STRABANE AND BREADY FLY THE FLAG FOR NW IN IRISH SENIOR CUP

Only two North-West teams remain in the last 16 of the Irish Senior Cup, with Strabane and Bready facing tough ties this Sunday. The competition has been a barren wasteland for the region in recent years, with Limavady the last winners back in 2004.

Strabane won back in 1998, with current skipper Peter Gillespie the only survivor from that triumph over Ballymena. The Red Caps are more or less at full strength for the game, with only Kevin Gallagher absent. It’s a huge weekend for Strabane, who host Donemana on Saturday, followed by a trip to Dublin to face 2009 winners Leinster.

“I’m really looking forward to the weekend and the return of the Irish Cup,” said Gillespie. “We had a great run last year reaching the semi-finals, and hope to replicate it this year.

“We haven’t been at our best so far this season and we are only playing well in patches. At stages we have been in every game this year but we need to start turning that into wins.”

Bready have overcome an indifferent start to the season, with some excellent victories in recent weeks. They were at their dominant best with a seven-wicket hammering of Coleraine last weekend, with contributions from all the attack. Overseas player Irosh Samarasooriya has been his usual consistent self while Marcus Poskitt and David Rankin have been among the runs.

They have an away day Premiership match at newly promoted Ballyspallen on Saturday, followed by an Irish Cup tie at home to Phoenix on Sunday. The Dubliners recruited heavily over the close season, but had a weekend to forget as they were bundled out for 84 in the Leinster Cup final, followed by another batting collapse against Pembroke.

Their main players are Irish international Simi Singh and overseas player Poonish Mehta, but look to be without the services of James Shannon, who has taken a break from the game due to personal reasons. It’s going to be a tough game to call, with the Magheramason side hoping home advantage will swing it for them to make the last eight.

DONEMANA LOOK TO BOUNCE BACK

It was a chastening experience for Donemana at Beechgrove, as former player Andy Britton’s six-wicket haul saw them lose heavily to the league leaders. The win sees Donemana playing catch-up in the Premiership, with a 45-point gap opening up. In Sunday’s abandoned cup match they were on top, and the sides will meet again this Sunday for the right to join Glendermott in the semi-finals. Left-arm spinner Jordan McGonigle reflected on Saturday’s loss and looked ahead to the replay plus the league match at Strabane.

“It was certainly a very disappointing defeat, to lose so heavily because we know we’re much better than that but credit to Brigade.

“We must try to bounce back in what will be a huge weekend for us. We’ll probably need to go undefeated for the rest of the league campaign if we’re to challenge Brigade on that front so Saturday is important against a Strabane team who have four or five really quality players.

“Then the cup game on Sunday, we all know how important that one is for us. It’s a new weekend with new challenges and we look forward to it.”

FOX LODGE START TO FIRE

After a quiet start to life in the Championship, Fox Lodge have shown signs of settling to life in the Championship, with the Ballymagorry side playing some quality cricket. They are currently in the middle of a game at Killyclooney, but Brian Allen’s hard-hit 119, which included 15 fours and 6 sixes has put them on top after the first night as they made 293 for 7.

Aaron Heywood has taken over the captaincy reins, and the Warriors off-spinner is relishing the additional responsibility as his team bid for a top flight return. Fox Lodge, Killyclooney, Ardmore and St Johnston are in the National Cup on Sunday, all hoping for a quarter-final berth.

“After a disappointing start to the season losing out in the cups we have settled well as a squad and gained some momentum in the league and T20 campaigns. There have been few changes in the side this year due to injuries to Gareth Heywood and Andy McGinnis, but I feel the young lads in Aidan Logue and Alastair Doherty have come in and grown into their roles very quickly.

“Personally I am enjoying the responsibility of captaincy in what is my first year and feel that it brings the best out of me as a player also, which is great. We have got Killyclooney over three nights this week in the league so our attention is there at the moment. But after we have our first National Cup tie away to Ballymena on Sunday.

“From what I hear Ballymena have a lovely set-up, and the club are looking forward to some white ball cricket. We are obviously expecting a tough game away from home but we will back ourselves and hopefully put ourselves in a position where we can be in the draw for the next round.”

STRABANE ACADEMY BOW OUT OF SCHOOLS CUP

There was disappointment on Monday as Strabane Academy’s hopes of making the semi-finals of the Ulster Bank Schools Cup were ended by Methody. The recent poor weather meant the quarter-final tie was decided on a bowl-out, and Strabane failed to hit the stumps with any of their five attempts. The Belfast side struck twice to go into the semi-finals 2-0, and they will join Foyle, BRA and holders RBAI. The final is scheduled for Muckamore next Friday.

KILLYCLOONEY WOMEN CLAIM FIRST WIN

Only one match went ahead in the Women’s League this week, as the tie between Strabane Saints and Burndennett was washed-out, while Newbuildings couldn’t field a team for the third time this season at Bready.

In the game that did go ahead, Killyclooney earned their first points of the season with a hard-fought win against Eglinton. In a 16-over contest, Amber Nicholl (39) and Codi Wallace (29) helped Killyclooney to 97 for 6. It proved just about enough as Eglinton finished on 85 for 4, with Gemma Wallace (2-22) and Linzi Rodgers (1-21) the best of the home side attack.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

In Q1, Craig Doherty hit 40 as Fox Lodge eased to a nine-wicket win against Brigade, with Niqash Ali, Travis Nicholl and Adam Boyd among the wickets as the Beechgrove side made just 71. Ali and Doherty were also among the runs as the Foxies won in the Ulster Plate at home to Muckamore. Holders Donemana progressed after winning a bowl-out against Instonians, but Bready crashed out in the dreaded shoot-out against CSNI. There was better news for Bready in the league as the Spence brothers added 96 as they beat Ardmore by seven wickets chasing 148. Joe Robinson hit five sixes in an unbeaten 71 as Donemana overcame Brigade, despite them having three Warriors players in their ranks.

In Q2, Sion Mills forfeited to Newbuildings, while four wickets for Michael O’Brien saw Ballyspallen beat Killyclooney. Sabin Kaleeckal hit a century as St Johnston defeated Bready, The Magheramason side also lost on Sunday as Aaron Parke hit 62 and took three wickets, as did Jay Parkhill as Killyclooney beat them by 19 runs. There was just one game in Q3 as David Mills hit 119 as North Fermanagh ran out convincing 230 run winners against Eglinton.

T20 Faughan Valley Cup(Fri. 6.30pm)
Brigade v Ballyspallen
Glendermott v Donemana
Bready v Eglinton

T20 Championship
Bonds Glen v Burndennett
Killyclooney v Ardmore

Premiership (1pm)
Coleraine v Glendermott
Eglinton v Brigade
Strabane v Donemana
Ballyspallen v Bready

Championship
Ardmore v Burndennett
Killyclooney v Bonds Glen

Irish Senior Cup (Sunday 12.30pm)
Bready v Phoenix
Leinster v Strabane

NW Senior Cup (Sunday 1pm)
Donemana v Brigade

National Cup
Ardmore v Killyclooney
Ballymena v Fox Lodge
Midleton v St Johnston

Qualifying One (Sat 1pm)
Brigade II v Eglinton II
The Nedd v Ardmore II
Donemana II v Bonds Glen II
Fox Lodge II v Bready II

Qualifying Two
Glendermott II v Ballyspallen II
Maghera v Strabane II
Sion Mills v Coleraine II
Newbuildings II v Killyclooney II

Qualifying Three
Donemana III v Killyclooney III
Bready IV v Eglinton III
Eglinton III v Killyclooney III (Sun 1pm)
Bready IV v NW Women (Sun 1pm)

Women's League (Mon 6.30pm)
Eglinton v Fox Lodge
Bready v Burndennett
Newbuildings v Killyclooney