NW weekend previews
RELEGATION BATTLE IN THE SPOTLIGHT AS LIMAVADY AIM FOR TITLE
It’s almost all over for another year as the domestic cricket season draws towards a close but there are still plenty of unresolved issues to be decided in the final fortnight, at both ends of Division 1 of the Billy Henderson league as well as Donemana’s date with destiny in Dublin next Friday. There is plenty riding on this weekend’s fixtures then so here’s what’s in store on Saturday.
STRABANE V LIMAVADY
But for Strabane’s defeat at home to Eglinton last time this looked set to be the game of the season however the reality is that with four points now separating the teams the best that Strabane can hope for is to prevent David Cooke lifting the trophy on their steps. It’s all been about consistency this season and Limavady have shown more of it than anyone else although both the second and third placed teams have enjoyed good campaigns as well. Strabane in particular have improved markedly this year, the partnership between Kevin Martin and Niall McDonnell at the top of the order setting up some really impressive wins. Their bowling has been a shade light in truth but one area of their game that has struggled is the fielding. They’ve dropped a few chances, including that defeat last Saturday where Eglinton professional Simon Jackson made them pay a big price.
Limavady go into the game no doubt wanting to sew up the title but with the luxury of knowing they have at least another free go if they fail here. They too have benefitted from solid batting performances, Decker and Dean Curry posting century partnerships in both of their last two games. Match-winners all over the park means that David Cooke has plenty of options but with the pressure off, Strabane could be a very dangerous opponent. Limavady may have to wait a few days yet before taking the title trophy back to the Hunter Grounds.
EGLINTON V KILLYMALLAGHT
A clash of two sides in very contrasting form at the Village, Eglinton coming off the back of away wins at Bready and Strabane whilst the visitors are on a losing run that goes back to June. In that same time Andy Christie’s side have lost just once, to champions-elect Limavady and despite their poor start Eglinton must surely be eyeing up a top half finish. Of the pair of course the game is of paramount importance to Killymallaght although Peter Allen’s men will need to be an awful lot better than they were against Donemana at the weekend if they are to take anything from it. There simply isn’t enough quality at present but they have such a fighting spirit that they can never be ruled out. Truth to tell the visitors probably won’t mind this and will know that any win from their final three games will be enough to keep them up.
Eglinton will be buoyant after bursting both Bready and Strabane’s bubble and much will depend on how they approach the game. It wouldn’t be the first time that Killymallaght have turned them over in recent times although all the available evidence points to a home win this time.
BREADY V GLENDERMOTT
This is probably a bigger game for both sides that it might at first appear. Glendermott’s plight is obvious, they don’t want to be going to Coleraine next weekend having to win to stay up and Bready need to finish with a bit more intent that has been the case in their past few matches. The Rectory side ought to have Johnny Thompson available after suspension and although they beat Brigade without him, the all-rounder’s quality gives them a real cutting edge. Again, much will depend on the side that Bready can put out as they regularly seem to struggle with holiday commitments at this key part of the season. Steven Clarke did his best to hold it together in their dismal showing against Fox Lodge last time but Glendermott will be delighted if they can keep their hosts equally subdued.
For their part, the visitors know that the pressure is right back on them if Coleraine pick up one more win and they will be keen to grasp every opportunity to get an advantage themselves. Had this game been played four weeks ago they wouldn’t have counted but there is every reason to believe that they can make their presence felt this time.
BRIGADE V DONEMANA
It’s not hard to understand why this fixture was reserved until the penultimate game of the season but with both sides failing to land a blow in the title race, it is little more now than a warm up for the visitors’ real business, next weeks Irish Senior Cup final. Brigade have fared reasonably well all things considered but their wins have by and large come against the sides below them and they have looked a long way off trophy winning status. Even the normally reliable Iftikhar Hussain has been very reserved and their biggest performances have come from Thomas Thompson and Gordon Cooke, allowing them the comfort of mid-table respectability.
Donemana, the reigning champions, have seen their title taken from them a lot easier than they are renowned for but if they were to add the All-Ireland cup to their Northern Bank Senior Cup win then that would certainly constitute a brilliant season regardless of their league form. With all due respect to their opponents, the Holm side will be forgiven for looking several days ahead from this one and can win this batting practice session as well.
COLERAINE V FOX LODGE
Plenty at stake down the coast on Saturday as well with Coleraine just one win short of throwing a real spanner in the relegation dogfight. They have a twenty over replay at Donemana and that crucial home clash with Glendermott to come after this and they obviously feel they can win at least one of those. Rory Knox has been sensational for them in recent weeks, the teenager bowling as well as anyone in this league and they always have a chance with their decent batting line up. What they have to do is get a little tougher however and matches are running out to do so.
The Foxes have been playing really well too, their thumping by Strabane apart, Gary Neely’s side have been doing fine. Brian Allen, Darryl Brown, Johnny Robinson and Jason Milligan have all been in good touch this season and they are another side who have improved as the summer has gone on. Coleraine would dearly love to make this win number three and with home advantage anything is possible. The fact remains though that the Foxes are in such good form that Coleraine may just be short again.