DIV ONE: Dungiven target first win as Claudy travel to Slaughtneil

KEY MAN . . .Conor Murphy could be the key man as Dungiven target a first league win of the season this weekend against Swatragh.
KEY MAN . . .Conor Murphy could be the key man as Dungiven target a first league win of the season this weekend against Swatragh.

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Dungiven v Swatragh (Friday, 7.15pm)

The biggest surprise of the league to date has been the poor form of Dungiven.

Their team has undergone major surgery from last season and they look to have a lot of recovering to do. Granted, they have injuries but given they won the senior reserve title last year they would have expected better and that heavy defeat by Ballinderry last Saturday will not have helped confidence. On their form of the past few years few would have expected Dungiven to take such a nosedive in a short space of time.

Swatragh beat Newbridge and then suffered a surprise loss to Greenlough but they travel with at least an even chance of winning. Dungiven will hope to have Mark Craig and Kevin Johnston back and if they have that could tilt the decision in their favour. Swatragh have some good young players and are a team that can improve in time. Ruairi Convery gives them a great outlet at midfield and James Kearney is a player capable of getting goals.

Dungiven’s main problems seem to lie in the attack where only Conor Murphy has made an impact. In past games Dungiven have had the edge and if Craig and Johnston are back to support Murphy that might continue.

Verdict: First win for Dungiven

Magherafelt v Coleraine (Friday, 7.30pm)

This game gets top billing for Sunday as leaders Coleraine clash with another in form team, Magherafelt, with the Rossa’s having home advantage.

Magherafelt are seen as one of the teams in Derry football who are capable of making the big breakthrough. It is hard to imagine that they must go back to 1978 for their last senior title when they have had so many good teams since. Two years ago they looked set to push for a final spot but Coleraine proved too street wise for them on the day.

So far this year Coleraine have been a bit more attack minded than usual and that has contributed largely to their impressive start. Magherafelt have skill, speed and flair with the powerful Emmett McGuckin providing some much needed strength up front.

A good contest is anticipated with possibly home advantage being the difference in the end. Coleraine are hard to break down but they have several key men injured and that could leave the door open for the Rossa’s.

Verdict: Rossa’s can shade it

Slaughtneil v Claudy (Friday, 7.30pm)

Slaughtneil will be very strong favourites to pick up the points at home to young visitors Claudy.

Michael O’Kane’s fast moving team will do well to maintain their new found status and their task has not been made any easier with injuries to key players.

Slaughtneil too are without up to half a dozen of their back-to-back championship winning team due to injuries and ‘semi’ retirements. Even so, they can still field a strong team with young players like Padraig Cassidy and the deadly accurate Shane McGuigan to the fore. Add in the McKaigue brothers and Brendan Rogers and it sums up the task facing Claudy.

But it’s good to see new teams like Claudy on the big stage. They are a bit too strong for the intermediate grade and a few seasons at the top level will make them a much better team. Conor Johnston, Jamie Donaghy, Shane McGahon, Eoin McGahon and Paddy Hargan have lots of quality but the experience of Slaughtneil should prove too much. Aaron Kerrigan is capable of getting scores but the all round strength of the Emmet’s suggests a comfortable home win.

Verdict: Comfortable home win

Greenlough v Ballinderry (Friday, 7.15pm)

Greenlough must be happy enough with their start after two years in the intermediate grade.

They host Ballinderry but their chances of a surprise haver dipped with that injury to Niall Loughlin. Enda Lynn is recovering from a broken ankle which leaves Joe Cassidy’s side light up front.

Martin McKinless will not be unduly worried about the Shamrock’s slower than usual start to the league. He has been experimenting and blooding young players with the championship in mind. They still have been pretty competitive even without key men and will travel as favourites. They look to have more strength in depth than the Clady men. Greenlough are flying fit but the visitors with James Bateson, Daniel McKinless and Dermot McGuckin look to have more scoring potential.

Verdict: Shamrocks score second win

Glen v Ballinascreen (Friday, 7.30pm)

This is the meeting of the ‘up and coming’ versus the ‘tried and tested’.

Enda Gormely’s young charges entertain an experienced ‘Screen in a game that could attract the biggest crowd of the day. Glen have made a confident start and Ballinascreen have shown enough to suggest they’ll be in their usual top three or four spot. Glen have a lot of pace and quality while ‘Screen have threatened to make the breakthrough but been hampered by inconsistency. They’ve lost good players to emigration but can still field a formidable 15. They are good enough defensively but lack a bit of scoring power.

Glen lack height at the back but they are good tacklers and can drive forward. These sides look hard to separate but St. Colm’s extra experience may nick it.

Verdict: ‘Screen but only just.

Loup v Bellaghy (Friday, 7.00pm)

With home advantage on their excellent playing field, The Loup will be favourites to collect both points at the expense of a Bellaghy team that is gradually undergoing changes.

John Rafferty in his third year at the helm has been bringing in younger players as he attempts to rebuild this famous club’s fortunes. While they have a lot of good players coming through from the Under 18 and Under 16 ranks, it will take time for them to make good senior footballers. In the meantime it is the case of ‘holding the fort’ with the current mix of youth and experience.

The Loup have a mobile, energetic team that may lack a bit of physique but they blend well as a unit. They have Terence O’Brien, Aidan McAlynn, Thomas Mallon and the various McVeys along with back-to-form Anthony O’Neill.

Eoghan Brown is still the stand out forward for Bellaghy but if they are to get anything from the game others will have to step up to the mark. On form, it looks like Loup will claim a victory. Bellaghy will not make it easy but unless Brown gets more support in the scoring stakes, Loup should have the measure of the Tones.

Verdict: Loup too strong for Tones

Banagher v Kilrea (Friday, 7.30pm)

Banagher have not been setting the world on fire so far and face a stiff test against a Kilrea team that has done well with victories over Ballinderry, Ballinascreen and Lavey.

Banagher rely heavily on Mark Lynch and Eugene O’Kane for scores, mainly from frees. If they get a result at Feeny, they will have to play to the best of their ability. Brian Og McGilligan gives them a boost from midfield but other areas are not so strong.

Kilrea are seen as a team that has not fulfilled its potential after a number of very good under age teams over the past decade. Like other clubs, emigration has hit them hard while injuries have a problem with the likes on Conor McWilliams having to cut a promising career short. It would be fair to say that they have not been able to field a full strength team in the last five years.

Banagher’s new manager Paddy Downey has taken on a team that has not been in the top half of the league for some years. Still they have been able to carve out enough results to stay above the waterline but with James Kielt and Paddy McNeill in scoring form, Kilrea get the vote.

Verdict: Visitors to win in Feeny.

Newbridge v Lavey (Friday, 7.30pm)

Lavey travel the short distance to take on Newbridge, who will be without their three county minor stars in a game in which they will be strong favourites.

While Newbridge have some good players this will be their biggest test to date against a strong and well drilled Lavey. Peter McGrogan has been the main source of scores for Dermot Dougan’s men but he is not likely to get a lot of space against the tight Lavey defence.

Lavey have beaten Slaughtneil and were pipped at the post by Kilrea so they look a team that will finish well. Newbridge, like several other clubs, will anxious to garner enough points to keep away from the drop zone.

Cailean O’Boyle and Niall Toner will present the biggest test to the home defence which has not exactly been drum tight so far this season. That said, Lavey have shipped more scores than they would have liked as well. Form suggests a Lavey win but clashes between neighbouring teams are often closer than expected.

Verdict: Form says Lavey win