Braidmen targeting winning return

Ballymena head coach Andy Graham.
Ballymena head coach Andy Graham.

Two consecutive defeats against Buccaneers and St Mary’s have dented Ballymena’s hopes of automatic promotion from Division 1B.

The Braidmen are eight points behind St Marys with five games remaining and coach Andy Graham just wants to get back to winning ways starting with the trip to seventh placed Blackrock.

“It’s not something that you could ever give up hope on because you never know what could happen but it is a big task for St Mary’s to lose twice and we’d need to be winning every single game,” said Graham.

“All you can do is to try and win and see what happens but you still have the play-offs if you don’t make first place so there is plenty to play for.

“If you can’t get first you try to get second and as high up as you can.

“For ourselves I personally don’t think it makes a different to us whether we play home or away so we won’t be too worried about that.”

Prop Andy Warwick is on Ulster duty so Michael Lagan starts at loose head, lock David Whann picked up a knock playing for the Irish club side and Conor Smyth is very doubtful so Ian Caldwell and Mark Foster are in the engine room.

Clive Ross should be released and Stephen Mulholland is available.

Dave Shanahan’s participation will depend on Ruan Pienaar’s availability for Ulster.

Belfast Harlequins travel to Dolphin while in Division 1A Ballynahinch are on the road at Young Munster.

“I don’t think confidence is a big issue we played very well against St Marys and just unlucky the way things unfolded at the end of the game but we lost it when really we had it won and we were the better side for long periods of the game, it just a matter of getting back to winning ways after a few lapses.”

Ballymena won the first meeting 43-13 at Eaton Park but Graham felt the margin of victory didn’t reflect the game.

“We were doing a bit of video work on the first game, they are a big side and they played very well against us, the score line flattered us we scored four tries in the last seven or eight minutes and up to that it was difficult enough, it won’t be easy by any means and we are missing players.”