Battle for honours set to be tightly contested
Ian Callender (Sunday Life)
LIMAVADY look to be the team to beat in the North West with last year’s Senior One runners-up boosted by the return of two familiar names and the signing of three players, including a new professional.
Decker Curry, controversially banned from all cricket for the last two months of the 2011 season, has had his one-year sentence reduced to six months, so the 45 year old former Ireland international is free to start his 20th year as a Limavady player. Even if he may be no longer the prolific run-getter of his earlier years, his presence in the dressing room remains a huge factor and it is no coincidence that Limavady lost out on the title by just two points last season in his extended absence.
The return of bowling all-rounder Chris Moore, who missed virtually the whole of last season through injury, will be like having a new player for the Roesiders and with Andy Britton, a one-time international three years ago, snapped up from Fox Lodge, they now have a bowling attack on a par with champions Brigade, accepted as the best in the region.
Limavady have gone back to Pakistan for their overseas professional and it is yet another wicket-keeper batsman, Zeeshan Malik, a role which has served the Roesiders well in recent years.
Completing the new faces at the John Hunter Grounds is another returning one, Dean Curry, son of Decker after his season with Bready.
None of the other championship contenders have been anywhere near as active in the transfer market and, indeed, Brigade are one down from their title-winning side with Chris Dougherty moving south to CIYMS.
The only other change is a new Pakistani professional, whose details remain scant and his name, Ali Khan, gives little away. He hasn’t had far to travel, however, having married an English girl and was living there.
Strabane, the 2010 champions, will rely on the same squad as last year with the only new name, again, their overseas star, Faizal Iqbal who plays in Pakistan for PIA. That team is a common link in the North West this year with the returning professionals at Bready (Aga Sabir) and Donemana (Kamran Sajid) both team-mates back home with Iqbal.
Despite hints that they might retire two years ago, the McBrine twins, James and Junior, are committed to another year and certain to major players for Donemana, but an improvement on last season’s third place will be a great season at The Holm.
In the bottom half, Coleraine continue to hold their own on the field and in the transfer market with Craig Averill joining from Glendermott – who have also lost Stephen Smyth and Rodney Pearson – and a new professional from Sri Lanka.
From the same country, Roy de Silva is the returning professional at The Rectory but with no other signings Glendermott could find themselves in the thick of the relegation battle as the last 10-team top flight League in Ireland is reduced, in common with the other provincial unions, to eight next season.
Bonds Glen and newly promoted Creevedonnell, who do not have an overseas player, are likely to be the other contenders to go through the trap door.
Saturday’s Long’s SuperValu Senior One fixtures: Bready v Coleraine, Brigade v Fox Lodge, Donemana v Creevedonnell, Limavady v Glendermott, Strabane v Bonds Glen.