Ballymena’s Andy Graham targets home win before All Ireland League begins in earnest

Ballymena coach Andy Graham
Ballymena coach Andy Graham

Ballymena coach Andy Graham is hoping for a victory at Eaton Park over Ards in the Braidmen’s last run out before their first All Ireland League game against Corinthians next Saturday, September 13.

Ballymena were runners up in the Ulster Senior League last season but started their campaign with a narrow 12-9 defeat at champions Ballynahinch but despite the result Graham was pleased with the performance.

“It was a very good run out, we made a couple of errors for their tries, it was a disappointing result but a superb effort,” said Graham.

“There is room for improvement especially with our line out but if you’re only going to Hinch and losing by three points you are on the right track.”

Ards lost 66-0 at home to Banbridge last week but Graham is taking nothing for granted.

“There will be a lot of changes and it’s the last chance to look at combinations before the Corinthians, we will respect Ards and have to earn the win, we’d be expecting a reaction from them after last week, we want to keep the consistency and prepare for next week.”

Graham is boosted by the release of Clive Ross cousin of Ireland prop Mike, the flanker featured in both of Ulster’s pre season friendlies against Exeter and Leinster.

Scrum half Dave Shanahan is also released and lock Ian Caldwell is available.

Malone will be hoping to build on last week’s victory over Queen’s at the Dub as they host Dungannon at Gibson Park.

Coach Jacque Benade is likely to rotate the squad as Malone build towards their first all Ireland game with Buccaneers next Saturday.

Corey Tipping, James McAllister, Richard Millar and Neil Burns are all available after missing last week.

Rainey host Ballynahinch at Hatrick Park after a narrow defeat at Gannon last week. Queen’s have a short trip to face south Belfast neighbours Harlequins at Deramore.