AIL RUGBY: Soper ready for business end of the season

Banbridge coach Dan Soper. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Banbridge coach Dan Soper. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

It is a three way battle for automatic promotion in Division 1B of the All Ireland League.

Ballynahinch top the table by a point from Ulster rivals Banbridge after their win at UL Bohemians on Monday, Shannon are a further four points back but have a game in hand.

‘Hinch host basement club Dolphin. Hooker Zac McCall and winger David Busby are both missing after picking up injuries at Boh’s. Pete Browne, Jack Reegan and Aaron Cairns are available though.

Banbridge are on the road at seventh placed Naas and coach Dan Soper is expecting a close encounter.

“This is the business end and you want to keep progressing and moving forward,” said Soper. “We always have a very tough tight game with Naas, there has never been a one sided game between the two of us and we’re expecting the same this weekend.

“It’s important that we turn up and play well and keep improving on some of the things that we have looked at this week. Naas have a number of good players they have some very dangerous backs and some big forwards, their scrum was very good last time we played them and they have a big lineout.”

Soper’s not focusing on the league table right now.

“We can’t fall into the trap of looking at the table or what’s going on else where because we don’t have any control over that,” he said.

“We just have to play as well as can and get a result, we have a target for this block of three games and if we hit that we’ll finish where we finish. Hinch are a very good side going well and Shannon are a very good side and you’d expect them two to have the same focus that hopefully we have. It will be about which team hold their nerve over the next three games.”

Soper has a number of selection issues, Andy Morrison, Conor Field, Adam Ervine, Johnny Little and Nick Hayes all face fitness tests. Tom O’Toole and James Hume return from Irish 20’s duty while Greg Jones is available.

At the other end of the table Ballymena are hoping to climb clear of the relegation dogfight. The Braidmen are ninth two points behind Boh’s who they host at Eaton Park and coach Andy Graham feels two wins from the last three games should keep Ballymena in 1B.

“If we can get points out of this one and deny them points it would be great for us,” said Graham. “We have Boh’s, Dolphin and Wesley and they are in a similar position to ourselves, if we can get a couple of wins it would hopefully take us away from the relegation zone.”

Azur Allison and Angus Kernohan are with the Irish U19’s, Matty Agnew being rested, Adam McBurney, Marcus Rea Brett Herron Callum Patterson are all released by Ulster.