Key League and National Cup games this weekend

It’s Week 9 of league fixtures this coming Saturday and the battle at the top of both sections of the Long’s SuperValu has been heating up nicely, with more of the same to come this weekend.

Just a fortnight ago we had Donemana holding a commanding lead at the top of Section 1, however back-to-back defeats has left Gary McClintock’s side in second place, although just a single point behind a Newbuildings team that beat them last weekend.

The Holm side will be keen to get back to winning ways ahead of their upcoming senior cup final against the new league leaders at the end of the month, however they have another trappy looking encounter away at Bready on Saturday.

Ian Young’s men have been a bit hot and cold themselves but they recovered quickly from a mauling at Ardmore to get back to winning ways at Killyclooney last time- a win that took them back into the top four in the table. Bready’s top order is as good as any around but the return of former skipper David Scanlon will help the middle and lower order as well as obviously the strike bowling options.

Donemana really do need a couple of wins to send them into the cup final in the right frame of mind so there’s plenty at stake for both teams.

Newbuildings will be favourites to keep their noses in front against a Coleraine side whose league form has taken a real nosedive in recent weeks. The Bannsiders beat Ardmore on the opening day of the season, but have only won once in their six completed games since, that against bottom side Killyclooney.

They’re a much better side than that, the Bannsiders, but Newbuildings are at the opposite end of the form spectrum right now and will be very hard to beat.

Brigade travel to Ardmore with neither team really at the top of their game at present, and if they have any prospects of challenging for the title this season, this has the feel of a must-win clash.

The Beechgrove side are probably the better placed for a run at the top in the remaining six games however Ardmore have a game in hand over Andy Britton’s men (v Coleraine) and two wins would possibly see them move ahead of the Limavady Road outfit in the table.

In-form Eglinton are on a winning run of five league games that has seen them move from bottom of the table to third in recent weeks. The form of the likes of Liam Doherty, Andy and Jamie Millar, Lahiru Dilshan and Mark Averill has accounted for plenty of that, and the villagers will be confident of making it six on the bounce when they entertain Killyclooney.

The Tyrone side may be bottom of the heap at present but their sole league win came against previously unbeaten Donemana, so it would be foolish of the hosts to let their guard down.

There’s a full programme in Section 2 as well, however there are also two National Cup semi-finals involving local teams on Sunday as Strabane travel to North County and Ballyspallen entertain Rush,

Match-of-the-day in this division, indeed maybe of both divisions, sees the top two, St Johnston and Strabane lock horns at the Boathole.

They’ve matched each other throughout the season so far and the only thing currently separating the pair is bonus points, despite the league leaders having been able to play a game more which the Red Caps lost to the weather.

Pound-for-pound there is so little between them and this could well come down to those individual battles. John Mooney has instilled a real edge in Strabane this season and nowhere is it more evident than in the field, where they have been superb.

To be fair, Graeme McCarter take a serious amount of credit for progress at St Johnston too and those key battles between Mooney, Nasir Nawar, Aaron Gillespie and Kevin Gallagher one one side and Jack Macbeth, McCarter, Michael Rankin and David Lapsley on the other could decide it.

Of course Strabane also have that small matter of a trip to Balrothery on Sunday as they travel to take on County in the National semi-final. It is a homecoming of sorts for former Ireland International John Mooney who was a huge part of the Fingal club’s many successes, but ‘Johnboy’s eyes will be fixed firmly on the prize for his new team.

It’s a massive ask for the Tyrone side against one of Ireland’s most decorated teams, but this will give Strabane an idea of how far they’ve come this season.

Bonds Glen and Glendermott should be another decent watch- especially give the form of Ben Mills, Alan Johnson, David Cooke and Heinrich Roberts among others. Many felt the Rectory side would be right in the promotion mix this year and while this is a very difficult game for them, it’s one they have to win to have any chance of staying in touch.

Results may not be quite on the mark this year but Burndennett have definitely improved under the Niall McDonnell drive. They are definitely getting closer and although it’s all about consolidation between now and September for them, they look too strong here for strugglers, The Nedd.

Fox Lodge entertain a Ballyspallen side once again without Graham Kennedy, however the Roe Valley team have found another very live threat in Tevyn Walcott. The visitors have the likes of James Cusack and the other two Kennedy boys as well, so they’re no one-trick pony, however they may also have one eye on Sunday’s National Cup semi-final at home to Rush.

The last month or so have shown how competitive this Ballyspallen team can be for the addition of a Graham Kennedy and while they are clear underdogs against the Leinster side on Sunday, they’ll definitely give it a real go.

Aaron Heywood’s team are still there or thereabouts in the league and have a Sperrin Springs final to look forward to later in the month, so there’s still plenty to play for. In Gayan Maneeshan they have found a quality overseas man and if they can get Brian Allen out most weeks as well, they’ll still have a big part to play this summer.

The best of luck to all teams this weekend, and particularly to both Ballyspallen and Strabane as they bid to reach the National Cup final.

 

 

This weekend’s Long’s SuperValu Premiership fixtures  (12 noon starts)

 

Section 1

Bready v Donemana

Newbuildings v Coleraine

Eglinton v Killyclooney

Ardmore v Brigade

 

Section 2

Fox Lodge v Ballyspallen

Bonds Glen v Glendermott

St Johnston v Strabane

Burndennett v The Nedd

 

Sunday

National Cup semi-finals

Ballyspallen v Rush

North County v Strabane

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