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Hughes Replaces Nicholl As Ballymena Head Coach

Hughes Replaces Nicholl As Ballymena Head Coach

Ballymena RFC director of rugby Jamie Smith welcomes new head coach Andy Hughes to the club ©Ballymena RFC

Ballymena RFC have brought in Andy Hughes as their new head coach, with John Nicholl stepping down to concentrate on his new role at Ballymena Academy.

Hughes is highly regarded in Ulster rugby circles and brings with him over 10 years of Energia All-Ireland League coaching experience.

Formerly a player and then head coach at Dungannon RFC, he also had a stint in between at City of Armagh.

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Ballymena’s director of rugby Jamie Smith commented: “We are delighted to welcome Andy to the club. I think this is a step in the right direction and brings a fresh approach to our set-up.

“We have worked hard in the past few seasons to build a certain culture at the club, and Andy fits the bill perfectly.”

Ballymena have plenty to build on after an encouraging 2021/22 campaign during which they finished fourth in the Division 2A table. They lost out to Queen’s University in the league play-offs.

With news that they have reportedly retained the vast majority of their first team squad, Hughes should be able benefit from that continuity, especially with Nicholl set to assist with coaching the backs.

Ulster prop Andy Warwick and Darrell O’Kane, an All-Ireland League winner with the Braidmen back in 2003, will continue to coach the forwards.

Ballymena’s 2nd XV will once again be coached Gareth Fisher, and they also welcome the return of Mike Stevenson. Stephen Shaw continues to coach the 3rd XV after a cup-winning season.