All Ireland League

Ballymena Rugby Club head coach Andy Graham. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena Rugby Club head coach Andy Graham. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena’s hopes of back to back promotions may have end but coach Andy Graham wants a strong finish to the campaign.

The Braidmen travel to Limerick for a clash with nine time All Ireland League winners Shannon who need a point to be mathematically safe from relegation.

“I played in the AIL for 15 to 16 years and wins in Limerick against Shannon don’t come that often, I think I achieved it once, they have a great history and are one of the best clubs in Ireland,” said Graham.

”We owe it to ourselves to do as well as we can so we are taking it as seriously as we can and our sending down the strongest team possible, Shannon are playing a lot better that they were earlier in the season.

“Ben O’Ryan has been a regular for the seconds and will be on the bench and will get game time, we’ll have some young players but were trying to win.

“We have a few aches and knocks it has been a long hard season and it is starting to take it’s toll and a few guys are unavailable.

“Stephen Mulholland injured his shoulder playing for the Ravens last week and is out, Matty Rea has had trouble with his back and would be risked but on the plus side Mark Foster has recovered from an ankle injury.”

Ballymena have won both their games in the Ulster Senior League since losing to Garryowen.

“We had a good win over Rainey and against Harlequins we ran up a big score and then took our foot of the gas, it was pleasing and we used a lot of players, they showed a willingness and a lot of boys put their hands up and showed they were pushing for spots in the first team.”

Prop Andy Warwick will be released depending on his game time against Cardiff tonight with John Andrew and Dave Ryan both face fitness to determine if they can take their place in the front row.

Mark Foster replaces Rea in the second row and is partnered by Connor Smyth.

Willie McKay comes into the back row for Mulholland and is joined by the Gallagher brothers, James and Dominic.

Ravens scrum half Dave Shanahan is feeling his hamstring again and won’t be risked so Glen Bailie starts with Ritchie McMaster at No10.

Ulster full back Ricky Andrew is released and starts with Sean Taylor and Jordan Foster completing the back three.

Marty Irwin and Paddy James form the midfield partnership, young South African hooker Chris Da Mata could be in line to make his AIL debut from the bench.

The battle for the last two remaining playoff places looks like going to the wire in Division 1A.

Clontarf are third with 43 points, Cork Con are on 36 and Ballynahinch have 35.

Hinch travel to face bottom placed Dolphin searching for their first away win of the season and hoping to put last week’s Bateman Cup semi final defeat behind them while Clontarf meet Con in Dublin.