It's a clash between the Premiership favourites and last year’s surprise champions to start the new season in the North West tomorrow with Brigade having the most to prove as they bid to end an eight-year wait to bring the league trophy back to Beechgrove.

Although they do not have a ‘local’ player in their formidable starting XI, Brigade are confident enough to go into the new campaign without an overseas professional, content that the signings of Rachit Gaur, from Strabane, and Ross Allen, from Eglinton, will be enough to make them major challengers again.
Bready were the last team to beat Brigade — on June 30 — but as that was a fourth consecutive defeat for Andy Britton’s side, it left them with too much to do and a no-result against Ardmore was the final nail in their coffin.

But take nothing away from the champions, they won one more match than their rivals in a season best remembered for teams’ inconsistency, but it looks a big ask for Bready to follow up their first Premiership title with a second having lost Craig Young and Ryan Barr to North Down and Glendermott respectively.

More likely challengers this season would appear to be Donemana, who will be out to prove last year’s fifth place finish was an aberration, and Eglinton who have appointed last year’s high-scoring professional Mike Erlank as captain and signed Stevie Dunn from relegated Ardmore, who have confirmed that Decker Curry, at 52 years old, will continue his bid for a century of centuries.

Andrew Riddles is the new captain of Donemana and their professional is a Pakistani opening bowler, Bilawal Iqbal, while Tom Riddles could also make a welcome comeback.

Coleraine have availability problems over Scott Campbell and Rishi Chopra which could make a huge dent in their hopes of repeating their second place finish last season but they should still have enough about them to finish above promoted teams Glendermott and Ballyspallen.

The Rectory side, who came up as Section One champions, have snapped up Gareth Burns from Ballyspallen, as well as Barr.

Ballyspallen proved they could beat the seventh best team in the Premiership with their play-off victory last season and appear to have made a shrewd signing in South African professional Brendon Louw.

Strabane's opener against Eglinton has been postponed due to a bereavement at the Co Tyrone club.