CHAMPIONS ON RECOVERY MISSION AS LEAGUE HEADS INTO EARLY BREAK

The fixtures for Week 2 of the Premier League have thrown up an intriguing afternoon with the four winners from last Saturday all playing each other and the quartet of defeated sides doing likewise.

It’s an important set of pairings too because a couple of teams will still be winless heading into Week 3 and with a plethora of cup fixtures and the Pakistan Test match now taking centre stage, that won’t be until 2 June.

It’s a long wait for anyone still chasing their first win but it will certainly make for interesting viewing for the neutrals on Saturday.

Game of the day could well be at Donemana where the current champions will bid to put their Bready horror show behind them. The Holm side are no strangers to slow league starts to be fair, but you would think they could ill-afford to fall too far behind Brigade so early in the season. Their challenge here will come from an Eglinton side who themselves are expected to be in the top four come September.

Both teams should have their Irish Internationals, Andy McBrine and Stuart Thompson respectively, available for the match after both attended this week’s Ireland training camp.

Donemana will still be without the suspended Andrew Riddles however Jordan McGonigle and Dwayne McGerrigle should come back into the reckoning having missed the Bready defeat.

Eglinton had Ross Allen missing against Brigade but the all-rounder will be back for this one and the villagers just look better with him in the team. Allen, Thompson, the two Millars, Adam McDaid and new professional Mike Erlank make up a very decent top order and they will improve in the coming weeks.

All things considered however the signs might still point to a home win but it’s not that cut and dried. This is a dangerous Eglinton team and while Donemana might nick it, there will be very little in it if indeed they do.

Brigade v Coleraine does look like a “1” on the coupon but here too there is the potential for trouble. The home side started with a win at Eglinton which was more workmanlike than convincing. The top order has bundles of runs in it but the Bannsiders’ bowling retains a good deal of threat, so it isn’t straightforward.

Brigade’s feted attack has good pace options and quality spinners backing them up and yet it was David Barr who provided the late cutting edge at the weekend.

Coleraine are no back number themselves in that department and in Graham Hume have possibly the liveliest seamer in the league. The Chopra brothers and Scott Campbell pose a real threat with the pace off and Stephen Hutchinson should get it to hoop about if conditions are friendly for him.

Despite losing much of their quality in the close season Coleraine still have enough about them to compete throughout the summer, however the home side’s batting will probably carry too many guns this time.

Next up is Strabane v Ardmore and a chance for the visitors to get off the mark after letting slip a great opportunity on opening day. Any team would miss the quality of Decker Curry and new overseas player Grant Mokoena and the Bleachgreen side certainly did that.

Steve Lazars could be a very useful acquisition too; the Indian born all-rounder already showing more at his new club than he did at his last and these three, in tandem with Gary Neely, Ciaran Curley, Conor Brolly and the ever-improving Peter Harrigan should be able to propel their side towards the top half.

To their credit, Strabane gave it a real go at Fox Lodge last week having been set a mammoth 322 by Brian Allen’s side. On hindsight it looked a poor decision to put the Foxies in, however they very nearly justified it- falling just 38 short in the final reckoning.

The Red Caps’ problem is that they don’t have the tools in the bowling department and they’re trying not to let than influence things. Their new overseas man has landed and between him and Aaron Gillespie they will have to try to do the bulk of the work until Ryan Gallagher and skipper Barr are available as alternative options.

In the meantime, they are vulnerable and if Curry and Mokoena are back that could spell trouble for the Park men. If Ardmore’s batting holds up they should have enough about them to get that win on the board.

The final match-up sees something of a local derby as Bready host Fox Lodge. There haven’t been that many games between the pair in recent years although each won their respective home match against the other last season.

Bready had that stunning win over Donemana to get their campaign up and running while the Foxies saw off Strabane so both will go into this with a degree of confidence.

Jason Milligan remains sidelined for the visitors due to injury although in his absence Barry Scott and Aaron Heywood did an excellent job at the top of the order. It should be noted however that Milligan’s overs were definitely missed by Brian Allen’s team and the Ballymagorry outfit are probably just an option or two short in that department to allow them to challenge the top sides in the division.

No such worries for Bready of course although Craig Young’s services may be restricted a bit in the immediate future with the Cricket Ireland camp this week quickly followed by a Warriors three-day game in Leinster and then hopefully, the Test match against Pakistan the week after.

Even allowing for that and the absence of Reece Kelly this season there is just the suggestion that the Magheramason men hold most of the aces in this one. A solid looking top order and good options in attack mean that it is hard to get away from Davy Scanlon’s side who have the chance to go into the early break at the top of the Premiership table.

THIS WEEKEND’S PREMIERSHIP FIXTURES

Brigade v Coleraine
Strabane v Ardmore
Donemana v Eglinton
Bready v Fox Lodge