Banbridge Head Coach Dan Soper admits his side have not yet been fully tested ahead of Saturday’s All Ireland League Division 2A opener against Sunday’s Well (2.30pm) but belief is growing at Rifle Park.
A 45-point, eight try victory would be the highlight of most coaches’ afternoons but it was what happened after the final whistle of Saturday’s comfortable 50-5 victory over City of Derry that gives Soper real grounds for optimism,
We are trying to create a bit of a culture that they are all one squad and to see the Firsts come over and pull the Seconds across the line with that try at the death was great.Dan Soper
Within seconds of the post match handshake, the entire Senior squad was lining the pitch and roaring the Town Seconds on in their Junior Cup opener against Academy, a match the home side eventually won thanks to a dramatic fashion injury time try.
“That has probably been the weakest part of our senior squad over the past couple of years, we haven’t had enough players in our wider squad,” explained Soper.
“That caught us out in the play-off last year because we didn’t have that quality coming though.
“(This season) Our numbers in training have been fabulous. We had 38 training on Thursday night and there was another 24 training with the ‘threes’ and ‘fours’.
“We are trying to create a bit of a culture that they are all one squad and to see the Firsts come over and pull the Seconds across the line with that try at the death was great. They were all in the changing room celebrating together afterwards and that’s excellent.
“We are going to need some of those players from the ‘twos’ as the year goes on so we need them to keep training, keep getting better. It was good for the twos to get through the first round of the Junior Cup and we will see what the draw throws up but we have set targets for the whole squad; the Junior Cup; the Towns’ Cup and the conference. All those competition that the twos are in a big parts of our targets this season.”
Soper’s squad will be seeking to go one better than last year’s play-off disappointment against University College Cork. The Rifle Park men have cruised through games against Instonians, Armagh and most recently, Derry, and Soper admits he would have liked a tougher test before the AIL.
“We haven’t had to work overly hard to get our scores so far and the All Ireland League takes things up a gear,” added Soper, “The last couple of years we’ve had a game against Ballynahinch or Ballymena or something like that and it has given us a better yardstick as to where we are at.
“But we are where we are and the fixtures were what they were. This group of players have been together, with two or three new additions, for a while. I think 15 of the 20 that against Derry at the weekend played in the final game of last season, so that’s enough players to know what to expect in the All Ireland League and hopefully we can bring that intensity next week.
“There is always an element when you are out playing and you’re scoring quite easily, it is hard to keep going and stay tight to your systems.
“We will look at the video and try to pick out things we can improve on . We want everyone moving forward and learning and see where we can improve on.”