All the signs are that this will be a keenly-contested promotion race from the Championship and nothing we saw on Saturday did anything to dispel that thought.
Killyclooney led the way as they chased down what looked a very competitive Newbuildings total of 279 with Darren Moan providing the highlight of the opening afternoon.
The ‘Clooney skipper blasted 19 fours and 14 sixes in his 112-ball blitz meaning 160 of his 187 not out came in boundaries. Andre Henry added a quick-fire 55 (3 fours and 6 sixes) as the home side reached the target for the loss of 3 wickets and with more than 13 overs to spare.
Earlier, the visitors’ captain Marty Mehaffey had top scored with 64 while Jamie McIntyre (51), Chris Cooper (40), Tommy Thompson (38) and new overseas man Clinton Pienaar (30) had helped build that decent total.
Henry, Mark Gordon and William Finlay all claimed three wickets apiece for Killyclooney who started with a bang last season as well but were unable to sustain it. Things could get very interesting this year if they can keep it going a bit longer.
Ballyspallen are most people’s favourites to claim the one automatic promotion place and there were fireworks too from their overseas man Darnell McCallum as ‘Spallen won at the Boathole. There may have been no century for the West Indian but his 81 contained 12 sixes and very little running between the wickets.
McCallum got good support from the Kennedy brothers- Graham making 34, Stephen 27 and Stuart 24 as the Roe Valley men racked up 222. David Lapsley came into the Saints’ attack late on to pick up 4 wickets for the home team while there were two apiece for Nathan Cole and Ian Macbeth.
Runs were hard come by in the Donegal team’s reply- Rammohan Goud with 46 and skipper Macbeth (22) the best of it as Mark Averill (5-13) helped last year’s senior cup finalists start with a win.
Glendermott won’t be far away either and the Rectory men survived a bit of a scare before beating Bonds Glen by 6 wickets.
The visitors made what looked a below-par 136 courtesy of late runs from skipper Derek Curry (38) and Richard Curry (25) while Alan Johnson, Gordon Cooke and Ben Mills all picked up three wickets for the hosts.
Early wickets for Leslie Curry saw the Rectory side slump to 22-4 in reply before the Cooke boys showed their class with an unbroken 115-run stand. David dominated with a stylish 82 not out and Gordon added 21 as Glendermott got on the board early.
The final game saw Burndennett get the better of relegated Drummond in a battle of two sides who struggled over the winter. Both clubs are now operating without a 2nd XI but it was the Tyrone outfit who emerged with the points after former skipper Mark Doherty made an excellent 98 at the top of their order. Cameos from Ross McCay and Mark Pollock helped Eddie McGettigan’s team up to 235-8 while Steve Moore (3-32) and Jamie Millar (2-47) were best with the ball.
Drummond, who lost their top batsman Adam McDaid to Eglinton on the eve of the new season rarely threatened to chase the target down with Andy Christie top scoring on 36. Moore, Millar and Ricky McDaid all chipped in, but they were still 70 short in the final reckoning.
Next weekend sees Bonds Glen with their work cut out to stem the flow of runs from the Killyclooney batting line-up while Ballyspallen entertain Newbuildings as they bid to build on a winning start.
Drummond will need to keep the Cookes quiet if they are to pick up their first win when Glendermott come calling and Burndennett have home advantage for the second week running as they entertain St Johnston.