H&A Mechanical Services All County Football League Division Two (Sunday, 3.30pm unless stated)
Slaughtmanus v Moneymore
Moneymore make one of the day’s longest journeys when they travel to Tamnaherin for what looks to be a difficult task.
Slaughtmanus, a strong and well balanced team, have all their best players back and will be a team to be reckoned with this year. They have had a few difficult seasons of late but at full strength are difficult to overturn. Moneymore have some very good young players like Callan Bloomer and Emmett Crozier but it is their stronger men, like Paudie O’Neill and Christy Young, that will lead the way. Jack Barton is resourceful in the middle third and can push forward for scores.
Slaughtmanus have one of the best attacking wing-backs in the local scene in the powerful Barry Lyons. In attack, Ryan Barr, Kevin King and Gavin McShane are exceptional free takers and could be the main source of their scores. Both will have to score better than they did last week but Glenullin will defeat most teams this season.
Slaughtmanus scored just five points last week but will find possession easier to come by this week and should win.
Verdict: Slaughtmanus to claim points
Craigbane v Lissan
Not so long ago this would have been a given for Craigbane but the landscape of football keeps changing.
A number of retirements, coupled with emigration, has left the St. Joseph’s short of key players. Still they managed a good away draw against Ballymaguigan last week and are still a team to be reckoned with but not one who will run away with games as they used to.
Lissan have improved in the last year. They had a decent league campaign last year and still have most of that team available. They have the excellent Paddy Coey to lead the attack and his ability to win the ball, high or low, makes him difficult to mark.
Craigbane have Blain Gormley, Adie McLaughlin and Lee Moore who are all good players and might tip the balance slightly in the Lilywhites’ favour.
It could come down to who has the bigger influence between Coey and Moore, the latter of which showed last week he was in fine form. With the support Moore has, Craigbane have enough to win
Verdict: Lilywhites alright for win
Doire Trasna v Foreglen
This is a tough one for the Waterside men as the Foreglen team come to town.
The O’Brien’s spent the last two years in Division One and gained valuable experience at the higher level. Last Sunday, they were very impressive in defeating a much changed Steelstown by nine points.
Trasna have been a breath of fresh air since they came up from junior football at the end of 2013. They have caused quite a few surprises, particularly on the road. Last week, they were a bit under strength in losing to Ballerin away and, at full strength, will be expected to put in a much improved performance.
Foreglen, with Kevin O’Connor leading the attack, look Glenullin’s strongest opposition for promotion. They have a very good defence with Oisin Duffy the key man. Trasna play nice football but may be a bit loose in defence at times. Against the pace of the O’Brien’s forwards, the Trasna defence must not leave spaces.
Foreglen look good for the points, particularly with the free scoring O’Connor leading the attack.
Verdict: Foreglen to get second win
Castledawson v Desertmartin
Castledawson would love to get back to senior football where they were comfortable for many years.
Yet, despite winning two Intermediate championships in six years, promotion has eluded them. They take on a solid Desertmartin team at The Broagh and will be favourites to win. With Aidan McElhone fit to lead again, they will be one of the frontrunners to go up.
The St. Martin’s have had a good pre-season and will be fully match fit but their first round game against Faughanvale was postponed. Aidan Keenan is emerging as a forward of real quality and his ability to get goals could be a major factor in this game. Desertmartin have a strong spine to their team and will not be bowled over.
Verdict: ‘Dawson delight
Steelstown v Glenullin (Saturday, 6.30pm)
When both teams were in Division One, Steelstown won both league meetings but a lot has changed.
Due to emigration and injuries, Steelstown would only have about half that team left. They were well beaten away to Foreglen last Sunday and look to be unfortunate in having to face the potential top two teams in their opening games. Glenullin have been bringing in younger players and, so far, it has worked. They had a comfortable 10-point win against Slaughtmanus last Sunday. They are expected to go straight back up again and, with Paddy Bradley still deadly accurate, they are the team to beat.
Neil Forester has the pace to do damage but top scorer from the past few years, Mickey McKinney, has not hit top form yet. Glenullin have already beaten the city side in the O’Hagan Cup and Shane O’Connor at full-back has the unenviable task of marking Paddy Bradley. Of course, then you have Eoin Bradley at corner forward, another huge danger. Steelstown play good football and will not be blown away but, on current form, the task looks beyond them.
Verdict: Mitchel’s march on
Faughanvale v Ballerin
These teams met in the James O’Hagan Cup a month ago with Ballerin winning by four points but Faughanvale missed a lot of chances.
Neither team was at full strength on that occasion but, notably, the speed of the Ballerin attack caused the ‘Vale defence lots of problems. They will also meet in the championship later in the year.
The home team have some fine young footballers and are also very strong. Since Joe Gray took over as player-manager last year, they cruised through the junior ranks winning the league and championship as well as reaching the Ulster final. With Michael McLaughlin back at midfield, that might tilt the decision in their favour this time. They have two very good corner forwards in Kevin Martin and Eunan Murray who will give the Ballerin full back line plenty to think about.
Ballerin won well against an under strength Doire Trasna last week but look set to be without injured centre half Jarlath Bradley for this one which might just get away from them.
Verdict: ‘Vale start with home win
Drumsurn v Ballymaguigan
This should be a good game as two teams with a good mix of youth and experience clash at Billy Doran Park.
Ballymaguigan have a physically strong team who play a very effective brand of football. However, manager, Darren Conway, will not be impressed at his men losing an eight point lead against Craigbane and having to settle for a draw last week.
Drumsurn struggled for a number of seasons when the bulk of their team was working overseas but last year they were back to their best and finished well in the top half. Declan Toner is the new Drumsurn manager and has been getting a good response in training. They won a mud slog away to Moneymore last week. The firm surface of their home pitch will be more to their liking. Sean Brady is the driving force behind Ballymaguigan but, overall, they are strong and well balanced. Drumsurn may be a bit loose in defence at times but they have front men like Michael Mullan, Ciaran Mullan and Pearse McNicholl who can get match winning scores.
Verdict: Drumsurn get two from two