DERRY GAA: Slaughtneil, Ballinderry backed for Championship wins

Slaughtneil's Christopher 'Sammy' Bradley. ( Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com)

Slaughtneil's Christopher 'Sammy' Bradley. ( Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com)

M&L Contracts Derry Senior Football Championship

Slaughtneil v Lavey (Owenbeg, Friday, 7.30pm)

Ballinderry's Raymond Wilkinson.

Ballinderry's Raymond Wilkinson.

A potential blockbuster as these teams line up for a second Championship meeting in two seasons.

Last year Lavey’s impressive victory over the champions came to nothing as Slaughtneil went the qualifier route to retain their title and are now aiming to join the ‘three in a row’ club. Emmet’s management duo, Mickey Moran and John Joe Kearney, have been planning every move for the championship. They took the title last year despite losing Paudie McGuigan and Gerald Bradley to cruciate ligament injuries. Midfielder McGuigan has seen some action this year and Bradley is making progress but Patsy Bradley is back. Lavey have excellent players like full forward Cailean O’Boyle and can cause Slaughtneil problems. Niall Toner, Anthony McGurk, Ryan Farren, Chrissy Henry and Shane Lagan will not be perturbed by Slaughtneil’s high profile.

A lot could depend on how Patsy Bradley has come on from his foot surgery as the 31-year old is their talisman. Teenager Shane McGuigan is a potential star, Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley is quality but still much could depend on the tried and tested like Barry McGuigan, Francis McEldowney and Paul Bradley.

VEREDICT: Slaughtneil look at have the edge

Newbridge v Claudy (Owenbeg, Saturday, 5pm)

Both teams will be well aware that they are wearing the ‘rank outsider’ tag but one will be in the last eight.

Throughout the league, Claudy’s Aaron Kerrigan was clocking up goals and points. Indeed he finished the second highest scorer with 5-59. Despite their relegation the O’Leary’s also had a high scorer in Peter McGrogan, their ace free-taker, who scored 0-63 so if either defence concedes a free within 45m it will be punished.

In their final league game, Newbridge got a boost by scoring a rare win over an under strength Bellaghy but once again they conceded too many scores. Despite these frailties Newbridge have a slightly better defensive record than Claudy but there is little between the teams.

If Claudy have Eoin and Shane McGahon fit for action at midfield, it will be a huge boost. Forward Marty Donaghy has not seen much action due to injury. Big Eamon Burke makes the Newbridge side tick and he has plenty of willing helpers like Danny Mulholland, Peter McGrogan, Declan McKeever, Kevin Sweeney, Ryan McElhone and Odhran Scott. It may be the greater senior championship experience of Newbridge that sees them through.

VERDICT: Newbridge to nick close one.

Dungiven v Glen (Saturday, Owenbeg , 6.30pm)

Glen’s hugely impressive victory over Swatragh team has made other teams take notice and they go into this game as firm favourites.

Dungiven’s league form has been poor bar one notable victory. They were one of only two teams to defeat Magherafelt and it will take that kind of form to push Glen. At the latter end of the league they did show a bit of form as their panel strengthened with players coming back from injury. Glen’s big advantage is pace and intelligent running into the space so Owenbeg suits their style.

If Dungiven are to cause a shock they will need to win the midfield duel against the inform Emmett Bradley and hard working John McCamley. Dungiven will likely employ a sweeper as very few teams have six sticky defenders.

Glen hit 3-12 against Swatragh but Swatragh defensively have been poor though Dungiven have not been much better and will have difficulty holding speedsters like Paul Gunning, Danny Tallon and brilliant play maker Ciaran McFaul.

Enda Gormley has been around long enough to warn his players against complacency but they still must have a serious chance of reaching the quarter finals.

VERDICT: Glen favourites for last eight.

Magherafelt v Greenlough (Sunday, O’Cahan Park, 3pm)

Greenlough are the reigning Intermediate champions and Magherafelt the 2016 Division 1 champions and among the Championship favourites.

Over the past few seasons Magherafelt have flattered to deceive but the promise of something big is still within their ranks and if Shane Heavron has returned, it will be a huge boost. They have the outstanding Danny Heavron, goal grabbing Emmett McGuckin, Ryan Ferris, Antone McElhone, Michael McEvoy and Niall Higgins.

Joe Cassidy in his second year with the Clady Corner men has built the reputation of being quite a manager. Last year the Plunkett’s captured the league and championship at intermediate level with the same panel of players that they had for several years before.

Greenlough operate a well worked counter attacking system and when they met in the league Magherafelt just squeezed home by 2-11 to 1-12 but it could have gone either way.

Magherafelt willy be favourites but write Greenlough off at your peril.

VERDICT: Magherafelt have to be favourites.

Coleraine v Ballinascreen (Sunday, Owenbeg, 5.30pm)

This tie will see one of the favourites exit.

Ballinascreen have had a few false dawns but with Liam Donnelly in charge he will get the last ounce out of his team.

Coleraine seemed to coast through the league,introducing quite a few new players but never once fielding at full strength. Ballinascreen had a good league campaign and only a defeat by Ballinderry in the penultimate game stopped them from pipping Magherafelt to the title. They have a core of good quality players like Dermot McBride, Carlus McWilliams, Philip Bradley, Shane Mulgrew and Brendan Herron.

Coleraine have been without play maker Sean Leo McGoldrick for much of the season and he remains a major doubt. The Mullan brothers, Declan and Ciaran, have pace and power. Along with the imposing McGoldrick brothers the Eoghan Rua can turn out a formidable looking team.

Ballinascreen at their best can go through but Coleraine will test them all the way. This one looks very close.

VERDICT: ‘Screen but only just.

Ballinderry v Bellaghy (Sunday, Owenbeg 7pm)

There was the time when a meeting of these two would have set the juices flowing but Bellaghy have struggled against the Shamrocks for most of the last decade.

Bellaghy did well to reach the semi-final last year but they have had a poor enough league campaign. However with Fergal Doherty back they will not be just making up the numbers. They have a good manager in former Armagh player John Rafferty and pace in the attack through Eoghan Brown, Frankie Donnelly and the McElwee brothers but their big problem will be fragility in defence.

With wily campaigners like Colin Devlin, Conleith Gilligan, Enda Muldoon and Raymond Wilkinson along with the speedy Daniel McKinless in attack the Bellaghy back six will have more than a handful.

While some of the Ballinderry players have seen long term action they look to still have enough to have a serious tilt at the title and it will be a surprise if Bellaghy spoils that ambition.

VERDICT: Shamrocks stride on.