Banagher v Eoghan Rua
Mark Lynch and Padhraic Murphy were in sparkling scoring form for Banagher last week as they came from behind - five points adrift inside eight minutes - following a torrid start to defeat a Greenlough side that faded after a bright opening. Now they will be looking to make their best start for several years with back to back league wins when they entertain a Coleraine side that lost to Magherafelt in their opening game.
Coleraine were without a host of players for that opening day encounter - Declan Mullan, Ciaran Mullan, Richard Carey, Niall Holly and Sean Paul Henry - and they may well be absent again in what will be another testing game for Eoghan Rua.
Bellaghy v Greenlough
It’s a local derby but with the sides coming into it from different perspectives! Despite a five point start and a 1-05 haul from Enda Lynn last week, Greenlough lost out to Banagher by three points and though the trip to Oliver Plunkett Park may be short in length, it could be a fruitless journey. The Tones led 1-07 to 0-03 at half time against Dungiven but were holding on at the finish, top scorer Eoghan Brown scoring a late insurance point for victory.
With former Tyrone star Gavan Devlin at the helm, Bellaghy will be hoping to continue their winning ways and midfield powerhouse Fergal Doherty and ace forward Brown will be key to that objective.
Craigbane v Steelstown
These two sides were promoted last season, both knowing that they would face a tough year in the highest echelon of the league, something both experienced in their opening games although they came away from their respective defeats with a lot of credit. Glenullin were one point ahead of Glenullin when the Mitchel’s lost Paddy Bradley but they were unable to make their numerical advantage count.
Steelstown got off to a poor start against Kilrea but then acquitted themselves very well against the Pearses before going down by three points. Stephen Cleary and Lee Moore will be the key players in the scoring battle as both sides know that the winner of this game will have a distinct advantage later in the season.
Kilrea v Glen
Kilrea were made to battle by Steelstown after a three points burst at the start, their experience telling in the end. They should have James Kielt available for this game after Universityt examinations while the return of Lee Kennedy and Ciaran Og O’Kane gives manager Peter Doherty more selection options.
Glen came within a minute of getting a morale-boosting opening day win over Glen but had to share the spoils when the visitors grabbed a late, late equalising point to dent their hopes. Not an easy game at Pearse Park, the home side starting as favourites.
Ballinderry v Glenullin
These sides opened the season with a win but they were both made to battle to get the victory. In both cases there was a late flurry of points, Glenullin scoring three from 0-08 to 0-07 behind against Craigbane, Ballinderry outscoring Ballinascreen 0-04 to 0-01 to edge out the home side by two points. Now Glenullin head to Shamrock Park for what will be a very tough ask.
Eoin Bradley came off the bench in the second half but the Mitchel’s will need him from the start for this game. Paddy Bradley picked up two yellow cards in last week’s game but will be available to give the Shamrock’s defence a testing examination. In the absence of Conleith Gilligan it was down to Collie Devlin to lead the scoring charge and he will be the main scoring threat in this game for the home side.
Magherafelt v Slaughtneil
They both had excellent wins at the weekend, Rossas over Coleraine and Emmet’s against Lavey. The side lines will be manned by former Derry colleagues from the 1993 All Ireland wining team, Damian Barton for Slaughtneil and Gary Coleman for Magherafelt.
Slaughtneil will again look to the prolific Paul Bradley, but hope that Jim Kelly is available to give him support up front. Emmett McGuckin, Conor Kearns and the accurate Chrissy Spiers are the main threat to the Emmet’s defence. Slaughtneil are slightly fancied.
(Monday, April 23rd,
Loup v Dungiven
Dungiven will be disappointed, not just about their poor first half display but more particularly about their failure to get the win in the second half when they had Bellaghy on the rack and created the chances in the last ten minutes to take the victory. They will again be without Mark Craig and Fergal McGuigan for what will be a very difficult game. Loup scored a late equalising point against Glen and will look to their young scoring ace Anthony O’Neill to get their home programme off to a winning start.
Lavey v Ballinascreen
Ballinascreen were the champions last season after a final win over Dungiven but, like the latter, they too got off to a losing start, narrowly it has to be said against Ballinderry. Consistency was the key last year with just two defeats but they are without several players from last season, while Declan Brennan and Seamus Bradley are still out with injury, and Ciaran McElroy has returned to Tempo. Michael Drumm was absent for Lavey in their defeat to Slaughtneil, his steadying influence in defence badly missed. It’s hard to call this one, Caolan O’Boyle and Phillip Bradley’s respective scoring returns perhaps decisive.