Defeat leads to early exit from Ulster Senior Cup for Bann

Banbridge close the door to end this Ballymena attack at Eaton Park. INBT 42-835H
Banbridge close the door to end this Ballymena attack at Eaton Park. INBT 42-835H

Banbridge made an early exit from this season’s Ulster Senior Cup competition, going down to a strong Ballymena side at Eaton Park.

While Bann coach Daniel Soper was disappointed with his side’s second half performance, he was more concerned after the game about a number of injuries in his squad.

“Richard Graham picked up a shoulder injury which will probably keep him out of the selection equation for next weekend’s trip to Skerries, “ he said.

“James Andrews is also doubtful but I’m hoping that Chris Allen will have recovered from the knock that forced us to pull him from the action before the end of the game.

“We actually started well today and had long passages of pressure. But Ballymena made the most of a couple of chances that came their way and they were probably flattered by the 20-7 half-time score. We had a poor second half and that was disappointing and in the end Ballymena were as comfortable winners as the scoreline suggests.”

A quickly taken penalty allowed Ballymena to run in a score from deep inside their own half and a second try came after a Bann attack broke down and the home side picked up the loose ball to hit back, again from deep.

Bann were good value for Mike Bentley’s try after a series of recycles had allowed the flanker to peel off the side of a ruck and force his way over, with Robin Thompson adding the conversion.

But that first half score was all Bann could muster and they now return to All-Ireland League action with their interest in the provincial cup at an end.

“We’ve never found a win at Skerries particularly easy to come by,” said Soper. No doubt his mind was going back to last season when the Leinster side converted a try with the last kick of the game to lift the points, with the subsequent YouTube footage going viral.

“On the positive side Nico Vorster played 25 minutes on Saturday and went very well after a prolonged absence through injury. Dale Carson should also be available again after missing a number of games. And Miles O’Hagan, Clark McAllister and James McCrum should all be back in the selection mix after missing today’s game.

“Division 2A is the tightest of all the AIL sections and a couple of bad results could quickly see us moving from the top to close to the bottom.

“So we’ll be hoping for a better outcome on Saturday than the lats time we visited Skerries.”