Busy weekend in store in NW
There's a really busy programme of local cricket lined up for this weekend, with the first round ties in this season's Senior Cup taking place on Saturday, followed on Sunday by the replays of the league matches washed out on the opening day of the season.
It's obviously still very early days to be weighing things up based on form, but there are some really intriguing cup ties first up.
One of those is the game between St. Johnston and Ballyspallen where, incidentally, the venue has been switched from the Boathole to the Roe Valley in order to give the Saints' ground a little more time to bed in following major work over the winter.
The Donegal side are the last of the senior clubs into action this summer, but they do seem to have a decent crop of youngsters around at the moment and this could be an interesting year for them.
'Spallen themselves started with a decent win at home to Eglinton last weekend and new skipper Adam McDaid is confident that they can be in the draw for the second round.
McDaid has been training with the Warriors over the winter months following his move from Muckamore back to the North West and says he is looking forward to his new club testing themselves in the top flight.
"That win against Eglinton was massive for us"he began, "and we have a chance of progressing now in the cup as well."
"We played St Johnston in a pre-season friendly and although you can't tell much from those, we feel if we play to our strengths we should be good enough to progress."
"Every club will be looking for a cup run and we're no different, so it is sure to be a competitive day of cricket."
The 'Spallen skipper has no doubt who he sees as the biggest dangers in this year's renewal, and although two teams stand out in the league, the cup is all about Donemana.
"Brigade have strengthened well this season and will be very difficult to beat. I just think though that having lost out in their attempt for seven in a row last year, Donemana will have that extra motivation this time."
"Brigade are favourites to win the league for me, but Donemana will take some beating in the senior cup."
The Holm side entertain Coleraine in the first round, ironically the team they beat quite easily in the league last Saturday. Had it not been for an excellent 75 from opening batsman Scott Campbell the margin of that defeat could have been much greater, and the Bannsiders really do you have their work cut out this weekend.
Holders Brigade entertain Burndennett in a proper David V Goliath contest, and it would be one the biggest surprises in the competition's history were the visitors to emerge from this one.
Andy Britton's side have been very impressive in their couple of outings to date and look a cut above the Championship outfit.
It has been a difficult start to life in the Premier Division for Glendermott, and they entertain champions Bready in Saturday's opener.
Gordon Montgomery's team have suffered two fairly heavy defeats in their opening couple of games, albeit against the sides expected to compete for the major trophies. Bready will be another tough nut to crack but you would expect to see a more competitive edge from the Rectory outfit this time.
Davy Scanlon's men ground out a valuable win at home to Strabane last time, and they will have their heart set on a decent cup run.
The remainder of the first round ties could be a little trickier to predict.
The aforementioned Red Caps will be favourites to overcome Newbuildings but that is far from a "gimme". Peter Gillespie's team showed plenty of guile and quality to almost chase down a big total at Magheramason on Saturday and they have half a dozen players in their ranks who could cause the home team all sorts of problems.
Newbuildings of course are no mugs themselves and came very close to lowering Ballyspallen's colours in Sunday's charity T20 final.
They might be up against it here but home advantage certainly gives them a fighting chance.
Fox Lodge and Ardmore clash in the battle of the two sides relegated from the top flight in 2018. This pair experienced contrasting fortunes in the Sam Jeffrey Shield at the weekend; Peet Pienaar showing plenty of quality as the Bleachgreen team easily saw off the challenge of Bonds Glen while the Foxies were thumped at Newbuildings.
Home advantage could easily count here as well, but the visitors, with Pienaar, Decker Curry, Gary Neely and company in the ranks start favourites.
With Eglinton benefitting from a bye courtesy of Drummond's withdrawal, the final match of seven sees Killyclooney entertain Bonds Glen.
'Clooney also looked badly out of sorts in the Sam Jeffrey Shield at the weekend, but on paper they would be clear favourites for this one.
Overseas man Andre Henry can often be hard to work with in these types of games and the Bee Gees will need to be very careful of him and skipper Darren Moan in particular.
Bonds Glen are no bad side themselves but 'Clooney's strength is clearly in their batting and the visitors will not want them getting too far away.
Sunday's Premiership fixtures sees a huge game between Brigade and Bready at Beechgrove. Even so early in the season both sides will see this as a game that could well be pivotal in the outcome of the title race.
The home team will be buoyed by their wide-margin win in Sunday's T20 charity final against the same side, however that looks like having little bearing on this.
Ballyspallen will look to build on their opening win over Eglinton when they go to Coleraine while the villagers have a fairly crucial date of their own at Strabane Park.
Senior Cup (Saturday 1pm)
Donemana v Coleraine
Glendermott v Bready
Ballyspallen v St Johnston
Fox Lodge v Ardmore (12pm)
Brigade v Burndennett (12pm)
Killyclooney v Bonds Glen
Newbuildings v Strabane
Premiership (Sunday 1pm)
Brigade v Bready
Coleraine v Ballyspallen
Strabane v Eglinton