.

“There will be at least four or five new players turning out and some of those are totally inexperienced,” said Robbie Moore.

“It's early yet, but this will give us the chance to look at a number of people.”

Banbridge will be without their captain Simon McKinstry following a thigh injury for their trip to City of Derry. They welcome back No 8 Stephen Irvine from 'Hinch, but scrum-half Neville Farr is doubtful. Derry will be fielding the same team that helped them win the AIL Division 3 title.

Ballymena will take a young and inexperience squad to Rainey.

Malone entertain Belfast Harlequins, who clinched promotion to the AIL with a 34-6 win in the last meeting between the teams.

“We expect our performances to greatly improve as Jacques Benade has returned as coach,” stated Malone's Raymond Thomas.

“We have a difficult start to the competition with Dungannon and Instonians after Quins, but if we can avoid injuries there's no reason why we shouldn’t have a successful season.”

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