Sport

Kilrea's firepower may edge Banagher in Derry SFC

Banagher's Peter Hagan with James McNicholl of Dungiven during a Derry SFC match at Owenbeg last year
Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus Mullan

Round one of the Derry Senior Football Championship takes place this evening at Owenbeg where Banagher and Kilrea lock horns (7.30pm).

As the Derry SFC is a straight knockout this season, the loser will join Swatragh on the championship sidelines until 2017.

This is one of the games that could go either way, even though Kilrea will start favourites given their better league record.

However, in Derry club football league from is not always the best guide to what happens in the championship. 

Kilrea have not pushed on since they lost to Ballinderry in the 2011 county final when they had a team of great promise.

Move on five years and the landscape has changed, with injuries and emigration has forcing quite a few changes in the Pearse’s formation.

Niall Gorman and Liam Morrow are abroad, James Donaghy has retired, Joe and Eamon Morgan are injured and Gavin McWilliams now plays with Coleraine.

The Kielt brothers, James and Charlie, still anchor the midfield spots, while Paddy McNeill and Enda McAleese are active in the attack.

Banagher have also undergone something of a transition since they reached the semi-final four years ago. 

With a dwindling population and not the same success at underage level they have been struggling to keep their division one status for the past few years, but when the crunch came they were able to get the vital points to keep them afloat.

Mark Lynch is still there to lead the way in a team full of dual players. Brian Og McGilligan, Peter Hagan, Darrell McDermott, Eugene O’Kane and Gavin O’Neill are there to support the maestro Lynch.

Neither team has made much of a championship impact in the last few years, but with a straight knockout for the losers’ both teams will want to extend their season as much as possible. 

Banagher seem able to get some players out of semi-retirement for the championship and it is likely that there will be at least one in their line up tonight.

Kilrea will start favourites as they have been scoring more freely than the Feeny men. Paddy McNeill is hard to curb at corner-forward, and the deadly free-taking of James Kielt has also to be taken into account.

Banagher look capable of matching the opposition in the middle third, but when it comes to finishing Kilrea look to have the greater options. 

Banagher are great battlers in the championship so they cannot be ruled out in what looks to be a tight hour’s football.

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