Newbridge and Claudy clash in Derry SFC
THERE are five Derry SFC games down for decision this weekend, with Newbridge and Claudy first up at Owenbeg today (Saturday) (5pm).
Newbridge were recently relegated and Claudy finished just two points above them. When they met in the league the game ended in a draw.
All through the league, Claudy’s Aaron Kerrigan was clocking up goals and points, finishing second highest scorer in the entire league with 5-59. Newbridge also had a high scorer in Peter McGrogan (0-63). They will be key players in what should be an intriguing contest.
Next up it’s Dungiven and Glen (6.30pm), the latter on a high after a comprehensive preliminary round win over Swatragh.
If one was to judge by Dungiven’s poor league form they would be rank outsiders for this game, but one notable victory was against 2016 league champions Magherafelt.
Mark Craig, Kevin Johnston, Liam Hinphey, Davy McLaughlin, James McNicholl, Gavin McLaughlin, Ryan McElhinney and Conor Murphy provide an experienced core for Dungiven but they will all have to gel if Dungiven are to progress.
Emmett Bradley and John McCamley could give Glen dominance in the middle third and if that happens, playmaker Ciaran McFaul, Paul Gunning and Danny Tallon could deliver up front for favourites Glen.
Tomorrow’s three-game package starts at O’Cahan Park, Dungiven where Division One league champions Magherafelt take on Greenlough at 3pm.
Magherafelt only lost two league games, remarkably against two of the bottom teams Claudy and Dungiven.
Greenlough have been a breath of fresh air in their return to senior football after a three-year absence.
Enda Lynn missed most of the league and Niall Loughlin part of it but other players stood up and took leadership.
Shane Heavern, who has been playing football in Philadelphia, will be playing for Young Irelands this weekend and will be a big loss, with doubts also about Conor Kearns, Fergal Duffin and Shea Murphy.
Danny Heavron, Emmett McGuckin, Ryan Ferris and Antone McElhone will be key for Rossas in a game they will be expected to win.
Then it’s the short journey from O’Cahan Park to Owenbeg where Ballinascreen and Coleraine open proceedings at 5.30pm.
This game will see one of the favourites exit the stage.
Coleraine seemed to coast through the league, introducing quite a few new players but never fielding at full strength.
Ballinascreen had a good league campaign and only a defeat by Ballinderry in the penultimate game stopped them from beating Magherafelt to the title.
They have a core of established and quality players like Dermot McBride, Carlus McWilliams, Philip Bradley, Shane Mulgrew and Barry Grant but Benny Heron’s absence will be a huge blow.
Coleraine’s Sean Leo McGoldrick is major doubt for this game but if he is any way fit I’d fancy he’d play.
The Mullan brothers – Declan and Ciaran – have pace and power, while the McGoldrick brothers – Barry, Ciaran, Colm, Liam and Sean Leo – are all hugely influential.
Ballinascreen at their best can go through but Coleraine will test them.
The final game of the weekend championship programme features Bellaghy and Ballinderry (7pm).
Bellaghy have had a poor enough league campaign but with Fergal Doherty back to marshal them from midfield they will need their talisman to produce a top drawer display against a Ballinderry side that improved throughout the league season.
The Tones have good pace in the attack through Eoghan Brown, Frankie Donnelly and the McElwee brothers but their big problem will be fragility in defence.
With experienced campaigners like Colin Devlin, Conleith Gilligan, Enda Muldoon, Ryan Bell, Kevin McGuckin and Raymond Wilkinson the Bellaghy back six will have more than a handful.
Eoghan Brown has been the lynchpin in the Tones attack and he is likely to be man-marked by Gareth McKinless, a top class defender.
If Eugene Scullion and Declan Brown can hold the defence together it will make it a difficult passage for the Shamrock’s but the loss of Ryan McNally through suspension is a setback for Bellaghy.
Bellaghy have a great championship tradition but Ballinderry have had an edge on them in recent years.