Ballymena prepare to kick-off defence of Stevenson Shield against City of Derry

Andy Graham

Andy Graham

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Ballymena begin their defence of the Stevenson Shield with a tricky trip to City of Derry.

The Braidmen are missing a host of Ulster representative players but coach Andy Graham sees it as a chance to give others an opportunity to stake a claim.

“We don’t want to give up our title easily and we’ll be pushing hard because no matter what game we play we want to win,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for players to show what they can do.”

The coach hs gone for a blend of youth and experience – Rodger McBurney, and Callum Patterson start in he back line while up front David Whann is in the second row. Flankers Joe Thompson and Ryan Madison get an opportunity.

Ballynahinch travel to Dungannon in the other Division One tie.

There is a Belfast derby at Gibson Park as Malone host Harlequins – both clubs changed coaches in the close season.

Michael Shiels is set to make his debut for Malone while Quins have former Ulster prop Adam Macklin after knee reconstruction.

Queen's will give Schools’ Cup winner Dave Whitten a debut as Rainey visit the Dub.