NORTH WEST SIDES LOOK TO IMPROVE IRISH SENIOR CUP RECORD

There has been precious little time for clubs to find their feet after last week's first round of league matches but we're already into one of the most pivotal days of the season this Saturday with the start of the Irish Senior Cup.

The North West's record in the country's premier cup competition has been “sketchy” to say the least of late; Limavady the last team from these parts to win the trophy some 12 years ago with Donemana (twice) the only side to reach the final since.

Truth to tell, the North West will do really well to keep half of their ten starters in the hat for the 2nd round, and may well have to make do with fewer than that.

Here's a list of all the games involving local teams and a brief look at the task facing each of them.

STRABANE V MALAHIDE

The Red Caps lost out to the Roesiders in that 2004 all- North West final mentioned earlier but haven't come anywhere near re-producing that sort of effort in the intervening years. Home advantage always counts for something in these ties for sure and the fact that the visitors come into the new season on the back of relegation from the top flight of Leinster cricket last year might also give Ryan Gallagher's men hope.

Michael Hingston represents Malahide's main piece of business over the winter; the former Waringstown man joining his Cricket Ireland colleague Chris Siddell in Fingal while Peter Chase, Fintan McAllister and Neil Boyne are other players that the home side will need to be wary of.

Strabane have match-winners too of course in Peter Gillespie, Aaron Gillespie, skipper Gallagher and overseas man Kevin Pretorius.

It could go either way but the Dubliners start slight favourites.

COLERAINE V MERRION

Not for the first time the Bannsiders have drawn the short straw early on in this competition; meeting the side who have reached the final in four of the last six years. Dom Joyce skippers the Angelsea Road team who were dealt a blow last week after their original overseas player Australian batsman Kerrod White informed them he was unable to come to Dublin. They are trying to source a replacement and may opt for former pro Matt Petrie who is on a deal at Trinity.

Scott Campbell's outfit are no mugs themselves of course and are fancied to go really well domestically this season. This is the type of game that their professional, Roshen Silva, will likely relish and a really strong Coleraine side will fancy their chances of avenging defeat in this competition to their visitors in 2009.

They're up against it but it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that the home side can spring a minor surprise here.

DRUMMOND V CARRICKFERGUS

Probably one of the toughest games to call next as two sides with their eyes fixed on domestic survival go head-to-head at the Roe Valley venue.

Iain Parkhill's men found the going in the top flight last time a lot tougher after sweeping the boards in the second tier in 2014. South African, Patrick Botha, replaces Indrajeet Kamtekar as overseas professional at the club while others to watch out for include Ryan Eagleson, Jamie Holmes and Alex Haggan.

Skipper Chris Moore is one of a number of Drummond players with form in this competition and both Ricky McDaid and Andy Christie played vital roles in Limavady's success in '04.

The teams look evenly matched but the North West side have a real chance of progressing.

BRIGADE V CIYMS

Game of the day this one as two sides who will feel they have a chance of going all the way clash at Beechgrove. Despite their recent successes the Belmont side have never reached the final of this competition, while Brigade lost in three deciders before finally collecting the trophy in 1999.

Former Beechgrove boys, Chris Dougherty and Johnny Thompson are two of the visitors' key players while Nigel Jones, Allen Coulter, Zach Rushe and of course overseas man Justin Kemp give the team a really solid look despite a poor start to their domestic campaign.

Once again though the North West side looks every bit as compact with skipper Andy Britton and professional Danza Hyatt heading up a list that includes Iftikhar Hussain, Ryan Hunter, Gareth McKeegan, David Barr, Jonny Robinson and Mark Simpson.

Two very good teams are likely to have little between them but don't rule Brigade out of this.


DONEMANA V DERRIAGHY

The Holm men are also former winners of this trophy- North West umpire Noel Dunn picking up the All-Ireland championship as skipper of the 2000 side that beat Limavady at Beechgrove. Habitually difficult to beat at home, Ricky-Lee Dougherty's side will be hoping that 2016 is the year that they can make their mark once more.

Derriaghy may not be one of the “big guns” of NCU cricket; however a battling squad under the stewardship of Craig Lewis won't be rolled over easily as they showed in Saturday's win over CI. Kaushik Aphale is the club's resident overseas man these days and they will feel they have nothing to lose heading into Tyrone.

Donemana though have a glint in their eye this season and will be desperate to be in the draw for Round 2.

MUCKAMORE V EGLINTON

No easy away day for the villagers either on Saturday as they tackle the side who are favourites for the NCU Section 1 title, Muckamore.

Skipper Neil Gill is again joined in the trenches by the very talented Ryan Haire as well as overseas man Avadhoot Dandekar in a game that should test the hosts' ambition for the year ahead.

Stuart Thompson's team will probably feel that they have enough quality to progress to the next stage but as always much could depend on the Irish International's ability to get his first choice team out.

Thompson and Oraine Williams will be key to their chances but Eglinton need to be a long way better than they were at home to Donemana to have any chance of going through.

WARINGSTOWN V BREADY

Things have changed a bit in the visitors' camp since they recorded a stunning win in the Ulster Cup final against Saturday's opponents back in 2014. That was followed by two successive relegation scraps that Bready only survived via the play-offs and the Magheramason men appear to have little else on their radar this summer than protecting their top-flight status once more.

Losing David Barr to Brigade and Craig Young to Hampshire on a temporary contract hasn't lightened the mood any for David Scanlon and against Lee Nelson's star-studded outfit they look bang up against it.

The cup holders will be in no mood to slip up at the start of their defence and it is difficult in the extreme to imagine that they will.

LEINSTER V FOX LODGE

These two have plenty of recent history as well and surprisingly it is the North West men who have had the upper hand with wins over the Dubliners in both 2010 and 2014.

Leinster's overseas man this year is Chris Janik-a former Singapore 1st class player although they could well be boosted by another International, George Dockrell, if he's available.

The Foxies have a very strong top order in Brian Allen, Jason Milligan, Marco Marais and Luke Hayes but their bowling just looks a fraction light for this level this year.

It may just be a bridge too far for the Ballymagorry men to make it three from three with the hosts just preferred on this occasion.


NORTH COUNTY V ARDMORE

Two more sides with a bit of Irish Cup history pairing up on Saturday with Ardmore and North County currently 1-1 in their personal shoot-out so far.

South African, Dylan Bignaut, is the Balrothery side's new professional while Jonathan Andrews has the skipper's armband. They may not be as potent as the ‘County sides that have dominated this competition in the past but with youngsters like Jamie Grassi in their squad they could go a long way if they got through.

Gary Neely's team certainly aren't travelling here as no-hopers however and if Messrs Curry and Jardine have a good day, you just never know.

Home advantage might be the only thing between them.

PHOENIX V ST JOHNSTON

A bit like the Bready game this one and the recently relegated Saints look to be bang up against it as they travel to the Phoenix Park in the last of Saturday's ties.

The home side have former Malahide pair Reinhardt Strydom and Alessandro Morris in their ranks this year while their new overseas man is South African, Nicolaas Pretorious. Sam Anderson will look to carry on the good work having seen his side promoted to the top flight 12 months ago and they should be too strong for a Saints' side that lost several key players during the winter.

David Macbeth will be focusing on consolidation as the summer kicks in although getting a result here would be a massive achievement in the circumstances.