BRIGADE AND DONEMANA IN CRUNCH PREMIERSHIP CLASH

There’s a return to league action for top-flight sides on Saturday with the game between Brigade and Donemana the obvious stand-out on a day of intriguing fixtures.

The “big guns” go into the match after contrasting starts to their respective summers- Brigade with two wins and Donemana two losses, however home skipper Andy Britton refused to accept that a win for his side would rule the champions out of a successful defence of their title.

“We’ve made a good start to the league season but because of the break for cup games there are only two games gone and still 12 to play. Strabane chased down Ardmore’s big total on Sunday and very few were expecting that, so it just goes to show that teams are capable of beating each other on their day.”

“A win for us would definitely make our position very strong but it would be nothing more than that. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that Donemana are out of it no matter what happens.”

The Brigade captain confirmed that he would be without Jonny Robinson for the game and while the Waterside outfit has options in attack, Britton felt that Robinson was a genuine loss.

“We’re bowling well and Ifti and Kyle Magee will hopefully take up the slack but “Bap” still gives you options with both bat and ball. I still think we have enough quality to cope but you need to be at your best when you play Donemana.”

Britton was also full of praise for Hussain’s efforts this season so far and felt that his return had been a major factor in their solid start.

“He gives you great options, especially when you’re trying to keep things tight with the ball, and obviously he adds quality to the middle order too. He’s a big player for us this season but it’s the same for everybody- we all have a role to play.”

Despite the Brigade skipper’s caution there seems little doubt that a third consecutive defeat would put a major dent in the champions’ chances of a third successive league title. They looked much more like themselves both against Merrion in the Irish Senior Cup and again at Strabane in the North West version last weekend and they never have any problems gathering themselves for games like these.

William McClintock has been exceptional for them so far this season but no matter where you look there are players who could easily influence the outcome of the game.

It is a notoriously difficult contest to weigh up- Brigade have form on their side and home advantage as well- but you know what usually happens when their backs are to the wall. It may be already crystal clear that a seventh successive cup win is by some distance the Tyrone side’s priority for the summer, however Ricky-Lee Dougherty’s men would enjoy nothing more that lobbing a cat in among the pigeons on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Bready will look to extend their perfect start to their league campaign when they go to Ardmore. Davy Scanlon’s side are currently in top spot courtesy of maximum bonus points from their two outings so far and much of that has been down to a bowling attack that has yet to concede 100 runs in a league match.

Scanlon, Craig Young, Irosh Samarasooriya, Gregory McFaul and Conor Olphert are surely as good an attack as there is in the region and Ardmore will need their batting nous if they are to recover from that defeat at Strabane on Sunday.

That could make this a clash of styles given that the home team’s threat so far has come from their batsmen. Grant Mokoena has found his scoring boots after getting among the runs in both games against Bonds Glen and Strabane last weekend while Paul McDowell has also started well.

Decker Curry looked in decent touch at the Park on Sunday as well, so it could be an interesting afternoon at the Bleachgreen.

Eglinton will start favourites at home to Fox Lodge as Stuart Thompson’s men look to make their presence felt in the top half of the table. The villagers have a genuine chance of breaking into the top three this season, but they will need to win games like this if they are to do so.

The home side were vastly superior to Killyclooney in the cup last time but are sure to be tested a little more this weekend. Brian Allen’s team were equally emphatic as they swatted Burndennett- Adam Walker and Gareth Heywood doing the damage there as the Foxies’ skipper continues to develop the club’s own youth players and give them opportunities at this level.

The villagers though have good reserves of quality with both bat and ball- Jamie Millar another player showing off his skills last weekend as he and Thompson scored those centuries against ‘Clooney.

Eglinton should have enough about them to get the job done here.

The final match is another interesting affair as Coleraine entertain Strabane down the north coast. The Bannsiders posted an impressive win away at Bready in the cup last time; belying the suggestion that they might struggle badly having lost so many players in the close season.

Scott Campbell has his side in decent shape at the minute and they have plenty of good quality still left in there with the three Chopras, two Hutchinsons and a really good overseas option in Graham Hume.

Plenty have been writing Strabane’s obituary as well of course but that vital win at home to Ardmore last Sunday will have given Strabane a real lift. They may still have worries at the top of the order, but Rhys Logue’s maiden senior century and the form of Peter Gillespie has offset some of that.

Ryan Gallagher’s return from Australia and the addition of Rachit Gaur hasn’t weakened the Red Caps any either and there is definitely the suggestion that there is more to come from Chathura Peiris.

It’s another difficult match to unravel- Coleraine likely to start slight favourites but Strabane won’t mind that in the slightest.