Kilrea v Steelstown
A year ago Steelstown made their bow in senior football and gave Kilrea a stiff test on the opening day of the season. Now more experienced and streetwise, the city men will know what lies ahead in this game. With Mickey Moran in charge Kilrea will be one of the teams to beat this year. They have been a strong team for the past two seasons and with their younger players maturing they will be again one to watch. Steelstown’s star man Stephen Cleary may be available for early season games but for much of the season will be based in Germany. Having defeated teams like Ballinascreen, Bellaghy and Glenullin last year Hugh McGrath’s men will not lack in confidence but they may have to give way to the scoring exploits of James Kielt, Patrick McNeill, Benny Quigg and Eamon Morgan.
Lavey v Slaughtneil
A game featuring two new managers, former player Jude Donnelly is in charge of Lavey and Tyrone man Cathal Corey is the new man with the Emmett’s. Lavey were poor last year and Donnelly will have his hands full getting them playing to their potential. They rely heavily on the tall Cailean O’Boyle for scores and if they are to cause a surprise, others will have to step up.
Slaughtneil, always consistent and hard to beat, will be strong in all lines and have the ever accurate pair of Jim Kelly and Paul Bradley to take whatever chances come their way. Patsy Bradley should give Slaughtneil the edge in midfield and it will be a surprise if they do not take both points.
Loup v Newbridge
The last time Newbridge were in Division One they had a torrid time but they should be much better prepared this time. With some very good young players like Nathan Rocks and Peter McGrogan and big Eamon Burke back from his travels to lead the line they should be strong opposition for any team. Kevin Madden is in his third year as Loup manager and has built an impressive young team but traditionally they start slowly. Anthony O’Neill is something special in attack and generally they are solid all over. Both have been preparing quietly but Loup should get off to a winning start at home.
Magherafelt v Coleraine
Since they won the county title in 2010 Coleraine have lost a lot of players to work commitments and injury. Still they have finished comfortably in the upper half of the table. They will face this game in the likely absence of Niall Holly who is recovering from an ankle injury and Gregory Bradley, who suffered a serious head injury in an accidental collision against Bellaghy last season.
They will hope to have Barry McGoldrick fit again and along with his brothers Ciaran, Colm and Sean Leo, they will make Magherafelt work for everything they get. Gary Coleman worked wonders in his first year with a young Magherafelt team and they can improve this year. They were the only team to defeat Ballinderry last term and that is no mean feat. They may not be the biggest team but in Conor Kearns, Emmett McGuckin and Chrissy Spiers they are not short of scoring forwards. They look good enough to get off to a winning start.