LAST SATURDAY’S 38-24 reverse at Malahide may have taken things out of Omagh Accies hands, but hopes of a promotion play-off place remain at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields.
Phil Marshall’s men entertain Ballina, who were crowned Ulster Bank League 2C champions today knowing they must win if they are to claw their way back into the top four.
However, they realise that may not be enough unless Midleton, who are still fighting to finish second, don’t defeat a Bruff side who are just three points above Omagh.
As long as Bruff fail to pick up a point, any win for the Accies would see them finish fourth and that would earn them a play-off match against whoever finishes second bottom of 2B.
At the minute, though, that’s just a feint hope as their woeful away form in 2019 continued at Malahide last weekend.
At Estuary Road, the Accies produced a wretched opening half, which saw them 24-0 down at the break, but they recovered in the second half with tries from the returning Mark Smyth (2), Ryan Mitchell and skipper Stewart McCain earning them a bonus point, which could prove crucial come full-time this coming weekend.
“The unfortunate side is that this is out of our hands, but that’s down to our away form since Christmas, which has killed it. But mathematically we’re still going into the last game of the season with something to play for,” Marshall observed.
“During the first 20 minutes [at Malahide], we made three mistakes and it cost us 19 points. It was hard to take because they didn’t play anything wonderful, they were just very clinical and they are a big, solid side.
“We more than matched them up front, but their backline were very clinical. If you made a mistake or were fractured at all, they exposed it.
“Twice they scored from their own 22 when they turned us over, but at one stage in the second half we got Kaine Holden put in the bin and then two minutes later, Ricky Hemphill followed him, so we played eight minutes with 13 men!
“Then we got everyone back in and with 15 minutes to go we scored two tries to get the bonus point, which while it’s not much it could be something.”
Ahead of the Ballina clash, there’s good and bad news on the availability front. Ali Beckett, Ricky Hemphill and Kaine Holden are all absent, but Smyth impressed on his All-Ireland League debut from the bench and will offer a useful option in the pack, while Luke Hanson is still doubtful after suffering a knock to the head a couple of weeks ago.
Kick-off is 2.30pm.
Prior to that match, there will be a host of rugby entertainment on show at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields with the under-16s and 18s in semi-final action from 10.30am, followed by a legends game and memorial game for Kenny McKeown at 11.30am and the thirds will also be in action.