Ballynahinch aiming to reverse losing run

Ballynahinch's James Simpson
Ballynahinch's James Simpson

One win from eight games doesn’t tell the whole story of Ballynahinch’s season so far.

Derek Sufferin’s side start the new year with a trip to fourth placed UCD.

Hinch are second from bottom but have picked up six losing bonus points including one in their last outing against leaders Clontarf at the start of December.

With one side automatically relegated and the second bottom going into a playoff against the runners up in Division 1B Hinch have an eight point gap over basement boys Garryowen and are only three points adrift of eighth placed St Mary’s.

Despite still having a crisis in the second row Sufferin is able to field a strong side for the trip to the students.

James Simpson, John Donnan and Robert Greer are all still missing from the engine room along with No8 Michael Graham but all should be ready to return near the end of the month.

Ulster prop Paddy McAllister is still ruled out.

Prop Kyle McCall and Ravens hooker Johnny Murphy start in the front row while Ulster full back David McIlwaine has also been released.

Former Ravens scrum half Blane McIlroy is back in the province on holiday and will start; he was pencilled in to play in last week’s postponed Ulster Senior League game against Dungannon.

Michael Lawton is also available with Kiwi Richard Lobb starting at out half but Harry McAleese is ruled out.

The Division 1B table doesn’t make happy reading for the three Ulster clubs, Malone are bottom with Dungannon a point and a place above Jacque Benade’s side while Belfast Harlequins are sixth.

There is a big Ulster derby at Stevenson Park as Dungannon host Quins.

Paddy Johns side have two wins from eight games and are boosted by Ulster prop Adam Macklin and Ravens hooker Paul Jackson starting.

Brian Davidson moves from the second row to No8, Plunkett McCallan and Mark Dunleavy form the second row partnership.

Behind the pack Ulster’s Peter Nelson starts at outhalf with captain James Bates at scrum half.

Ulster Ravens centre Stuart McCloskey partners Mark Faloon in midfield but Chris Cochrane is ruled out.

Quins have lost their last two games against Shannon and Corinthians but did manage to pick up losing bonus points in both.

Adam Larkin has Ulster trio Ricky Lutton, Neil McComb and Michael Heaney available for the trip to Co Tyrone.

Malone have suffered seven straight defeats and won’t relish the long trek west to face third place Corinthians.

The Gibson Park side have taken four losing bonus points from their seven defeats and should have Ulster outhalf James McKinney available.

John Creighton will face a fitness test on an Achilles problem while full back Peter Henderson is doubtful with a back injury and winger Rudolph Benade is ruled out.

Ulster duo Alan O’Connor and Bronson Ross still sidelined but flanker Connor Joyce returns and is joined in the back row by captain Neil Alcorn, although Ben Alexander misses the trip.

In Division 2A Banbridge host Galwegians at Rifle Park in a rearranged fixture.