Slaughtneil (Holders) v Lavey (Saturday, Owenbeg, 7pm)
McGurk Chartered Architects Derry Senior Hurling Championship Quarter Finals
Lavey have won twice as many senior titles as Slaughtneil - 18 to 9 - but significantly Lavey’s halcyon days were between 1985 and 1999 when they won 10 finals and were the dominate force in Derry hurling.
In that successful period, the Erin’s Own defeated Slaughtneil twice, 1994 and 1995, with the Emmet’s ending a barren spell with a 1993 victory over Lavey.
However such detail is consigned to the history books, Slaughtneil setting out their stall to win a first ever four-in-a-row in the Oak Leaf County en route to another tilt at becoming the first ever Derry club to win the provincial title that so cruelly eluded them last season.
Lavey will have other ideas but manager Johnny McGarvey will be without Eamon McGill who is suspended from last season’s semi final and Paul Doherty and Michael Drumm who have retired from hurling.
Last year Slaughtneil duly joined Kevin Lynch’s and Lavey in the ‘three-in-the-row’ Roll of Honour of Derry Senior Hurling champions but nobody would have predicted that they would trounce their parish neighbours Swatragh in such convincingly ruthless and emphatic manner by 5-26 to 1-5!
Slaughtneil manager Michael McShane knows very well what Lavey will bring to the table as he was the man in charge of the Gulladuff team when they ended Kevin Lynch’s quest for ‘five-in-a-row’ at the final hurdle in 2010.
Now he has his own challenge to take on, four-in-a-row at the very least!
Slaughtneil have a wealth of talent at their disposal, a never-ending stream of underage talent now making their way onto the senior panel and pushing hard for inclusion in the starting 15.
Thier league form makes for ominous reading for the opposition. Only a June draw against Burt stopped slaughtneil from registering eight wins from eight but they remain firm favourites for another title and it will be a huge surprise if they are defeated in the opener.
Gerald Bradley will be his only absentee for this game as he starts out on that journey but with players like Chrissy and Karl McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Cormac and Oisin O’Doherty, Sé McGuigan, Sean Cassidy, Brian Óg Corbett, Cormac McKenna, Mehaul McGrath, Paul McNeill and Gareth O’Kane to call on the Emmet’s will start hot favourites to get over the first hurdle. Indeed they are hot favourites to lift the trophy and make another attempt on the Ulster title but perhaps if they take their eye off the ball it might offer Lavey a glimmer of hope.