Westbank ready to pounce to claim Premier Division crown

The Westbank players celebrate after their Gilfillan Cup final victory at Wilton Park on Boxing Day. INLS5213-188KM

The Westbank players celebrate after their Gilfillan Cup final victory at Wilton Park on Boxing Day. INLS5213-188KM

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LAST weekend’s wet and blustery conditions saw the Saturday Morning League programme totally wiped out with all pitches in the Derry City Council area declared unplayable.

With one quarter of this season’s matches completed, the League Secretary is optimistic that an extension to the season will not be required with all games completed by May.

So the unexpected break last weekend presents an opportunity to reflect on how the first part of the season has panned out.

In the Premier Division it appears that the title will be won by any one of three sides who currently occupy the top three places.

And while Clifton Villa are currently setting the pace, Westbank United and Creggan Swifts are hanging onto their coat tails just one point in arrears. However, Westbank have two games in hand while Creggan have played one game more.

While Westbank look to be in the driving seat, all three teams must play each other so nothing can be taken for granted.

Rosemount are currently in fourth spot, nine points off the pace, so a fourth place finish would probably be their best effort.

Brandywell Celtic sit just one point behind Rosemount in fifth place while Phoenix Swifts, who appear to be going through a rebuilding phase, sit in sixth with Du Pont next ahead of Strabane Athletic who are propping up the Premier Division table.

Clooney started the season but failed to see it out and after a 25 year association with the league they, regrettably, had to withdraw as they were finding it increasingly difficult to field a side.

Gransha Runaway Leaders

In the Championship Gransha-Institute got off to a flying start having won all 11 league fixtures.

Tamnaherin Celtic are in second place, five points adrift but the Lettershandoney men have also played two games more than the leaders.

Collon Celtic occupy third spot and although they have played the same amount of games as Gransha Institute, they are seven points behind the leaders.

Sion Swifts remained in contention during the early stages of the season but they drifted away and the sit in fourth place, 13 points off the pace.

The Bentley, after a slow start, are beginning to pick up points and now look a threat to the teams placed above their fifth placing. Art Deco are in sixth place having managed to win just four of their 14 starts so far.

Tristar are next but they were expected to do much better than their current seventh placing. They have amassed 12 points from 12 starts but bigger things were expected of this young squad.

Newton Heath are placed second from bottom which must be hard for their senior players to take as they had always been involved at the business end of the table and face a battle to remain in the Championship.

Drumahoe were playing in the Premier Division last season and that experience has certainly dented their confidence as they have been unable to buy a result this season but the previous weekend they earned their first point following a 4-4 result against the side immediately above them in the league table. They appear to be destined to drop down to the First Division next season.

HML Lead the way

In the First Division HML have emerged the shining lights and they are currently riding on the crest of a wave at the top of the table

Just seven points separate the top five sides in this division and Metro are currently occupying second place three points behind HML having played a game more.

Hatmore Harps are in third spot, just one point behind Metro but they have a game in hand.

City Colts are in fourth place after a terrible start but they have won their last four games, results which have propelled them into a challenging position.

For a young side, Culmore have produced some excellent results while Oakleaf Celtic have struggled as they expected to impress.

Foyle Athletic, another side that was expected to do very well at this level but the have found the going tough this season and as a result they sit in the bottom three.

Oxford United are second from bottom but they made a decision to bring their young players through this season and although they have struggled this term, the experience they will have gained will have been immense.

Phoenix Athletic Colts are a very young side and this is their first season in the league. They have been finding their feet with more to come next season.

Next Saturday’s Fixtures

Saturday, February 1st - Premier Division - Creggan Swifts v Brandywell Celtic (Lisnagelvin No. 2); Strabane Athletic v Rosemount (Strabane); Phoenix Swifts v Clifton Villa (Showgrounds); Westbank United v Du Pont (St. Columb’s Stadium).

The Championship - Collon Celtic v Sion Swifts (Prehen No. 1); Drumahoe v Bentley (YMCA); Newton Heath v Tamnaherin Celtic (Leafair Park); Art Deco v Gransha Institute (Prehen No. 6).

First Division - Foyle Athletic v City Colts (Templemore Central); Culmore v HML (Culmore): Oxford United v Hatmore Harps (Thornhill College); Phoenix Athletic Colts v Metro (Lisnagelvin No. 4).