H&A Mechanical Services All County Football League Division One (Sunday, 3.30pm)
Dungiven v Slaughtneil
Slaughtneil, with those back-to-back county titles and some good young players emerging, look to be the team to beat this season, even though they lost their opening game.
They are very consistent and are sure to be at the business end of the league when the 15 rounds are completed. The Emmets will not be too worried with their opening day defeat to championship opponents, Lavey, last Sunday. They will, though, be wary of Dungiven, a team that has been able to give them plenty of bother down the years. The Slaughtneil management are unlikely to risk injured midfielder Patsy Bradley in the league so they’ll be aiming to bolster their midfield for the early games. The good news is that both Paudie McGuigan and Gerald Bradley are making good progress after knee operations.
Likewise, Dungiven will have their excellent half-back, Kevin Johnston, back. Mark Craig is back and the home team can match the Emmet’s in some areas. However, in the scoring department, Christopher Bradley and Shane McGuigan look to have the ability to take the points back over Glenshane Pass.
Verdict: Emmets to get first win
Magherafelt v Ballinderry
This will be a good test of the ability of Magherafelt’s very talented players to stake their claim as a serious challenger for top honours in the county.
Given the number of county players they have at all levels, they are bound to come good sooner than later. Ballinderry lost by a point to Kilrea at Shamrock Park in their opener and, for Martin McKinless’s men to lose back-to-back league games, is unthinkable. The Shamrocks are in a bit of transition with eyes no doubt on the championship. They conceded a penalty against Kilrea which was scored by Tiarnan Rafferty and that was the difference. James Bateson was their top marksman and he will be the main threat to the sometimes very kind Rossas defence.
With the Heavron brothers and Emmett McGuckin to lead the charge, Magherafelt have a decent chance of a rare victory over Ballinderry. They had a good 2-8 to 0-13 win over Ballinascreen last week and will be hoping to carry that form into this game. This looks close but Magherafter might sneak it if their defence is on it its game.
VERDICT: Close but Rossas might sneak it.
Loup v Ballinascreen
Sometimes there are games that have the look of a draw and this could be one of them.
Loup play a counter attacking game, just like the ‘Screen. Looking at the personnel on either team, they are hard to separate. Loup, perhaps, have the slightly better looking attack while Ballinascreen have the marginally better looking defence now that Dermot McBride is back.
Liam Donnelly, from Trillick, has a managerial wealth of experience which he will bring to the St. Colm’s. Johnny McBride is an inspirational figure who can get the best out of his Loup players. He is the club’s first home grown manager in years. Last Sunday, his charges had a good win at Dungiven while Ballinascreen were just pipped by Magherafelt so, perhaps, the form suggests Loup might be slightly ahead in terms of reaching peak performance.
Scores are unlikely to fill the referee’s note book but it is likely to be a hard fought affair in what is a great early season test for both teams. Loup won’t find scores easy to come by it and won’t be a huge shock if these two cancel each other out by full-time.
Verdict: Looks like honours even
Claudy v Newbridge
When the draws were made, both teams probably looked at this one with thoughts of two points.
Both clubs lost their opening games in round one, albeit narrowly. Claudy lost to Coleraine but did well after an early Eoghan Rua blitz while Newbridge lost to Swatragh.
Home advantage could make the difference here. Claudy are fast and inventive under manager Michael O’Kane who is an advocate of attacking football. Newbridge are never an easy team to beat but Claudy have the edge in speed though Newbridge are a solid side that do the simple things well.
If Shane McGahon gives the Mitchel’s a grip at midfield, Aaron Kerrigan could be the man to keep the points at home. With both expected to be looking over their shoulder, a win would be massive.
Verdict: Crucial points for Claudy
Banagher v Glen
Banagher blew a six point lead in the first round against Bellaghy and lost by a point.
They now take on a fast and talented Glen team who will hope to build on the experience gained last year. That said, Glen did not look world beaters in scraping past promoted Greenlough last Sunday while Banagher, under new manager Paddy Downey, showed enough against Bellaghy to suggest they will be difficult to beat.
Glen have a young but quick, and, perhaps, small back line. If Banagher play Mark Lynch up front, he could test their resolve. Glen have some accurate forwards and a very good midfield in John McCamley and county player, Emmett Bradley. In that area they should have the edge if Mark Lynch is pushed forward.
Banagher have Brian Óg McGilligan in the middle third, a player of high quality and also a good long distance free taker but he may be outnumbered.
There is unlikely to be much between the teams but Glen look to have more scoring potential - but they will have to improve on their first round performance.
Verdict: Glen, but Lynch could hurt them
Bellaghy v Coleraine
Bellaghy will hope to build on their opening day victory over Banagher when they take on Coleraine.
However, the physically strong and experienced Eoghan Rua will present a very strong challenge. With the county team not in action until May 22nd, the visitors will have a full strength side and that could be bad news for John Rafferty’s men who are in a team-building phase at present. Younger players are coming into the Tones team but they have pace rather than bulk.
Coleraine can be a bit pedestrian when they play defensive but when they push forward they are an extremely formidable outfit. The attacking strength of Colm McGoldrick, Declan Mullan and Sean Leo McGoldrick should see the visitors prevail. Bellaghy won the championship clash between these teams last year and that will give them confidence. Last Sunday, Coleraine had five points to spare over newly promoted Claudy when they had the game won in the opening minutes. They should make it two from two.
Verdict: Eoghan Rua have edge on Tones
Greenlough v Swatragh
Both teams will see this as a possible ‘four pointer’, even at this early stage of the season.
Greenlough came up from Division Two last year and are determined to stay in the top bracket. They pushed a fancied Glen team all the way in round one but the loss of Enda Lynn has been a blow for Joe Cassidy’s men.
New Swatragh manager, Peter McKeever, has a lot of youthful talent to work with and they will travel the relatively short distance as slight favourites. That narrow but important win over Newbridge last week was a good start to their campaign.
Greenlough are fit and well-organised with plenty of pre-season action but they need to get some early season points on the board. With James Kearney and his twin brothers, Francis and Patrick, to make an impression, the Davitt’s look to have the attacking edge. Michael Friel, Conor McAtamney and Paul McAtamney are strong players as well.
Greenlough play nice football but the strong and direct Swatragh look to have the advantage.
VERDICT: Swatragh to take direct route