Claudy v Swatragh
(A McGilligan & Martin Brolly)
*Saturday 3.30 & 5.00pm*
Swatragh put up some battling performances last year but just came up short in their battle against relegation though they will surely be one of the favourites to finish in the top four in the promotion stakes this season. The experience of Michael Friel, Ruairi Convery, Phillip Mooney, Martin Quinn and Seamus Kearney will stand them in good stead. Martin Donaghy is in fine form at the moment, while the Kerrigan brothers Aaron and Shea, Eoin McGahan and Cahir Clyde bring youth to an experienced line up. Former Dungiven player Geoffrey McGonigle is the new Claudy manager.
Slaughtmanus v Ogra Colmcille
(E. P. Cassidy & Sean Mullan)
Slaughtmanus fought a long and arduous battle to avoid the drop last season, some excellent results against the top teams not matched by the level of consistency required to survive at the top flight but ‘Lady Luck’ did not shine on them at times. In 2009 they were the stand out league team in this division and with players like Gavan McShane, Barry Lyons, Kyle Gallagher, Adrian Deery, Cathal Deery, Ryan and Ciaran Barr there is no reason why they will not be serious contenders this season. Ogra Colmcille have already lifted silverware this season when they won the Graham Cup and manager Paddy McGuigan has set his stall out for a top half of the table finish.
Ballerin v Moneymore
(Gavin Dixon & Martin Donnelly)
At their best Moneymore would be a match for any team in this division but they have lacked consistency in recent years. If they can keep everybody fit they have the players in Christy Young, Shane Barton, Paudie O’Neill, Gerard Diamond, Stephen O’Neill and Richard Scullion to compete with all teams. Ballerin have some excellent young players like the very talented Gary Keane, Cathal Faulkner, Paul Ferris and Antoin Bradley to complement their more experienced players and they will be aiming for a top four finish.
Drumsurn v Limavady
(C Hargan & Laurence McCormick)
Limavady swept all before them in the league in Division 3 last year but slipped up in the championship and will find life much more difficult in the higher division this season. Players like Conor and Sean Forrest, John Deighan and Eoghan Kelly will have to step up to the mark consistently to keep the Wolfhounds away from the relegation zone. Drumsurn were without their talisman, Ciaran Mullan, for much of last season through injury and his presence in their attack will be a huge boost. They have plenty of talent but need to remain focussed in every game. Dominic Woods is back in charge of Drumsurn’s fortunes while Hugh Mulholland is the new man at Limavady.
Foreglen v Sean Dolans
Dolan’s could not have wished for a harder start than an away game against one of the promotion favourites, Foreglen, who have one of the most potent forward lines in the Division featuring the likes of Darren O’Kane, Kevin O’Connor, Niall McFeely and Ciaran McFeely. They are not bad either at the back where the four Duffy brothers give little away. Dolan’s do not travel well and after surviving their first season in the Intermediate ranks, they will be hoping to have learned from the experience. Joe Irwin came in late in the season and was happy enough with what he saw and came back for another year but this looks to be a task beyond them at O’Brien Park.
Lissan v Desertmartin
(Shane Mullan & G McWilliams)
The loss of Shane McGlone with a serious leg injury is a huge blow for Lissan but with home advantage they will still pose a big threat to Desertmartin who did not have a good 2010. Lissan are much improved and under manager Jude Donnelly they will be hoping to continue last season’s good form. Desertmartin faded badly in the latter half of last year and will need to step up on that if they are to get a result at Lissan.
Craigbane v Ballymaguigan
(Brendan Quinn & Gerard Mullan)
Ballymaguigan make the longest trip of the day to take on Craigbane in what is a very stiff opening game for them. For the first time in over a decade they will be without the now retired Gary Coleman but that said they still hit 3-9 against senior team Glen in a recent McGlinchey Cup game. Craigbane have lost some of their younger players to emigration but still have a solid look about them and with Lee Moore and Adrian McLaughlin in attack they may have too much firepower for their visitors.
Steelstown v Faughanvale
(S Hamill & Michael McLaughlin)
With Paddy Campbell stepping down as manager, Steelstown will have Hugh McGrath taking charge of the team for the first time but he has handled most of the players at minor and under 21 level. The corresponding game last year ended in a draw and there is little to indicate anything other than another close game. Steelstown have been getting in a bit of match practice in the Ulster intermediate league but Faughanvale showed ominous form in the O’Hagan Cup by beating Dolans 1-18 to 0-3. If Faughanvale can curb the threat of Daniel Jackson and Stephen Cleary they will have every chance of a first round win.