Ballynahinch look to stay in top flight

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Ballynahinch will stay in the top flight of the All Ireland League is they can beat Buccaneers in a promotion reelgation play-off at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday (2.30pm).

Hinch finished second bottom in Ulster Bank Division 1A while the Athlone side were runners up in 1B.

Derek Suffern’s side go into the game having won three of their last four games, the only defeat coming on the final day of the regular second against champions Clontarf.

“We’re happy about the play-off and we knew it was always the most likely outcome, we’re also happy with our form and we go into this match with Buccaneers off the back of some very good performances,” said Suffern.

“We haven’t just scraped in but we go into the play-off with a lot of positivity and we’ve got to back ourselves that we’re still good enough to play at this level which I think we’ve shown over the last few games.”

In spite of a 27-13 defeat at Clontarf Sufferin was pleased with the performance.

“We gave it everything and really got close on a day when news was always filtering in about what was happening between Old Belvedere and Garryowen.”

“Fair play to Clontarf they were the best defensively organised side we played against all year and they were just better on the day.”

“I think we actually knew they had the title before they did as there was a bit of confusion about it but they are deserving champions.”

Buccs lost six games in Division 1B but Hinch won’t be under estimating them.

“They’re are pretty much the same as we remember playing them over the last few seasons, Jack Carty is a good player on Connacht’s books who makes things happen for them and Conor Finn at centre is another key player as is their overseas number eight.”

“We’re quietly confident but we have to respect them as this is a one-off, a cup final if you like. Games like this could hinge on the smallest things going right or wrong for you.”

“Having home advantage makes you far more comfortable about the game and thankfully we’re the ones not having to do all the travelling.”

Despite the high stakes Hinch are trying to treat it like any other game.

“We’ve had our usual week of preparation and we’re not hyping it up, we’re focusing on getting the essentials right and taking it from there and we’ll hopefully get it all right.”

“We’re very conscious of being favourites but we’ve got to appreciate that Buccs are a dangerous side, we’re confident of a positive outcome.”

Ulster’s David McIlwaine starts in his last game for Hinch before departing to Leeds next season.

Matthew Arneill and Stuart Morrow return to the midfield after both missed the trip to Tarf.

Harry McAleese starts at outhalf but Richard Lobb is unavailable.

In the pack Ulster prop Kyle McCall starts, John Madden returns from injury while the backrow is likely to be Neil Fallon, David McGuigan and Michael Graham.

Buccaneers should be able to select froma full strength squad as the talismanic Kolo Kiripati and dynamic Luke Satchwell expect to be fit.