DERRY GAA: O'Neill's Derry Senior Football Championship Weekend Preview

The O'Neill's Derry Senior Football Championship sparring will cease after this weekend's final round of group games which will determine the parings as we head into the knock-out rounds.

Conor Glass will be facing county colleagues Oisin McWilliams and Anton Tohill as Glen take on Swatragh this week in he Derry senior football Championship. (Photo George Sweeney)
Conor Glass will be facing county colleagues Oisin McWilliams and Anton Tohill as Glen take on Swatragh this week in he Derry senior football Championship. (Photo George Sweeney)

And while it may not be quite 'winner-take-all' just yet there are still a few intriguing match-ups like Swatragh's clash with champions Glen at Slaughtneil or Steelstown's first ever senior championship home fixture at Pairc Bhrid as Newbridge head for the city.

B’derry v Slaughtneil (Friday, B’derry, 7.30pm)

With victories over Steelstown and Newbridge already secured, the championship specialists from Slaughteil should make it three win in a row. Ballinderry suffered a heavy defeat against Newbrdge but rallied to overcome a wasteful Steelstown. Slaughtneil have been playing without a number of injured key players but defenders Brendan Rogers and Meehaul McGrath are expected back for this game. Ballinderry’s main man, Gareth McKinless, missed Newbridge with a knee injury but came on against Steelstown and galvanised his misfiring team. Slaughtneil have had the upper hand on Ballinderry for a long time now and that’s not expected to change.

Steelstown v Newbridge (Saturday, St’stown, 2pm)

Steelstown have found the step up to senior very difficult but this is a game that, at their best, they can win. A heavy defeat at Slaughtneil was followed by a second half fadee Ballinderry. They failed to score in the last 25 minutes and conceded 1-05 in that period. Newbridge, led by county players Conor Doherty and Padraig McGrogan, have one victory and one defeat. Steelstown’s preparations have been beset by absentees and apart from Cahir McMonagle, their forwards failed to sparkle against Newbridge. If Brian Ogs are to get a victory they must go direct and play Ben McCarron closer to the goals.

Loup v Eoghan Rua (Saturday, Loup, 4pm)

Each team has a win and a defeat against Ballinascreen and Magherafelt respectively. The Loup will start slight favourites. Both held Magherafet well until half time but faded in the second against the very fit looking Rossas. The Loup have lost key players to retirement and are not the force of a few years ago. Eoghan Rua have introduced a number of young players into their attack in the last year and notably Dara Mooney and Lorcan Mullen have been making their mark. The Devlinbrothers, Ciaran and Caolan Devlin, are dangerous Loup forwards. Not much between them so possibly a draw.

Banagher v Claudy (Sat, Owenbeg, 4.30pm)

oth teams will be anxious to avoid bottom spot in Group D after heavy defeats to Glen, and Swatragh. Claudy have just had one victory in the last two years and, having lost to Banagher in the league, will not want to lose to their neighbours again but Banagher look to have the players who can carry them to victory. Former Derry player, Gavin O’Neill can give the Feeny men the edge at midfield and Tiernan Moore is one of the best forwards in this championship. Oran Armstrong has been carrying the scoring can for Claudy but he may not have enough support.

Dungiven v Lavey (Sunday, Dungiven 2.30pm)

This very competitive Group A winner could be decided in this game. Lavey have won against Bellaghy and Kilrea while Dungiven got hit by two late goals at Bellaghy having previously hammered Kilrea. While Dungiven have home advantage they will still be underdogs against a Lavey team that concede very few scores. After nearly a decade in the wilderness Dungiven are beginning to improve and, like Lavey, have some good young players. Lavey’s injuries are easing and they should be fielding their strongest team to date and that could be the difference.

Kilrea v Bellaghy (Sunday, Kilrea 2.30pm)

After being heavily defeated by Dungiven, Kilrea got closer than expected to Lavey in round two. Bellaghy look the better balanced team but Kilrea usually perk up when they meet The Tones and are capable of giving them trouble even tough they do not have the same bite in attack. Bellaghy are a work in progress but have not pushed on as expected after a run of good under age teams. It is not likely to be a high scoring affair but Bellaghy should win.

Ballinascreen v Magherafelt (Sunday, B’screen 2.30pm)

A great start to the season in which they won the Ulster senior club league that is now a distant memory for Ballinascreen. They have lost to Coleraine and Loup so on that form they look to have little chance. After some inconsistent league performances Magherafelt have now emerged as genuine contenders following easy wins over Loup and Eoghan Rua. Magherafelt look fit and focused so unless Ballinascreen make a massive improvement it will be another chastening defeat.

Glen v Swatragh (Sunday, Slaughtneil 5pm)

This is the game of the weekend between the holders and strong neighbours, Swatragh. The Slaughtneil venue will be bursting at the seams for the first real test for both after facile wins over Claudy and Banagher. Swatragh are capable of giving the Watty’s a good run for it but even without Ciaran McFaul, the champions still look formidable. There should be a great duel at midfield where Glen’s Conor Glass and Emmett Bradley line up against fellow Derry panellists Oisin McWilliams and Anton Tohill. Glen might have the slicker moving team but Swatragh are a powerful and direct. A stiff test for Glen but they should get through.