DIV ONE: Dungiven, Banagher seek to continue improved form
H&A Mechanical Services Division One
B’screen v Greenlough (Sunday, 3.30pm)
Ballinascreen are having a solid rather than spectacular league campaign but they will definitely be the favourites to get the better of Greenlough at Dean McGlinchey Park.
The ‘Screen sit third with four wins from their seven games to date without having hit anything like top form which will please the management who obviously have an eye on finally making good on their obvious championship potential.
Greenlough have done quite well since their promotion even with ongoing injury problems. Shane Mulgrew has been consistent in the ‘Screen attack and if Joe Cassidy’s men are to cause a surprise they will have to keep a close watch on both him and Benny Heron.
Newbridge’s main concern will be safety but things are getting very tight at the bottom of the table . Both Banagher and Dungiven have started to show a bit of form which is worrying for the O’Leary’s who could find themselves in a straight shoot-out with Claudy for that automatic drop spot.
Verdict: Only one winner - ’Screen
Claudy v Loup (Sunday, 3.30pm)
Claudy are finding life a bit difficult since their promotion and they face another mammoth task at home to a very good Loup team at O’Neill Park.
Claudy have a fast moving team but they have not been at their best in defence where they are lacking a bit of height. The frustration for the Mitchel’s is that, to some extent at least, their problems have been self inflicted and inexperience costing them at key times in close matches.
If the Claudy men can survive this season in Division One they will be better for the experience and that is the sole focus.
Loup hit 4-18 against Kilrea on the same night as Claudy got 0-8 against Banagher. Johnny McBride has the St. Patrick’s boys in fine tune and they travel as strong favourites. However this is likely to be an open game which will suit Claudy. The home team need to start taking their chances though as they have struggled against ‘blanket’ defences already but an upset is not beyond them if they tighten up.
Verdict: Looks like an away win
Kilrea v Glen (Friday, 7pm)
This game is being played on the Friday night at Pearse Park, Kilrea and it looks to be a really intriguing affair between two of the top teams in the Division.
Glen have been making huge strides this year and with comfortable wins over teams like Ballinderry and Coleraine, they will not fear anyone. They sit second in the table as the league season nears its half-way point which is testament to the strides they have made.
Kilrea have made an excellent start this year and although their form may have dipped a bit in the last few games they are still a quality team capable of getting high scores. Both play good football but with home advantage Kilrea might just nick it which would see them draw level with Glen on 11 points behind league leaders Magherafelt.
Both sides will be hoping to translate their good early season form into a decent Championship run and Kilrea will certainly be installed within the ‘dark horses’ category for the John McLaughlin Cup this season.
Home advantage may tilt this one.
Verdict: Tentative nod to Kilrea
Swatragh v Slaughtneil (Sunday, 3.30pm)
Slaughtneil have dominated the meetings between there close neighbours for years and while they will be expected to keep the Davitt’s on the back foot again, it will not be easy.
Swatragh have been building quietly with some very good young players and so far no team has swamped them yet this season. Indeed only one point separates the two clubs in the table and the Davitt’s have played a game less.
Slaughtneil have had mixed fortunes but with a ‘three in a row’ championship title win a possibility, they may have their eyes on the prize.
Slaughtneil have a bit more threat in attack through Shane McGuigan and the Bradley clan and that could tilt the result in their favour but this could be closer than expected.
Verdict: Emmet’s but not by much
Ballinderry v Newbridge (Tonight, 7.00pm)
It has been quite a few years since Newbridge got the better of Ballinderry and they travel down the Ballyronan Road as very much the outsiders.
While Ballinderry have blown hot and cold, the ‘Bridge have become something of draw specialists this season with three draws from six games. Had they managed to turn those draws into victories they would be significantly higher in the division instead of still waiting on their first win.
Ballinderry have been scoring quite freely though it is strange to see them ninth in the table.
Even though the points mean to the visitors, an away win is highly unlikely.
Ballinderry are too strong and with Conleith Gilligan as accurate as ever, the points are likely to stay at home.
Verdict: Home ‘banker’ for Shamrocks
Bellaghy v Magherafelt (Sunday, 3.30pm)
The league leaders, Magherafelt, should keep at the top when they travel to play Bellaghy at Sean de Brun Park.
In the tough world of Derry club football no team can take the other for granted and Magherafelt will not be over confident despite the difference in form between these two clubs at present.
Bellaghy, with their fast forwards, will cause any team problems but their defence is not entirely secure and Magherafelt have been scoring freely this season. The Tones have not had Fergal Doherty in action this year but big Joe Diver is in seriously good form around the middle and he can get them a foothold in there it could be pivotal.
There are scores in both teams. Bellghy sit mid-table but have lost only two league games - to Loup and Coleraine - from their six to date and have recovered from what was indifferent start to win their last two games.
Magherafelt have been excellent to date and boast considerable county experience now within their panel. They remain unbeaten and have a very good attack with Shane Heavron in good form. They look capable of taking another two points.
Verdict: Leaders Win Again
Lavey v Banagher (Sunday, 7.30pm)
Lavey are not having as good a league start as last year with three wins from their seven games but they are still a capable enough team.
They entertain Banagher who are beginning to show a bit of form after a difficult start but who still sit in a precarious position toward the foot of the table. That’s something they will be aiming to address before they turn their attentions to Championship so every point is crucial for St. Mary’s at the moment, especially given how close the bottom three teams in the division are at present.
All Lavey’s games have been very close and this one is unlikely to be any different now that Banagher will be at full strength.
Mark Lynch and Eugene O’Kane have been the chief scorers for Banagher but at the other end Niall Toner has been in scintillating form for the Guladuff men who, despite being lower down the table than they would like, are in no real danger from the bottom sides.
The league points will mean more to the visitors but home advantage is big for Lavey who should shade it but without several key players it will not be easy for them.
Verdict: Lavey to shade victory
Coleraine v Dungiven (Sunday, 3.30pm)
Coleraine’s form looks to have dipped a bit - but like their opponents they have a raft of injury concerns - while Dungiven’s is on the rise so this clash at Agherton could be quite an interesting one.
Dungiven have been gradually showing some form and beginning to claim away from the bottom of the table after a wretched start. With Conor Murphy back to lead the attack their scoring ratio has increased and they are unbeaten in their last three games with wins over Claudy and Kilrea as well as an encouraging draw against Ballinascreen.
Coleraine have looked sluggish in recent games but maybe they are training with the Championship in mind. Eoghan Rua are big, strong and experienced all over the field and might just pip the smaller Dungiven men, especially given home advantage.
Conor Murphy in the half forward line has been in fine fettle for the visitors even when a lot of his team mates have been below the radar and this may not be the most high scoring of games but Coleraine get the nod.
Verdict: Coleraine win but tight game