All to play for in All Ireland League for Soper’s Bann

Banbridge have already shown they can match Division 2A's best sides. INBL1446-267PB
Banbridge have already shown they can match Division 2A's best sides. INBL1446-267PB

Banbridge still have an outside chance of promotion, as unlikely as it might be.

That’s the hope of Head Coach Daniel Soper, who is preparing his side for the second half of their All Ireland League campaign.

They complete their warm up with a trip to Rainey Old Boys on Saturday (kick-off 3pm) but the main event begins again the following week with a home game against Tipperary side Nenagh Ormond RFC.

It was an indifferent first half of the season for Daniel Soper’s boys. They’ve won three, lost four and drawn one of their first eight Ulster Bank All Ireland League games.

At the Christmas break, they’re sitting in eighth spot, ten points off second placed Blackrock.

And while Soper says promotion might be a bridge too far, he’s not ruling it out just yet.

“In the second half of the season, our main target is to start turning those defeats into wins and try and get ourselves up into the top four,” he said.

“If we can do that, it would go down as a pretty good season. It won’t be easy to do that but that will be our aim coming back in.

“The top two promotion spots will probably be a bit beyond us now. We would need a lot of other results to go our way. We’ve seven games to go though and we’ll be doing our best to get as high up the table as possible. Our last game of the season is against Old Wesley, which could be a really good one, especially if we have managed to get ourselves up towards the top at that stage.

“We’ve shown so far this season that we can match the teams around the top. We drew with Blackrock who are second and beat Barnhall so we are capable of doing it. Now we have to prove we can do it week in, week out.”

Soper concedes Bann’s first half of the season failed to set the division alight but it’s been a case of fine lines dividing wins from defeats.

“Our record at the minute probably doesn’t look all that great but if we had managed to turn even a couple of those narrow defeat into victories, we would be right up near the top of the table,” he said.

“We have showed glimpses of what we can do and played some pretty good rugby at times but we seem to have lost quite a number of games by a small number of points.”

Bann have been adjusting to life without fly-half Ian Porter but Soper held special praise for his replacement.

“Aaron Kennedy has had a very good season so far,” he said. “It was a big ask for him to replace Ian Porter but he has done a great job for us.

“Adam Doherty at full-back has been very good too. At the start of the season, we probably didn’t expect him to be a regular in the side but he has started every game and has been very impressive.

“He spent some time in New Zealand and it seems to have done him the world of good.

“Stuart Cromie has been excellent too. Those guys have really stood out for us so far. If we can get everyone playing at that level, we’ll do very well.”

Soper is hoping he won’t have any fresh injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s Ulster League game.

He said: “Hopefully we’ll not have any more injury worries. We’ve been doing a mini pre-season to get the guys back after Christmas so hopefully that will get rid of any extra turkey!”