Claudy v Ballymaguigan
Ballymaguigan make one of the longest trips of the day when they travel to take on a promising young Claudy team with former Antrim and Glenullin manager Liam
Bradley in charge. Both had good victories in the Ulster league with Ballymaguigan reaching the final before losing narrowly to Strabane Sigerson’s. The visitors will have the edge in experience with the Brady brothers, Andrew McCartney, Tony Walls and Gary Burke the leading lights but will be anxious to put
a disappointing 2012 behind them. Claudy are a work in progress with the Kerrigan and McGahon brothers, Christy Wood, Aidan McLaughlin and James McClay expected to show up well. Claudy may have the edge in speed but Ballymaguigan’s strength and experience might just shade it but don’t rule out a draw.
Slaughtmanus v Limavady
Last year a ‘shadow’ Slaughtmanus team gave Limavady a heavy defeat on their own home ground but such was the Wolfhounds improvement under new management that in the James O’Hagan Cup final there was just a goal in it by the end. Slaughtmanus are a very good team and had they been a bit more proactive last year they could have achieved more. Limavady are a very young, small team but they have loads of skill and pace so the wide open spaces of the Slaughtmanus pitch will be to their liking. One chink in the Slaughtmanus armour is their difficulty in getting goals and in this regard, the Wolfhounds are experts at finding the net. Slaughtmanus have a very good defence featuring the four Cooke brothers and an excellent midfield in John Robertson and Barry Lyons. Gavin McShane is the key man up front. Limavady have a very good half back line of Liam O’Kane, Conor Boyd and Niall McKeever but they are not particularly strong in midfield. Conor Forrest and Ruairi O’Kane will trouble the Slaughtmanus defence but in the end the superior experience of the home team should be enough.
Drumsurn v Glack
Newcomers Glack travel the short distance to Drumsurn facing a stiff task. While Drumsurn have a dozen players working away from home it is virtually impossible to get a full team out. However Glack will be missing their key man Eddie McLaughlin who is working overseas. Young manager Aaron O’Connor steered
the Glack boys out of a fairly weak junior division last year and his immediate aim will be to get off to a winning start. A lot could depend on how many Drumsurn players are available. Gary Moore has taken over from Joe Irwin as Drumsurn manager and with a full squad they are a match for any team. Drumsurn have lost big midfielder Damien Canning who has transferred to a Co Down club where he has been living for some time. This may mean dropping half forward Ryan Mullan back to join Cahir Mullan in the middle of the field. Drumsurn look to have the edge in scoring prowess through Ciaran Mullan and Cahir Friel. Glack’s James O’Connor, Kieran McIntyre and Ciaran Carmichael will be all out to prove that they are worthy of their promotion. However Drumsurn may have too much experience for them on the day.
Greenlough v Castledawson
These two former senior teams will be favourites to be in a the promotion shake up. Both have fine players with Enda Lynn and Brian McCallion of Greenlough in the county senior squad. Castledawson have their third manager in as many years; Paddy Campbell being replaced by another Donegal native Willie McAteer. This year Castledawson are expected to play a more open game after figuring in a number of very low scoring games but Greenlough are a lively outfit with Lynn very difficult to pin down and if Castledawson are to win they will need to curb is darting runs. Castledawson are strong in midfield through Martin Heaney and Aidan McElhone but they will be hoping to get more out of their attack. Greenlough came down after a poor Division One campaign last year and they will not find easy pickings at The Broagh.
Ballerin v Moneymore
Ballerin won the corresponding game away last year but this time Moneymore will be better prepared. The loss of quality players like Christy Young and Daniel Jackson to emigration was a big blow to their small panel. They had to endure a relegation play-off last year but came through comfortably. Ballerin were unpredictable, overcoming a poor enough league campaign to get a good run in the championship. They will have much the same squad as last year. They played in the Ulster League but scored just one victory. They have a good mix of youth and experience with several sharp forwards. If they get off to a winning start it will build their confidence but with Paudie and Stevie O’Neill in the visitors’ attack it looks to be an even contest.
Foreglen v Glen
This is the most eye catching game in the first round. The Glen youngsters are many people’s fancy to return to senior football. Foreglen reached the championship final and played in the promotion play-off but lost narrowly in both last season. They are fast and skilful team with Kevin O’Connor and Martin Farrell very good forwards. Oisin Duffy and Mark McCormick are a quality midfield pairing but at the back they have room for improvement. Enda Gormley, with so many of his squad in the St. Patrick’s, Maghera Hogan Cup panel, may be tempted to go with whatever experience he has in his squad. The premature retirement of Johnny Bradley with an eye injury is a blow but energetic midfielder Johnny McCamley will be the driving force. Very few teams come back from Foreglen with the points so this will be a very big test for Watty Graham’s.
Lissan v Faughanvale
Lissan slipped back last year while Faughanvale improved but there is no guarantee ‘Vale will win this game. Lissan are a capable team with strong men up the middle like Kevin O’Hagan, Patrick Coey, the Donnelly brothers and Shane McGlone. The ‘Vale may miss young midfielder Michael Quinn who injured a knee in a recent challenge game but they will make the long trip as favourites. They are likely to be without one of their top forwards, Martin McGuinness, through work commitments but they have some very good young players coming through. Stephen and Ryan King, Daniel McElhinney, Shaun Quinn and the excellent Joe Gray may have enough to edge victory.
Ogra Colmcille v Desertmartin
This looks a toss up between an Ogra team that did well in the Ulster league and Desertmartin who did not. Ogra despite having a small panel have proved a solid Intermediate team while Desertmartin have been wildly inconsistent. Desertmartin do not have the best of away records and Ogra have some very lively attackers like the Devlin brothers and Ciaran McDonald and in Mark Collins they have a very reliable midfielder. Desertmartin have Adie McGuigan, Gregory McGovern, Donal Murray, Peter Gormley and Danny Murray but this has more than the hint of a draw.