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Warwick To Support Nicholl In New Ballymena Coaching Team

Warwick To Support Nicholl In New Ballymena Coaching Team

John Nicholl is back in charge of the Ballymena Men's senior team, with Mike Stevenson, Andrew Warwick, and Glenn Baillie also part of the coaching ticket for 2024/25

After finishing seventh in their recently-concluded Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A campaign, Ballymena RFC have moved quickly to bring back a familiar face as head coach for the 2024/25 season.

Coached by Andy Hughes, Ballymena ended up just two points above the bottom two, but their home form was impressive, earning wins over Old Crescent, promotion play-off finalists MU Barnhall, UL Bohemian, second-placed Cashel, and Greystones.

Ahead of next season, John Nicholl has returned to the head coach position with the Braidmen, having stepped back in the last couple of years to concentrate on his school commitments as director of rugby at Ballymena Academy.

Ulster prop Andrew Warwick will be part of Nicholl’s coaching team at Eaton Park, along with forwards coach Mike Stevenson, and former club captain Glenn Baillie, who is assistant backs coach. The club’s 2nd XV will continue with Gareth Fisher at the helm.

Ballymena director of rugby Pete Mackenzie commented: “We are delighted to secure John’s services ahead of the new season. He is the ideal person to take our young squad forward, having worked with the bulk of the squad in previous years.

“With some exciting new additions to the coaching group, we are excited about what can be achieved and have every confidence that our team can maximise its potential.”

This year saw Nicholl guide Ballymena Academy to their first Ulster Schools Senior Cup final appearance since 2010, with Warwick and fellow Ulster forward Alan O’Connor part of the coaching set-up.

He said that having the provincial players coach at schools level was ‘an amazing addition’, and is looking forward to Warwick and O’Connor offering help with ‘scrummaging and lineout clinics’ for Ballymena’s senior squad next season.

Nicholl’s recruitment and pre-season planning is already up and running, with Ballymena announcing their first signings for 2024/25 from their local schools and youth section.

One of their new signings, Michael McLean, played on the left wing for the Ulster Development team against the New England Independents at Kingspan Stadium last Thursday.

Ballymena Academy: Michael McLean, Daniel Vercoe Rogers, Sean McKay, Callum Irvine, Deon Fleming, Henry Casson, Robbie Coleman.

Cambridge House GS: Kyle Wakefield.

Ballymena RFC Youth: Daniel Hull, Josh McClung, Zach Carmichael, Stuart Holden.