Season to close with promotion play off
SEASON SET TO CLOSE WITH PROMOTION PLAY-OFF
Despite suggestions to the contrary at the weekend it would appear that Glendermott are set to take their place in the end-of-season play-off at Bready this coming Sunday. There seems little doubt that the Rectory club had thought long and hard about participating in the match given that they enjoyed a much more productive season in the Championship this year but it seems they will after all lock horns with the defeated team in the previous day's Ardmore v Eglinton match for a place in next season's Premier Division.
Fielding without professional Roy Silva the Bonds Street outfit will go into the game as underdogs regardless of which of the pair provides the opposition this weekend. Silva has been in free-scoring form for the club all summer and despite coming up short in the league overall they would obviously have a puncher's chance in a straight shoot-out. Without their star man you can understand their reluctance to tackle a Premiership side but it would appear that Gordon Montgomery's side were more concerned about the long term picture than any fear of Ardmore or Eglinton.
Obviously the rest of the Championship clubs can now get a well-earned break after what was in truth a long season. The title deliberation went down to the wire before St Johnston claimed the honours courtesy of Burndennett's last day defeat at Drummond. It was very hard luck on Mark Roulston's team after a run of seven consecutive wins but it would have been a long season in the top flight without the addition of at least four new players. The McCay pairing of Stephen and Ross had their usual solid season as did Gerard McAuley and one or two others but star man for them must be opening batsman Mark Doherty who looks a really talented individual.
The reality of course is that you would have bother picking a team from all the sides in the Championship that would compete for trophies in the Premier Division so whoever came up would always struggle. For that reason the Donegal side are probably the one with the best chance of survival and it will be fascinating to see how the likes of Michael Rankin, Ryan Macbeth, Nathan Cole, David Lapsley and even Jassi Wallia cope with their new surroundings in 2015.
Killyclooney had a fantastic season as they reached the final of the National Cup but it seems the further they went in the All-Ireland competition the more it seemed to affect their domestic form. Mark Gordon's team won six of their first eight matches in the league- some turnaround from winning once in the previous two years- but they only managed to claim the points once in the last six as their focus switched to the cup. Still, it was some summer for them with Gordon, Alan Colhoun, James Colhoun, Richard McMorris, John McCreanor and Chris Neely all finding form at various stages.
Drummond were probably disappointed with their year's work in the Championship although winning the Sammy Jeffrey Shield will have softened the blow. They're a much better side than we've seen in 2014 as they proved to Burndennett when the chips were down. The Roe Valley side is probably a spinner light of a real promotion-chasing unit and if they can keep the nucleus of their team together and bring in another bowler they will be among the title favourites again next time.
Of the others, Creevedonnell and Bonds Glen were solid as opposed to spectacular with Stephen Scroggie's side faring OK having lost too many players before the start of the campaign. Nicky Cooke wasn't available until mid-season either and their player/coach Mo Hanware didn't contribute enough on the field to make a discernable difference.
Up at the Glen former Donemana duo Ash Buchanan and Graeme Boyd had decent seasons while David Robinson and Leslie Curry were also on the money. The Bee Gees have probably found their level for now however and the emphasis is now very much back on playing and competing after their Premiership experiences.
And that just leaves Sion Mills who have had what should have been a year of celebration completely unravel in front of their eyes. It is impossible not to feel for Ryan O'Neill's men after they worked so hard on their ground and facilities in the weeks leading up to their big day only to end up chasing their tail immediately afterwards.
To be fair they realised early on that they were going to be vulnerable in the Championship but they were probably taken aback just a bit at how good a start Killyclooney got. From then on it was all about catch-up but the Tyrone side were unable to get that all-important first win. Disaster then struck of course when the spectre of relegation coincided with issues surrounding the availability of their home ground and the situation was unable to be resolved before the season ended.
In their 150th year the club were not only relegated from the senior ranks but also faced with the possibility of not even having a base, however the most recent signs are that agreement might be reached over the winter. The North West can ill-afford to lose a club of Sion's stature and the Union has been in contact with the club to offer its support.
No doubt everyone connected to the sport in these parts will hope that a resolution can be found as soon as possible. Meanwhile, it is Newbuildings who will make their way into the Division next season after Chris Cooper's side won Qualifying 1 for the second successive time. With the club having obtained a short-term lease on Foyle College's ground on the Northland Road the North West look set to give them a trial run in the Championship on the basis that work begins on their own ground forthwith.
And with that another memorable summer in North West cricket will come to a close on Sunday. It has been a long drawn-out campaign this time as a combination of indifferent weather and cup runs meant quite a few rescheduled matches. Still, at least we got the programme completed in decent time so it only remains to congratulate all the winners, and to wish Sion Mills the best of luck as they look for a resolution to their problem.
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