RUGBY: Bann out to pop Cork

Jonny Porter (right) is set to return to Bann's line-up. INBL1614-224EB
Jonny Porter (right) is set to return to Bann's line-up. INBL1614-224EB

Banbridge RFC are facing their biggest fortnight in 18 years.

They’re set to host UCC in the play-off semi-final this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm), with a potential final a week later.

At stake is the chance to become a Division One club for the first time in Bann’s history.

And they might have to do it without both their captain and their vice-captain.

Skipper Adam Ervine and vice Jonny Little both picked up ankle injuries during last weekend’s warm-up win over Ulster Juniors.

Ervine won’t make this weekend’s game while Little is a serious doubt.

That couldn’t have come at a worse time for Bann but their determination to make it through to face either Blackrock or Cashel in the final remains intense.

“To get ourselves in the top 20 clubs in Ireland would be a massive achievement for the club,” said coach Daniel Soper.

“The last time there was a game of this importance was probably when the club got promoted into senior rugby in 1998.

“We’ve had promotions since then but this is a big opportunity.

“We have to focus on how we play though. We have to make sure we give ourselves an opportunity in the play-off final.”

Bann, of course, led Division 2A for much of the season before defeat to Galway Corinthians on the penultimate day let Naas claim top spot.

“Since that game, the mood has been quite upbeat and the boys have been training really well,” said Soper. “It’s as good as it’s been since before Christmas. They’re really excited about getting this chance to go up.

“It’s been a tight group all year. It’s not a huge squad and the lads are all pulling in the same direction.”

Because Bann finished second, they get home advantage on Saturday. However, that doesn’t automatically mean progression beckons. In last weekend’s Division 2B and 2C play-offs, three of the four semi-finals were won by the visiting sides.

“We will be using that as a bit of a warning,” said Soper. “We know we have to play well. UCC were very disappointed to lose when they came up here in January and they’ll remember that.