Action packed weekend in store in NW
It's another action packed weekend for followers of North West cricket, with a full programme of matches in the Premier Division on Saturday followed by the two semi-finals of the senior cup on Sunday.
There's a change to the domestics as well starting this Saturday of course; all senior games between now and the end of the season will start no later than 12 noon following the end of school term.
It's probably fair to suggest we don't have far to look to find the game of the day this weekend, league leaders Brigade head to Magheramason on Saturday to take on second placed and current North West champions Bready.
Weather permitting the outcome of this one will dictate events in the second half of the summer. A win for the home side really opens up the title race once more, however should Brigade come out on top here then it looks almost certain that they will be crowned champions come September.
David Scanlon's side have recovered from their slight hiccup at the start of the season when they lost at Beechgrove in the league and were knocked out of the cup in the first round. They have gone on a decent run over the last number of weeks and with so much at stake on Saturday this has all the makings of a really good contest.
There are so many potential match-winners on either side and although both teams are on extended winning runs, form usually counts for very little in these types of clashes.
Brigade will want to keep Irosh Samarasooriya and David Rankin quiet as this pair have been in fantastic form of late; however there are plenty of others in the home ranks who are very capable of taking a hand in the outcome.
It's a similar story in the Beechgrove camp, and just as Brigade seemed in trouble at home to Strabane last week they found willing resistance in the form of iftikhar Hussain and Rachit Gaur.
The Waterside men are certainly in the driving seat in terms of league position given that they are likely to retain the leadership of the table regardless of what happens here. What they won't want to do however is hand the initiative over to the reigning champions, but this is quite clearly a game for watching rather than guessing.
Eglinton, fresh from their win at Coleraine last weekend which has helped lift them out of the relegation places, entertain a Strabane inside who have found themselves now bottom of the pile. The Red Caps have to target survival points in the second half of the season, and little doubt the villagers must now be one of the teams on that radar.
The home side have the buffer of points already in the bag in terms of the bottom places, and they will be reluctant to let that advantage slip in this one.
Strabane will have to try to find the form that took them so close to causing an upset at Beechgrove last Saturday but the pressure is definitely now on Peter Gillespie's team to fight their way back from their current plight.
Ballyspallen on the other hand will be buoyed by their big win at the Park on Sunday which has given them the advantage in that survival scrap. They host a Coleraine side that is far from safe as well and the hosts will have to be on their guard not to take their eye off the ball with Sunday's senior cup game looming.
Adam McDaid's team have been playing very well without necessarily getting the breaks so far this season, but they may well feel that this is now their time. Whilst both games this weekend are important to the Roe Valley Club for differing reasons, it would be understandable if the focus was on the cup game at the Rectory.
Should that happen then Coleraine certainly need to take advantage because it has also been a long season for them in terms of league position. Having won the Premier Division crown in the last handful of years this is very much now a different challenge for the Bannsiders.
What a weekend this could well be for Glendermott as well- Gordon Montgomery's team hosting Donemana in the league on Saturday before returning to Bond Street 24 hours later for their cup clash with 'Spallen.
The Rectory side has recovered from their own indifferent start to the summer and now look to be in reasonable shape in the league. That should allow them to concentrate their efforts on the cup game this weekend, however that is not to say they will take the Tyrone side lightly.
Donemana have really struggled to find any kind of form this season so far and in all honesty probably have little to play for even at the halfway mark of the season. You would expect that the Holm side will be desperate to show they're a much better team than we've seen so far, and everyone knows you write Donemana off at your peril.
Sunday's cup games then see Championship side Ardmore host Premier Division leaders Brigade while Glendermott and Ballyspallen square up in the Waterside.
Cup semi-finals are rarely easy to call and that's very much the case here as well. The vast majority of onlookers will expect Andy Britton's team to prove too strong for the Bleachgreen side and while that may well be the case, no one will be taking Ardmore lightly.
The other semi-final is a toss of a coin with the good news for the home side being that Gordon Cooke is expected to take his place in the team following his recent surgery.
David Cooke has been in excellent form as well this summer and Keshan Wijerathne also seems to be finding his range, leaving the hosts going into the game in fine fettle.
'Spallen however are no back number themselves and with the likes of Craig Averill now back in the side, Graham Kennedy returning from his representative duty and Adam McDaid himself finding form with the bat in recent weeks, this looks like being a cracking contest.
This weekend's fixtures
(All matches start 12 noon)
Bready v Brigade
Eglinton v Strabane
Ballyspallen v Coleraine
Glendermott v Donemana
North West senior cup semi-finals
(All matches start 12 noon)
Ardmore v Brigade
Glendermott v Ballyspallen