It’s make or break time for Soper’s Banbridge in All-Ireland League

RUGBY: Banbridge V Barnhall Banbridge are prepared to get back to action after almost a month off and are keen to get off to winning start when they take to the Rifle Park pitch this Saturday. INBL1446-268PB
RUGBY: Banbridge V Barnhall Banbridge are prepared to get back to action after almost a month off and are keen to get off to winning start when they take to the Rifle Park pitch this Saturday. INBL1446-268PB

Banbridge Coach Daniel Soper says the next few weeks will make or break his side’s All Ireland League campaign.

Bann host Nenagh Ormond at Rifle Park on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm) looking for a win that could potentially lift them as high as fourth in the Ulster Bank All Ireland League Division 2A table.

Although such a meteoric rise may be require a little too much from other results, a victory would certainly have Bann heading in the right direction going into the business end of the season.

That’s something that would be invaluable for Banbridge Head Coach Daniel Soper, who told the LEADER last week that he is targeting a top four finish.

“When you’re sitting right slap bang in the middle of the table, a lot depends on how you start the second half of the season,” he said.

“These next few games are going to be absolutely key to how we finish the season.

“It’s a good chance for us to pick up some momentum. When you start off with a couple of wins, you can push on, start to look up and think about looking at how far you can get.

“If you lose the first couple though, you can very easily get drawn back into a relegation battle and with the bottom six going down, that’s an even bigger threat this year.”

Bann would even leapfrog their opponents with a victory but Soper doesn’t want to spend too long analysing league tables.

He said: “We have a few games like that coming up but we’ll just be concentrating on going out and getting wins. If you look at the table too much, you can get caught up rather than just trying to win matches.”

By the time the first ball is kicked on Banbridge’s return to action this Saturday, it will have been four weeks since they last took to the pitch for a competitive game.

That’s because last Saturday’s Ulster League tie against Rainey OB was called off due to the rather wintry conditions. And as they’re getting prepared to go again by welcoming Nenagh Ormond to Rifle Park (see back page), boss Daniel Soper is hoping that won’t have a negative impact,

“It’s a concern now,” he admitted.

“It’s really not good for us because now we haven’t played since the 27th December.

“I suppose we could have trained on Saturday when the match was called off but we have done plenty of training without having any matches over the last few weeks and have done everything we can.

“We’ll get stuck into it again this week. The whole thing’s not ideal but, to put a positive spin on it, at least all of our injuries should have cleared up!”

As for this weekend’s opponents, Nenagh haven’t played in a competitive match since 20th December when they were beaten 17-10 at home to Naas. Bad news for Bann is that the Limerick side haven’t lost back to back league games yet this season.

“They’re a very good side,” said Soper. “Every time we have played them in recent years, they have been very, very physical. It’s always a tough game against them.

“They don’t back out of anything. They’re very confrontational and that’s something that we’ll have to be up for, especially as we haven’t played recently. We’ve been working on that, know what to expect and hopefully we can cope with it.

“They’re going well in the league again this year and we know we’re going to have to play well on Saturday if we’re to come out on top.”