This weekend Ballymena 1st XV take on Munster based, Cashel RFC in Round 13 of the Energia AIL at Eaton Park.
Ballymena lost the Round 6 fixture away to Cashel back in November 24-14 and will be seeking revenge to reverse that result. With just 2 points between the sides in the AIL Table, Cashel will look to maintain 2nd spot and extend their AIL winning run to 9 games whilst Ballymena will look to derail that run of form and maintain their unbeaten home form whilst getting back to winning ways after a disappointing performance in Round 12 away to Nenagh.
Head Coach, John Nicholl hasn’t had the luxury of a full squad to pick from with injury & unavailability hitting the squad hard. Only 9 of the matchday squad that played in the Round 6 fixture away to Cashel will line out this weekend. There are also a number of changes made to the squad that travelled to Nenagh.
In the pack, James McCormick and James McNabney are with the Irish U20s with both players being rewarded for their superb AIL form this season with back to back starts in the opening U20 Six Nations Fixtures. Joseph Mawhinney, Andrew Ferguson and Chris Cundell make up the front row. Packing in behind, JJ Mckee returns to the starting XV alongside Paddy Browne. In the back-row, James Howe is unavailable through injury but that opens the door for Jack Milton who will make his return from injury to start at 6. Adam Lamont and Azur Allison will continue at 7 & 8.
A much-changed backline sees a number of positional changes. Rodger McBurney is set for a period on the sidelines following an injury suffered away to Nenagh last week whilst Tim Small has been ruled out for the rest of the season as he recovers from surgery following an injury at Rainey Old Boys. The experience & flair of both players will be greatly missed in the coming weeks & we wish them both well in their recoveries. James Wright returns from injury and will partner Ross McKay in the half-backs. Glen Baillie moves into the 12 shirt partnering Mark Thompson in the centre. Pierce Crowe moves from 12 to 15 replacing the injured Rodger McBurney with Matthew Corr and Rhys Ervine continuing on the wings.
The ever-reliable James Taggart provides front-row cover on the bench alongside Josh Mark who has been rewarded for his superb form for the 2nd XV in recent weeks. Peter Wallace makes his return to the 1st XV AIL squad after a number of weeks on the sideline through injury and will provide further cover for the pack alongside Jonny Browne. Eoin Ritson provides cover for the backs.
Kick-off it at 14:30 at Eaton Park. Get out to support the boys. You can also follow live match updates on our Twitter Feed.