After this round of games there will just be three rounds remaining, and one outstanding game between Coleraine and Swatragh, with the league season concluding on August 7th.
Slaughtneil v Greenlough (Friday, 7.30pm)
Slaughtneil are the form team of the moments with a string of big wins behind them as they build toward the Senior Championship.
They will be favourites for another brace of points against a much improved Greenlough who have been competitive in every game despite the much publicised loss of Enda Lynn all season. Slaughtneil with their mix of youth and experience will be setting their sights on a third straight championship win. They will present strong opposition for the Greenlough team who have played remarkably well since they came up from Division Two at the start of the season. They are very fit, defend well and have the remarkably accurate Niall Loughlin to keep the score board ticking over. They are sitting above established clubs as Dungiven and Banagher which shows how well they have done this season so far.
Slaughtneil have a top class forward in Shane McGuigan and unless Greenlough can put the shackles on him they will face a difficult outing. Slaughtneil have a very strong panel of players with age seemingly no barrier. They should win but Greenlough will not be found wanting.
Verdict: Emmet’s gain more momentum.
Loup v Glen (Friday, 7.30pm)
This is a clash between two fast and skilful teams which should produce an exciting contest.
Glen have played five away games to date and have nine points. At home they have played five and lost three to Swatragh, Lavey and Ballinascreen. The Loup have an excellent home record with only one defeat to date and that was against Ballinascreen who defeated them in an early round.
So this is the clash of a team that plays well at home and one that plays well away! Johnny McBride has a tight knit and local family orientated bunch of players at his disposal. They may not be the biggest team but they can play football and are easy on the eye. Glen, under former star Enda Gormley, have been doing well and will be hoping to make an impression in the championship when it comes around next month. The loss of Conor Glass to Aussie Rules has been a blow but they have a good panel that maybe could do with more experience.
Nobody will run away with this game but possibly home advantage could decide a tight contest.
Verdict: Home comforts for Loup.
Bellaghy v Kilrea (Friday, 7.30pm)
Kilrea have faded badly after a good start and with the players they have at their disposal they should be doing better.
Bellaghy have had their ups and downs but have enough points to keep from worrying about their status for next season. With home advantage Bellaghy will start favourites unless some Kilrea players give their team more of a push. Bellaghy did well in the championship last year and may be saving their best for the knockout competition and hoping for another good run. They’ve been giving plenty of players some game time and with Fergal Doherty improving with games they look to hold too many aces for the Pearses.
Kilrea had a great start with wins over Ballinderry, Lavey, Ballinascreen and Banagher but then seemed to lose their concentration. If they can regain their early season form they will present problems for the Wolfe Tones. Bellaghy have a very fit, fast team with Frankie Donnelly though they will be without Eoghan Brown (county duty) and the suspended Ryan McNally. They could be stronger at the back but still look good enough to get both points.
Verdict: ‘Tones hold aces.
Magh’felt v Banagher (Friday, 7.00pm)
This has been a testing season for Paddy Downey’s Banagher and it will not get any easier at the end of their journey to Rossa Park.
Magherafelt are the league favourites while Banagher’s aim will be to get enough points to avoid relegation. Even though they are at the top of the table, the Rossas have not always played well and have had a few narrow shaves. Still they have the consistency that enables a team to keep on track. Their team is built on a good run of under age teams which they keep producing regularly.
Banagher, like other clubs from semi-rural areas, do not have a strong squad and as the years go by their options gets more restricted. They have some fine players like Peter Hagan, Shane Farren, Gavin O’Neill and Eugene O’Kane but defensively they have shipped some big scores and will be without Mark Lynch.
Magherafelt play attractive football and look to be lot stronger in attack but will miss the Heavron brothers and Emmet McGuckin (county duty). Banagher do not have the same stream of young talent coming through and this task might be too much for them.
Verdict: Has to be home win.
Coleraine v Lavey (Friday, 7.30pm)
Coleraine are not enjoying a good league run and they will find Lavey another stiff proposition this coming weekend. To be fair to the Eoghan Rua, they have had injury problems but had it not been for a good start they might have been in the danger area.
Lavey have not been a model of consistency with fluctuating results. They are probably the hardest team in the league to predict. They will travel to the north coast with a better form line than the home team and if they play anywhere near their best they look to have a decent chance of bagging both points.
Coleraine look set to be without the influential Sean Leo McGoldrick who has had an injury hit season while Liam McGoldrick and Niall Holly are on county duty. Lavey have a solid unit with plenty of pace in attack and a decent defence. Niall Toner and Cailean O’Boyle are key men in attack but could be unavailable through county duty. Shane Lagan is ever consistent at the back.
Coleraine are capable of popping up with a good result and with the championship getting ever closer they will be hoping to get back to winning form.
Verdict: Could go either way
Dungiven v Newbridge (Friday, 7.30pm)
Both clubs have struggled for points this year with Dungiven doing much worse than anyone would have expected.
They have been one of the stronger teams in the county for years but this has been their worst run in the league for decades. Newbridge, with a much smaller population to select from, are actually doing well to be in Division One but currently their status is very much on the line.
Dungiven’s last home game was less than memorable, an 11-point thumping from a young Glen team but the task against Newbridge looks to be nearer their current ability level and they did pick up an invaluable point against fellow strugglers Banagher.
Newbridge are decent in attack but they are not too secure in a defence that leaked six goals in a recent game with Banagher. If Dungiven are in a position to field their strongest players like Kevin Johnston, Mark Craig, Conor Murphy and Ryan McElhinney at O’Cahan Park they can lead their team to a very welcome victory that would ease their relegation worries considerably.
Verdict: Crucial win for O’Cahan’s