The closing games of the season will be fascinating, at both ends of the table, such is the closeness of those battling for promotion and those fighting to avoid relegation.
Nine teams are still very much in contention for the four top places and, with matches among these sides in the remaining rounds, there could well be a lot of chopping and changing. At this juncture points in the bag is very important.
At the bottom Claudy and Dolans are in deep trouble and, as both have difficult finishing games, both are very strong contenders for two of the four relegation play off places. Limavady’s position is also perilous, especially as they too have three very difficult closing games.
Realistically it looks like Faughanvale and Ogra Colmcille are battling it out to avoid finishing in the other relegation play-off spots, the Vale one point ahead going into this weekend’s meeting of the two sides.
Clearly this is a vital game for both sides, particularly Ogra Colmcille!
Claudy v Limavady
For these two sides in deep trouble at the bottom of the table, defeat is simply unthinkable! Limavady are currently three points off the safety net, with a vastly inferior points difference to Faughanvale, Claudy four behind Vale and an inferior points difference. Both sides must target victory and even then they could be treading water in the relegation zone if Faughanvale win!
Steelstown v Moneymore
Moneymore have a four point cushion in the top four, so one more win would surely copper-fasten their place in the top four promotion semi-finals. With two of their three remaining games at home they should achieve that target. If the Ballyarnett side can get something from this game they have a couple of relatively handy home games that would ensure a top four finish. Moneymore might make them sweat in this one though!
Slaughtmanus v Dolans
With only Claudy from the bottom four to play in their remaining games the position looks bleak for Dolans, despite morale-boosting draws with Ballymaguigan and Ogra Colmcille in their last two games. They have yet to win a game and their goose could be cooked unless they win this game, especially if Faughanvale win. Slaughtmanus must win this game to stay in the top four mix, but they have a tough finale.
Ballymaguigan v Desertmartin
Such is the closeness of the battle between the top nine teams that any defeat in the remaining games will be a major setback. Desertmartin have a two point edge and a healthy points difference advantage, both with four games left to play. For certain a Treas defeat at Longfield would make a promotion push problematic. Desertmartin would appear to have the easier finish after this and they will push the Treas to the limit.
Foreglen v Drumsurn
Foreglen are a couple of points off the top four but with a game in hand on the top three they are right in the promotion play-off running. They have two very tough games against Ballymaguigan and Moneymore among their remaining games, so they cannot afford a slip up against Drumsurn. The latter are on 13 points, like the O’Brien’s, but they are unlikely to be too concerned about getting to the play-offs.
Swatragh v Craigbane
This is the heavyweight clash at the top end of the table, Swatragh one point behind Craigbane but with a game in hand. While both will be fancied to finish in the top four no matter the outcome of this game, neither will want to add pressure by losing ahead of the last few games. Craigbane will fancy their chances of winning the three games after this, Swatragh splitting their four remaining games between teams at either end of the table.
Ogra Colmcille v Faughanvale
This is the most intriguing game of the division this weekend. Both have three games in the bag after this tussle, Ogra Colmcille playing three promotion seeking sides, Faughanvale with home advantage against relegation threatened Claudy. If Faughanvale can win on this trip to Drummullan then they will be almost certain of avoiding the relegation play offs, as they would have a three point cushion to Ogra. This is a ‘must win’ game for the home team.