Brigade go in search of more trophies
Brigade have two trophies already secured in the cabinet at Beechgrove and there could be two more winging their way out the Limavady Road this weekend.
They are on the cusp of the Premiership title with a 69-point lead over nearest challengers Eglinton, and with just three games remaining it would take a collapse of Devon Loch proportions if they were to be denied a deserved title after brushing aside all challengers to date on their relentless march to the crown.
They were ruthless in their cup final demolition of Waterside neighbours in one of the most one-sided finals in recent memory, the game all but over after six overs of the Glendermott reply on the first day.
They have assembled one of the most impressive club side of the modern NW era, having strength and depth throughout the squad, with a nice balance of solidity, flair and talent. Everyone from number one to eleven knows their role, and skipper Andy Britton can adjust his game plan according to the conditions.
He made no apologies for batting again rather than enforcing the follow-on last week, and this steely determination to win at all costs augurs well for the remainder of the campaign.
Standing in their way on two fronts this weekend are Britton’s former club Donemana. It has been a truly disappointing season for The Holm men, and they will be desperate to salvage something from the campaign. Andrew Riddles’ men won’t want the Premiership crown paraded in front of their noses.
Sunday sees both sides locking horns in the Faughan Valley T20 final at Strabane, where Brigade will be aware just how dangerous a full strength Donemana can be, especially in the shortest format with power hitters of the calibre of the McClintock twins, Ricky-Lee Dougherty and Dwayne McGerrigle.
In the relegation battle there are a number of encounters which should make the picture at the bottom a lot clearer come Saturday night. The clash between Ballyspallen and Strabane is a real crunch match, with the losers finding themselves in deep trouble. Strabane have rallied in recent weeks, gaining back-to-back wins meaning they have real momentum going into the game. Aaron Gillespie has spearheaded their revival with two match-winning innings, while Ryan Gallagher has recovered his mojo with the ball, offering real support to overseas professional Chathura Peiris.
For Ballyspallen, a season which started with such promise has gradually got worse. Their batting frailties have been ruthlessly exposed at the higher level, and their reliance on Brendan Louw and Graham Kennedy in particular has led to great pressure on the talented pair. Skipper Adam McDaid will have to rally his troops for one final push if they are to preserve their top flight status.
Coleraine are standing right on the relegation trap-door and are favourites for the automatic relegation slot. The Bannsiders have struggled with player availability all season and have rarely been able to put out a full strength settled side, which has hampered any attempt at continuity and stability. Sides now are content to play out the overs of Graham Hume and score from the rest of the attack. Their batting has been brittle, and they have been dismissed for a string of low scores.
They will take heart though from the fact that defending champions Bready have little to play for in the last three matches, possibly opting to blood a few youngsters in the closing weeks. They lost heavily at Eglinton, albeit without the services of two of their most important players in skipper Davy Scanlon and David Rankin. Irosh Samarasooriya has enjoyed another fruitful season, and will be determined to finish on a high.
Gendermott are another side facing an anxious few weeks and they travel back to Eglinton following their cup final loss there. They have to put the glitz and glamour of the two-day final to the back of their minds, and concentrate solely now on getting one if not two wins from the run-in to guarantee not making an instant return to the Championship.
They won’t find it easy against an increasingly confident Eglinton who are on a seven-game unbeaten run and will want to secure a second place berth in one of their best league seasons of the last 30 years. Indeed if it weren’t for Brigade’s form, the villagers would be contemplating a genuine title tilt.
It’s a huge weekend in the Championship where leaders Burndennett face back-to-back league games against nearest challengers Ardmore and Newbuildings. Two victories would secure a first Premiership season for the Tyrone side who have enjoyed a superb year.
Ardmore reached the final of the National Cup with a resounding 97-run victory over Dublin side Terenure and have now a decider to look forward to against Railway Union at North County on September 1st. Before that they have another final, facing Fox Lodge in the Championship T20 decider at Strabane on Sunday (12pm). Peet Pienaar has six centuries to his name already, and if he can add one or two more in the next month, there could be at least one or two trophies in the Bleachgreen sides’ cabinet.
Finally, the Ladies Cup final takes place at Burndennett on Friday night, with Killyclooney taking on holders Fox Lodge in the 20-over contest, with play set to get underway at 6.30pm.