It’s all about the Premier Division this Saturday after a raft of recent cup fixtures and as clubs’ head towards the half-way stage of the season there is still no telling how the title race might pan out this summer.

There are an intriguing set of fixtures to look forward to this time too; including at Eglinton where Bready are this week’s visitors.

These two sides have shown early-season signs to suggest that one or both of them could well be in the hunt for honours, making this a pivotal game in their respective campaigns. And for visiting skipper Davy Scanlon, a win over one of the expected challengers would help get the confidence back for the former league leaders.

“It’s a big game for both clubs and it’s one of those matches that you need to be winning if you’re hoping to compete for the league. We started the season well, and confidence was high, but we lost our way a wee bit over the past few games. We found it harder going having spent 50 overs in the field, but a win is all it would take for the younger players to get their confidence back.”

The Bready skipper agreed that this is the most competitive Premier Division races in many years, but he felt that most people would be happy about that.

“It isn’t all about Donemana or Brigade and when you see how teams like Fox Lodge are tackling those two then it gives everybody else a lift as well.”

“Fair play to Coleraine too- I like how they’re going about things and their younger players are now getting a chance with bat and ball and they’ve really responded. They’re a decent side and to see somebody like that sitting top of the league nearly hallway through the season shows how well they’re doing.”

The Bready man however only has eyes for Eglinton once he has the current Interprovincial 3-day game at home to Leinster Lightning out of the way, and the chance for the Magheramason outfit to keep the pressure on the teams around them at the top.

Elsewhere, “Sca” believes there is the potential for more upsets on Saturday as he ran the rule over the other trio of fixtures.

“There are a couple of really hard games to call, even at Beechgrove where Brigade take on Strabane. Most people will be thinking that it’s a home win all the way, but Strabane are a dogged wee side.”

“Fair enough, Brigade have good players and if you were just looking at team sheets you would have to say them, but Andy (Britton) would be the first to admit that they’re not firing on all cylinders. A home win is favourite, but this might be closer than you would expect.”

“Fox Lodge against Coleraine is literally anybody’s guess. The Foxies are batting really well- Cebo is scoring runs and Brian Allen looks to be right back to his best form and if Jason Milligan or one of the other lads comes off as well they have already proved they are a match for anybody.”

“Their bowling held up well against Brigade and they have to keep putting in those types of performances because the league is so competitive this year.”

“I’ve already said that I rate how Coleraine are going about things very highly. They have really good bowling options and Graham Hume looks unplayable at the minute and that then gives the rest of the attack the opportunity to keep pressure on the batsmen.”

“If they have a wee weakness it is the lack of genuine quality and experience in the lower and middle order. I think it’s been a really smart move dropping Hume down to 7 to bolster that part of their batting but it means that there’s a bit more pressure on the guys above him, and they also need to make sure that they have players who can then hang around with him in the closing overs.”

“It’s what they did against us- “Soupy” and Marcus batted very well and took no chances. They kept us in the field for the whole 50 overs and they held Hume back and it certainly worked for them. I really have no idea who is going to win this at the weekend but I’m sure Coleraine would be favourites.”

The final game sees Ardmore host Donemana with the Bleachgreen side trying to get over letting Brigade off the hook in last weekend’s cup quarter-final tie. Their move to bring in Niall O’Brien didn’t have the desired effect and now Gary Neely’s focus will be on trying to stay competitive in the league.

Despite back-to-back wins in their latest league outings against Bready and Eglinton, Ardmore are currently second-bottom in the table and could be doing with points. Obviously the same applies to a Donemana side that has lost three of their five matches to date and much could depend on the personnel available to the two sides.

Rumours about the future of Grant Mokoena at the Bleachgreen are refusing to go away with Neely’s side believed to have already lined up his replacement. That’s not ideal ahead of a challenge of this size and Scanlon agreed that Donemana would be favourites.

“Assuming that Niall O’Brien doesn’t play and seemingly down Kevin Martin as well, losing their pro at this stage would leave Ardmore’s batting very depleted. Donemana’s tails will be up after coming through those two very tough matches (against Fox Lodge in the league and Coleraine in the cup) and once they’re on a winning run they’re very hard to stop.”

“Obviously as we’ve discussed already you can take very little for granted in a season like this, but given the make-up of the two teams, Ardmore would need to catch Donemana on an off-day if they are to win.”


(All games 1pm starts)

Fox Lodge v Coleraine

Eglinton v Bready

Ardmore v Donemana

Brigade v Strabane