Busy weekend ahead in NW
There's a double-header weekend looming for most of the Premier Division side's with Saturday's league action followed by the quarter-finals of this year's North West Senior Cup the following day.
Ironically, the cup draw has thrown up a couple of games that mirror Saturday's league fixtures. The standout among them is Brigade and Donemana who lock horns in a top-of-the-table Premier Division battle on Saturday, followed by that much -anticipated cup clash at the Holm on Sunday.
It's a similar story for Strabane and Ballyspallen who meet in the league on Saturday at the Park, and again in the Roe Valley in the region's Blue Riband trophy on Sunday.
We start then with a look at those Premier games first up, beginning at Beechgrove and what looks certain to be a key game in this year's title race.
Andy Britton's team seized the initiative with two big wins last weekend while Donemana lost their unbeaten tag at Eglinton.
That turnaround now puts some degree of pressure on the visitors on Saturday, because it is difficult to imagine Brigade blowing at 2-game lead in the table should they win this one.
A lot of observers feel that the Tyrone side's best chance of beating Brigade is actually at the Limavady Road venue, given the help that can be on offer to a potent spin attack.
The hosts have of course strengthened in that department themselves this season with the addition of Ross Allen, and that could be the key battle this weekend- Allen, iftikhar Hussain and Jonny Robinson in one corner, and Jordan McGonigle, William McBrine, and Andy McBrine in the other.
To be fair, the home team have looked very impressive in their games to date this season and they will know how big a point this could prove to be in the title race.
Bready and Coleraine are already out of the senior cup, and therefore their league outing on Saturday becomes all the more important for both of them.
The Magheramason side have looked near their best again in the past few weeks but they will have to beat the Bannsiders if they are to have a realistic chance of retaining their title.
For their part, Coleraine have been heavily indebted to the overseas man Graham Hume as they have fought their way into the top half of the table. As is the case most weeks, Hume and Scott Campbell will have a lot of work to do if the visitors are to keep the champions at bay.
Glendermott will look to get off the mark when they entertain Eglinton, but with Stuart Thompson back in the villagers' ranks, that has proven to be a real boost for them. Lowering Donemana's colours last weekend will give Eglinton a huge lift and they start favorites at the Rectory.
Saturday's final Premiership game sees Strabane entertain Ballyspallen. Both of these sides have work to do to avoid getting dragged in to the relegation race, and this could be a nervy afternoon.
The Red Caps have been involved in two of this season's closest games to date, winning at the Rectory by one run before losing by a couple of wickets at Coleraine last time out.
'Spallen have proven already that they are not out of place in this division and they have a few match-winners of their own. A lot of this could come down to who performs best on the day, and the contributions of the respective overseas professionals.
Home advantage in this match-up changes for Sunday's cup game, as the teams then head to Bridge Park. It looks like being very much the same equation in the cup game however and it would be no surprise to see the sides swapping wins over the two days.
The biggest crowd of the weekend will undoubtedly be at the Tyrone village on Sunday as Donemana and Brigade go toe-to-toe for a place in this year's cup semi-final. The hosts will be desperate to get back on the cup-winning trail having been de-throned in 2018.
The fact that they lost their lengthy winning run to the same opponent at the same venue last season will surely be Donemana's motivator here. In fairness however they were well beaten on that occasion and Brigade won't be unduly phased by this challenge.
It has all the makings of a fantastic contest and it would be folly to try to pick a winner.
Championship side Ardmore entertain Eglinton on Sunday and this is a real potential banana skin for the visitors. Ardmore's overseas player Peet Pienaar has hit the ground running at his new home and he looks a real class act The Premiership outfit can't afford to let him get too far away if they want to stay in the competition.
There should be a decent crowd at the Rectory as well to see Glendermott entertain Killyclooney. These are certainly two free-scoring sides and although they've had a difficult start to life in the Premiership, the hosts start firm favourites here.
They will however need to keep a very close eye on Andre Henry, Darren Moan and indeed quite a few other potential match-winners in the Clooney lineup.
It should make for a fantastic weekend for the North West cricket fraternity and all will be hoping for good weather for some top-quality cricket.
Former Millpark CC player Jason Maxwell will be a guest at the NWCU's four senior cup quarter-finals on Sunday as part of his Mental Health Awareness venture that will take in the majority of cricket grounds in Northern Ireland.
Jason admits that he has struggled with his own mental health over the past couple of years and believes the support he got from Action Mental Health NI has helped his progress.
He also took up running and is hoping to do a 3k run at every ground in the NCU to raise both awaremess and funds, however he desperately wanted to include the North West on his journey.
While it may not be feasible to run at all four grounds on Sunday, Jason would like to spend some time at all the venues to talk about his experience and do a "bucket collection" at the grounds.
Every penny raised will go to Action Mental Health whose funds are used exclusively for people in Northern Ireland.
We trust our host clubs will welcome Jason this weekend and that he enjoys his day in the North West.
Bready v Coleraine
Brigade v Donemana
Glendermott v Eglinton
Strabane v Ballyspallen
Ardmore v Eglinton
Donemana v Brigade
Glendermott v Killyclooney
Ballyspallen v Strabane