Huge weekend in store in the NW
There's a huge weekend of cricket coming up in the North West and it gets under way on Friday as Ireland take on Zimbabwe in the first of two T20 Internationals at Bready (4pm) with the second match to follow on Sunday.
The hosts recorded an emphatic whitewash over their visitors in the recent ODI series and will go into the second leg of this challenge full of confidence.
There will of course be personnel changes for this weekend's double-header as William Porterfield, Andy McBrine and Stuart Thompson won't be involved. That trio were named on Monday in the 14-man squad for the forthcoming historic Test match at Lords along with Boyd Rankin and Craig Young who are named for the T20's.
Tickets are still available for both Bready games priced at £10 each, while under-16's will be admitted free. Sunday will be a family day with a host of attractions for kids before and during the cricket.
Domestically, Saturday's league action in the Premier Division is headlined by a dress rehearsal of this year's senior cup final as Brigade host Glendermott. The league leaders will be hoping to extend their winning run to 12 matches and in the process move one game closer to their first title success in eight years.
Glendermott go into the game with a small buffer between themselves and the teams below them in the table, courtesy of having recorded three wins in their last four outings. It is a free hit of sorts for them because there will be easier afternoons than this to target the remaining points required.
They are still far from safe of course but in league terms at least, the visitors look to be up against it this time.
Andy Britton's men have appeared unstoppable this season and such was the authority of their recent league win at Bready that it is looking very likely that this race will be run long before September.
They won't say it publicly of course but with the Sam McConnell Charity cup already in the bank and a T20 final spot all but done too, Brigade are odds-on favourites at this point to sweep the boards in the top flight.
Elsewhere, the current champions need to win at Strabane Park to maintain any meaningful challenge to the runaway leaders. Davy Scanlon's team have a good record in Strabane and if truth be told they couldn't be going there at a better time.
The Red Caps are a mere shadow of the side that fought their way to a Premiership title just five seasons ago and even a long way behind the side that competed in the top half of the league in 2018.
It isn't difficult to see why, because despite losing only Rachit Gaur from last year's panel, Strabane's batting has collapsed. Their big players could easily turn this around in the second half of the season but they haven't been able to buy a run in the first half.
The bowling has been solid if unspectacular but while the home side can point to a narrow defeat at Coleraine, the stats show that their only league win so far is a 1-run verdict at Glendermott.
Bready wobbled in the early weeks of the campaign before going on a winning run that was only ended last Saturday by the new champions-elect. Their batting by contrast has really been shored up even without Andrew Austin at the top of the order.
Marcus Poskitt has come in and done a job there while Ross Dougherty and Jamie Magee have provided good support to Irosh Samarasooriya and Davy Rankin.
Unfortunately for the home side this looks all over an away win.
Eglinton and Ballyspallen have both edged away from the bottom two, however here as well there is still work to be done by both clubs.There will be several players involved in this game who will be keen to do well against their former team-mates, but overall, available personnel may will hold the key to the outcome.
Stuart Thompson isn't in the Ireland panel for the T20's at Bready against Zimbabwe, so it remains to be seen whether or not he will be freed up to play for his club on Saturday.
If he does, then just as against Strabane last time out, his presence could be vital.
'Spallen looked out of sorts in their cup semi-final defeat at the Rectory on Sunday and they also now appear set to be without Craig Averill for the remainder of the summer.
They do of course still have plenty of quality; Graham Kennedy just one player who could easily take a hand in the outcome of this one. Pound for pound however the hosts possibly have a slight edge, especially if Thompson makes the starting XI.
Coleraine are another teen who could really be doing with the points and they entertain Donemana in the day's final game. The visitors rode their luck at times before posting a fairly significant win at the Rectory last weekend.
Realistically of course they're probably now you only playing for pride and that isn't something that sits well with the Holm club. Coleraine on the other hand would dearly love another win of any kind to put a bit more daylight between themselves and Strabane at the bottom.
Personnel is key here too; the Bannsiders are obviously a much more effective unit with Scott Campbell and the two Chopras available to them.
If Donemana have their eye off the ball then the likes of Graham Hume could have a significant part to play in this one- however if Donemana turn up, they will more than likely claim the points.
Eglinton v Ballyspallen
Strabane v Bready
Brigade v Glendermott
Coleraine v Donemana