Ballymena out to make home advantage pay dividends against Bohemians

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

Ballymena are a point behind St Mary’s at the top of Division 1B and will hope to make home advantage count as relegation threatened UL Bohemians visit Eaton Park.

Andy Graham’s side is boosted by a number of Ulster Senior and A players returning to the squad and despite the contrasting league fortunes he won’t be underestimating the students.

“Bo’s will be tougher than their league position suggests, they lost with the last play against St Mary’s and have been picking up losing bonus points,” said Graham.

“It’s a home game and a must-win, then we have Old Wesley, we have to win to keep the pressure on St Mary’s, it’s hotting up and there is no room for error.”

Graham knows the days of bullying a student’s scrum are long gone.

“We’re not a one dimensional team, Bo’s have a strong scrum, if we get the upper hand there we’ll use it but we have a quick mobile pack and great backs.”

Since their last AIL win Ballymena have booked a place in the senior cup final and beaten Armagh in the senior league.

“Winning is making training more enjoyable even though the boys know they have to work hard, we’re delighted to get through to the senior cup final; it’s been a while and the first time since I’ve been head coach,” he said.

“We can’t wait and it is a nice carrot dangling there; it was a very good performance.”

Michael Lagan, Bronson Ross, Stephen Mulholland and Clive Ross are start in the pack but John Andrew, Adam McBurney and Alan O’Connor are unavailable.

Dave Shanahan returns at scrum half while Callum Patterson links up with Marty Irwin in midfield.

The equation for Belfast Harlequins is simple: they need to start winning; Adam Larkin’s side are eight points adrift at the bottom of the table as they travel to Blackrock.

Hooker Paul Jackson and lock Lewis Stevenson start to bolster the pack while Rory Scholes and Mark Best are available.

Flanker Frank Taggart and scrum half Connor Young are injured.

It’s the proverbial eight pointer in Division 1A as bottom of the table Ballynahinch visit Galwegians, who are a place and seven points ahead of Derek Sufferin’s team.

Paul Rowley, Peter Browne, John Donnan, Lorcan Dow, Zac McCall, Craig Trenier, Jonny Murphy, and Jonny Simpson are all released by Ulster but Rhuardhi Murphy and Sam Windsor are not, while Connor Joyce is ruled out due to sickness.