There's a break from normal league action for senior clubs this weekend as the opening salvoes are fired in the domestic cup competitions. Division 2 clubs turn their attention to the Northern Bank Senior Cup preliminary round whilst for those in the top fight it's the second round of the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup. The North West has already experienced one casualty in the All-Ireland competition with Killymallaght's defeat at Pembroke in the first round last Sunday but for the likes of Donemana, Bready and Limavady hopes are high that the region might be able to emulate some of the better performances of the past decade. These then are the matches affecting North West clubs this Saturday.
Malahide v Donemana
This represents a tough start for last season's finalists who have now lost two of their opening three games in 2009. The Holm side claimed their first win of the season when outpointing Eglinton last Saturday but that victory was sandwiched between a league defeat at Bready and their Faughan Valley Charity Cup loss to Limavady at the same venue on Sunday past. Azhar Shaffique is now back in tow after early season administration problems and they definitely need him after that lacklustre performance on the opening day of the season. One thing Donemana do have is players for the big occasion and the McBrine twins, skipper McGarrigle, Jordan McGonagle and company are all tried and tested at this level.
Malahide have assembled a useful team although they suffered the ignomy of relegation last time around. They have recruited Fintan McAllister from Rush, and Johnny Prior is a very talented performer with the bat. Great things are predicted for all-rounder Shane Getkate, while in the bowling department, Scotland off spinner Jimmy Govan is back on the scene and both slow left armer Steve Smith and Pete Saville can be relied to keep things tight. The hosts will probably start slight favourites which will suit the visitors down to the ground and they can pinch a place in the last 16.
Railway Union v Glendermott
Hardly a tie that Glendermott would have looked for in the early rounds this one, particularly as it comes on the back of a poor start to the domestic league season. The Rectory side were beset by all sorts of departures in the close season losing the spine (and neck and legs as well) of their squad from last year. Lendell Richardson has been added in to Bob Robinson's panel but with so many leaving the club it was always going to be a case of hoping just to consolidate, however at this stage it looks like Glendermott will have to improve dramatically just to do that much.
Railway will be boosted by both Kevin O'Brien and Trent Johnston who will be allowed to play despite Friends Provident duty with Ireland, and Tom Fisher, Kenny Carroll, Mohammed Tariq and Conor Mullen make Railway a formidable proposition. An away win here would probably make the headlines in the 9 o'clock news.
CIYMS v Eglinton
This could turn out to be a tight enough contest with the visitors certainly not travelling with any fear or trepidation. Bobby Rao has helped instill an air of confidence at the Village club and having easily accounted for Coleraine on the first day of the season they felt the only difference between them and Donemana last weekend was the early dropped catch off Richard Kee who went on to post a half century. In Craig Averill and Stuart Thompson Eglinton have two quality players that the hosts will know little about and Neil and Richard Stewart as well as Jason Browne, Johnny Gardiner, Nigel Thompson and skipper Andy Christie are others well capable of having a major say in the outcome.
CIYMS have a number of new recruits in their fold, none more so than Irish international all-rounder Thinus Fourie. Derek Heasley skippers the side, and has the talents of Barry Cooper, Neil Gelston and Paul Coverdale to call upon. There are doubts about the availability of Paul Coverdale, and that may prove crucial.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Eglinton's name in the hat for the next stage.
Lisburn v Coleraine
This would have represented an ideal introduction to the Bob Kerr Cup for Coleraine had it been on home soil but providing their professional Mohammed Salman has arrived in time they will still believe that it could have been much worse. Two defeats, to Eglinton and Strabane hasn't been the ideal start to life in the top flight for the Bannsiders, but there have been plenty of positives to be taken and with the overseas man still to be factored in there is nobody getting too despondent.
Lisburn themselves have hardly been pulling up trees in recent years but they do at least have the experience of the competition to draw on. Gerry Strydom is a superb batsman, while Greg Thompson has reinvented himself as a batsman – his leg spinners seemingly put away for a while, which is a terrible shame. Zimbabweans Ryan and Craig Ervine add depth to the side while David Simpson is a great bowler at this level.
Coleraine will not be found wanting in terms of commitment and will relish the challenge but the feeling is that they may be just a tad light.
Bready v Waringstown
This looks sure to be the game of the day of those involving the North West contingent with two sides who look sure to be contesting their respective domestic competitions this season. Waringstown may be emerging from North Down's shadow in the NCU but they are a very compact unit in inter-regional competition and will bring a strong squad to the North West on Saturday. Bready's first two league games this season were against the top two from last year and whilst they looked very impressive in accounting for Donemana in week 1 they were very much second best to Limavady on Saturday past. The Magheramason side looks like they might enjoy playing at home this season but will know that other teams will also look to utilise their wide open expanses as much as they do.
The inclusion of James Hall and Kyle McCallan is a great boost to the Mid Ulster side, and those coupled with the Kidds, Lee Nelson and Simon Harrison give their team a pretty formidable look. These sides have had some great tussles in recent years, and Saturday should be no different.
The hosts' bowling looks particularly potent this year and that may be enough to earn them the verdict here.
Brigade v Old Belvedere
Gordon Cooke led his side to a win at the first attempt last week when they recovered from a precarious situation to eventually account for Fox Lodge at Beechgrove. Brigade of course are one of the North West side's whose history includes winning an All-Ireland title and they will want to ensure that they make the most of a wonderful opportunity to progress this time. Old Belvedere progressed thanks to a telephone bowl-out win over Woodvale, but on the field they have more than useful players in all-rounder Sameer Dutt , the powerful hitter and usful bowler Yogesh, while Richie O'Donnell is a steady performer with the ball. South African wicket-keeper batsman Daryll Calder is a highly rated cricketer, while Derek ‘Del Boy' McGeehan never gives anything less than 100%.
It's probably fair to suggest that the former winners Brigade aren't among the favourites however and will probably acknowledge themselves that they are in a period of transition. Still, with players of the calibre of Iftikhar Hussain, Richard Wylie, Mark Simpson and skipper Cooke it would be something of a surprise were they to fail here.
Leinster v Fox Lodge
Another very interesting contest on the cards at Rathmines this weekend as the Foxies travel to 'Senior A' division side Leinster at their international venue, after forsaking home advantage following the monsoon conditions experienced in the NW this week. Gary Neely brought about quite a change at the club last season although it has been something of a mixed bag so far this term. Fox Lodge lost at Beechgrove on Saturday in a match that they will feel they probably should have won and then beat Glendermott in a twenty over replay on Sunday in a game they very nearly threw away.
Experienced heads will be called for this weekend and the home side will be dependent on the likes of new professional Darrell Brown as well as Brian Allen, Jonathan Heywood and Mark Mooney. Their bowling attack has been boosted by the arrival of Andy Britton and him and Neely will hope to keep the Dublin side quiet in the early stages.
Leinster have a very talented line-up with the explosive batting of Mark Jones and all-rounder Anton Scholtz . Will Lennon and new professional Carlos Braithwaite will be a handful with the ball, while wicket-keeper batsman Ian O'Herlihy is a proven match winner. Slow left armer George Dockrell is a rising star in Irish cricket, while former Ireland captain Jason Molins may well feature now that the time is in Dublin.
Anything less than a Leinster win would come as a major surprise.
Strabane v YMCA
Peter Gillespie's side opened their league account in good style last week when hammering Coleraine and given their good recent record in the inter-county series over the past few seasons will go into this one expected to win. Jonathan Beukes was in good touch on Saturday and Terence Patton made a welcome return to form in an 8 wicket win but the 'red caps' can expect to find this challenge a bit tougher. The skipper though is well aware of what is required to progress and with Mark Gillespie fit to play despite rumour to the contrary and Martin Deans leading the attack, with the returning Phil Eaglestone , Strabane look strong.
YMCA had a crushing win over Cork in the first round as Alan Lewis rolled back the years with a superb century. The experienced Angus Dunlop and Stuart MacCready have got the t-shirt, while Australian professional James Parkinson and Rob Nandi are super talents. Throw in the all round talent of Irish international Reinhardt Strydom and YM look potential cup winners.
Could well be the tie of the round.
Limavady v CYM
If Glendermott drew one short straw in this competition there can be little doubt that CYM have landed another as they travel to the Hunter Grounds to tackle bang in-form Limavady. David Cooke's side have won their first three games of the season in scintillating fashion and already look by far the team to beat in the North West. Chris Moore made a fantastic 148 in the Killymallaght massacre whilst Simon Dunn mopped up 6 wickets in that game and against Bready last week, Decker Curry, David Cooke and Ian McGregor all made sizeable contributions. Curry was then at his brilliant best as the Roesiders comfortably beat Donemana in the Faughan Valley Charity Cup final on Sunday past and you just get the impression that even without an overseas professional this season, Limavady look invincible.
They aren't of course and all it takes is one slip up and your competition would be over. It would be a very brave man who would wager that to happen here.
Second Round Ties