Ballymena aiming for fourth straight AIL win

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

Ballymena are hoping to make it four Ulster Bank All-Ireland League wins from four in Division 1B as they visit bottom of the table Shannon.

Andy Graham’s side are second with three wins and two bonus points while leaders Old Wesley have a maximum 15 points.

Despite Shannon only having a solidarity losing bonus point from their three games Graham knows it’s always a tough away day in Limerick.

“It is so important to get off to a good start if you want to have a good season.

“We are near the top of the league and Shannon are at the bottom but when a team hasn’t won there is only one thing they can do and that is start winning.

“We have to take them very seriously, it will be tight and we’ll have to put in a real effort because Shannon will be fighting for every ball,” said Graham.

“Shannon are the most successful club in the history of the All Ireland League.

“I remember going down they to play and their backrow had Alan Quinlan and Anthony Foley, Mick Galway was in the second row and Marcus Horan propping it was basically the Munster team.”

Graham was happy with the bonus point win over Trinity but knows there are areas where Ballymena can improve.

“I was very pleased we got a good start but there were a couple of negatives. David Whann picked up an injury which rules him out this week and we allowed them to get a couple of late tries and get a bonus point.

“We are playing with a high intensity and have a clinical edge – we are finishing off our chances.

“We are playing well but not perfect we are trying to improve every week and I can see the progression.

“We went down to Shannon near the end of last season and put in a poor performance and lost and that is still fresh in the player’s minds but this season we are a bit more experienced and mature.

“We’re taking it one game at a time as it is a long season.”

After this week the AIL takes a break for the Senior Cup.

“If we win on Saturday it will be a super start as there are tough games to come.

“If we get to four from four what can have a look what’s ahead.”

Prop Michael Lagan faces a fitness test. If he doesn’t make it then Bryan Young will start at loosehead with Ross Kane at tighthead.

John Andrew has a hamstring injury so Adam McBurney is at hooker.

Connor Smyth moves into the second row for Whann with Michael Shiels at blindside flanker while Matthew Harkness returns at openside.

John Crieghton is back at scrumhalf, Marty Irwin returns to the centre so Kieran Joyce moves to the wing.