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Shanahan And McComish Shine For Ballymena

Shanahan And McComish Shine For Ballymena

Andy Graham’s Ballymena were too strong for visitors Corinthians as they ran out comfortable 20-0 winners in this Division 1B opener at Eaton Park.


Head coach Andy Graham is hoping his side can build some 'early form and momentum' in the league and they look very capable of doing that with their new-look half-back pairing of Ritchie McMaster and David Shanahan impressing.

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The 21-year-old scrum half Shanahan, who played twice for Ulster in the PRO12 last season, crossed for two tries and McMaster, formerly of City of Derry and Queen's, kicked a conversion and penalty.

Excellent number 8 Mike McComish, who provided three try-scoring assists on the day, anchored an industrious Ballymena pack, with the game's other try scored by loosehead prop Adrian Kirkpatrick.

Corinthians, who trailed 12-0 at half-time, had Connacht's Ronan Loughney, Miah Nikora and Eoghan Masterson in their team but the trio could do little to inspire the disappointing westerners.

The visitors – now coached by Pat Cunningham – relied on their bigger, heavier forwards to dominate, but they were no match for a determined and well-organised Ballymena eight.

For the first fifteen minutes Corinthians exerted some pressure until the Braidmen, with the back row of Clive Ross, Stephen Mulholland and McComish in outstanding form, soon began to exert control.

The Corinthians' scrum was in all kinds of trouble and the lineout ball they won was not put to any great use by their midfield, who found themselves up against a resolute Ballymena defence.

The deadlock was broken in the 20th minute when, from a scrum on halfway, McComish made a great break down the narrow side and linked with the supporting Shanahan (pictured below) on the outside and the former Ireland Under-20 international finished off with aplomb in the right corner. McMaster converted to put Ballymena 7-0 ahead.

Corinthians fell further behind when a great run by lock Connor Smyth set up a controlled spell of phase-building in the 22, and the ball was moved wide to McComish who sent Kirkpatrick over to the right of the posts.

The Galway club had to defend again on the resumption, but they succeeded in keeping the hosts out on a number of occasions. Attacking-wise, Corinthians coughed up possession too easily and spilled ball at crucial times.

A McMaster penalty, with 10 minutes left, gave Ballymena a 15-0 buffer and they signed off with a third try late on. A penalty led to a rolling maul from a lineout which McComish cleverly orchestrated from the back. He then broke from the rear to feed Shanahan for a simple finish near the left corner flag.

Ballymena boss Graham was obviously delighted after the game, praising the performances of McComish and Shanahan and adding that the great defensive performance and the control at half-back were the key factors in the victory.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)