The Irish Senior Cup takes centre stage this weekend as North West sides look to end their long drought in the premier competition for club sides.
You have to go back to Limavady in 2004 for the last success for the region while Donemana were the regionís last finalists in 2009.
If truth be told there seems little chance of that barren spell ending anytime soon, with Leinster clubs and the NCU big two looking very strong yet again. There is encouragement to be taken though from recent strong displays by the Warriors.
Cork County v Strabane
The Red Caps have drawn the short straw and face the longest trek possible with a trip to The Mardyke to take on Cork County. They havenít had the best of starts to the season but will be bolstered by the return of Ryan Gallagher from Australia and they are hopeful of adding Rachit Gaur to their ranks as well.
Cork suffered relegation last season but have players of the quality of Ross Durity, Cormac Hassett, Harry Fitzpatrick and Ireland Under 19 international Aaron Cawley to call upon. This game could go either way, with Strabane possibly having the edge.
Clontarf v Brigade
One of the ties of the round sees the 2013 victors Clontarf entertain two times winners Brigade at Castle Avenue. The Dubliners have started the season indifferently but still are regarded as something as cup specialists. They have lost the services of John Mooney but have South African professional Obus Pienaar in their squad who is a very destructive player on his day. Bill Coghlan, David Delany, Joe Morrissey and Robert Forrest are all quality performers and it will take something special from Brigade to win.
The Beechgrove side will take solace from the fact that Donemana won here last year, and in their own form which has seen them make a fine start to the campaign. Althought they donít have a professional, they have one of the best bowling units in Ireland, led by skipper Andy Britton. The batting can be brittle but has shown signs of greater stability this time out with Gareth McKeegan, David Barr, Ifty Hussain and Johnny Thompson all making runs. Home advantage may just swing it for Clontarf.
Bready v CSNI
Bready face CSNI from the NCU at Magheramason and this tie represents one of the best chances for a NW side to progress to the next round. Bready have started the season strongly, topping the league, reaching the semi-finals of the T20 cup, and picked up the Sam McConnell charity cup with another win over Donemana. David Rankin was the Man-of-the-Match in that game, but itís been very much a team effort in their success with captain David Scanlon getting the best out of his squad. They should be strengthened by the return of Craig Young from international duty and he has been firing on all cylinders when bowling.
There is a familiar face in the Belfast squad with all-rounder Graeme McCarter plying his trade with the Stormont side, and the former Irish international will be keen to do well on his return to the region. They have South African Andre Malan who comes with a big reputation, as well as Marc Ellison, James Kennedy, Andrew Cowden, Ben Adair, Aaron Wright and Irish youth international Marcus Topping. It should be quite a battle with Bready the slightest of favourites.
Fox Lodge v North Down
Up the road at Ballymagorry, the Foxies take on North Down in another tough tussle. The home side have had mixed results this campaign but have shown enough to be encouraged. Barry Scott scored a century in the opening match but followed that with a golden duck which perhaps perfectly encapsulates their up and down form. Jason Milligan should be included after injury, while Brian Allen and Cebo Tshiki are big game players. Aaron and Gareth Heywood are consistent performers with the ball in what is undoubtedly the youngest bowling attack in the league.
North Downís overseas player is the talented Ruhan Pretorius, while former Irish international Ryan Haire is also back in the Comber side. Interpro players Ally Shields and Peter Eakin are clean strikers of the ball, while Marty Moreland is an experienced captain. Fox Lodge will do well to get a win but they have pulled off cup shocks over the years and will battle all the way.
Donemana v Merrion
Also in Tyrone, 2000 winnners Donemana take on Merrion, who have reached the final five times since 2010, winning it twice. The home side have made a stuttering start to the season, losing both league games, but they tend to save their best displays for the cups. Although they are a youthful side, they have packed a lot of experience into that time, with the McClintock twins, Andy and William McBrine, and the Doughertys having a bulging medal collection. Sri Lankan Malith Cooray has scored runs but his bowling hasnít seen much success and it will be the spinners who hold the key to Donemana chances.
Merrion have started the season strongly and are led by the battle hardened ex international Dom Joyce. Although registered, Ed Joyce is unlikely to play, but they have real quality with players of the calibre of Tyrone Kane, overseas player Poonish Mehta, Michael Lewis and brothers Sean and Tom Stanton. This has all the potential for an epic tussle which could go either way.
Phoenix v Ardmore
Ardmore are on the road to Phoenix Park where coincidentally Ed Sheeran is playing a concert this weekend. The Bleachgreen side are taking two buses and it could well be a case of former BBC war correspondent Brian Hanrahanís ďI counted them all out and I counted them back in againĒ for them, but I get a feeling unlike the Harrier jump jets in the Falklands War, there may be a few AWOLís come quitting time.
Ardmore have started the season poorly, but the recent arrival of South African Grant Mokoena offers hope of brighter times ahead. The Ardmore batting is notoriously fragile, but Kevin Martin, Paul McDowell, Decker Curry and the impressive Steve Lazars all can score heavily, while skipper Gary Neely will spearhead their attack.
Phoenix have recruited heavily over the close season, who have no fewer than four overseas players joining the club for the forthcoming campaign. Opening batsman Brad Kneebone is a 24 year-old New Zealander who plays for Northern Districts A. There is also fellow Kiwi Fletcher Coutts, Australian Ari Karvelas, and teenage South African Sine Tsotsa, a former Eastern Province youth wicket-keeper batsman. Add in Reinhardt Strydom and the Anders brothers and you get the feeling the Leinster side will have too much firepower.
Carrickfergus v Coleraine
Another NW side in with a good chance are Coleraine, who travel to Middle Road to face Carrickfergus. The Bannsiders may have lost some personnel but their results havenít suffered as they followed up their opening day win at Ardmore, with success in the T20. Graham Hume is the best quick bowler in the league, while Scott Campbell and Varun Chopra have both made string starts to the campaign.
Carrick have been badly affected by the weather but had an excellent win at Waringstown which should give them confidence. Pat Botha is their South African professional, while Daniel Poulton, Ryan Eagleson, Iain Parkhill, Michael Gilmour and Alex Haggan are all talented performers. This tie could go either way.
Eglinton v Leinster
Another intriguing contest sees 2009 winners Leinster at Eglinton. The villagers have shown they are likely to be in the top half of the league this years and in Stuart Thompson they possess one of the countryís in-for players as shown by his stirring all-round deeds in the Test against Pakistan. Mike Erlank looks an excellent acquisition as their professional, while Warriors Ross Allen always poses a threat.
In the opposition line-up is another left-arm spinner Ė George Dockrell, who skippers the Dubliners. They have a very potent opening attack with Bilal Azhar and Joe Carroll who could make early inroads. Gareth Delany leads a talented batting line-up which has depth. Eglinton could pull off a surprise if Leinster arenít at full-strength, but Dockrellís men will start favourites.