Brigade champions in waiting
It's a busy weekend for NW clubs as the season draws to a close as the recent weather has caused something of a log-jam for the successful clubs. One issue which should be rubber-stamped is the destiny of the Premier League title with champions elect Brigade hosting second placed Eglinton.
Brigade have been the dominant force in the region, and having gone 11 games unbeaten will be determined to not only seal the title, but also go the entire campaign undefeated.
Their hopes of completing a domestic clean sweep were dashed in emphatic style by bitter rivals Donemana in the Faughan Valley Cup final last week, and it will be the Tyrone side who go forward to represent the NW in the All-Ireland T20 finals day in Belfast this weekend, when they take on CIYMS.
There's no doubt that Brigade though will be deserved champions, having that elusive quality of depth as well as strength. The main difference to the Beechgrove side that has distinguished their campaign from previous years has been the consistency and weight of runs scored by their top order. The bowling unit has always been impressive and skipper Andy Britton has no shortage of options with the ball.
Itís been an excellent season for their opponents Eglinton, who despite the absence of Stuart Thompson for a hefty chunk of their games have managed to string together a number of impressive displays to make the second place slot their own above defending champions Bready and Donemana.
They will be weakened without their influential overseas professional Mike Erlank, who has returned to his native South Africa early to prepare for the domestic campaign. Without his services it would be a major shock if the villagers were to get anything from the contest, but without any pressure they do have a number of clean strikers of the ball who can change the course of a contest in a few minutes.
While the outcome of the title is a forgone conclusion, itís a much different picture at the foot of the table with four clubs embroiled in the relegation battle. Coleraine remain bottom despite their recent win over Bready, while their three main rivals for the drop have double headers. Strabane are on the road twice, travelling to Donemana on Saturday, followed by a pivotal clash against fellow strugglers Ballyspallen on Sunday. The Red Caps form has improved in recent times, and having looked odds on for the drop now have a real chance of escaping.
The two promoted sides are battling alongside Strabane, with beaten cup finalists Glendermott and Ballyspallen also in action twice, which should make the picture a lot more clear-cut come Sunday night. As well as meeting Strabane, Ballyspallen travel to Bready on Saturday.
Glendermott and Coleraine meet in a real crunch clash at The Rectory and much of the Bannsiders hopes will be pinned on the form of their talismanic overseas professional Graham Hume who almost single-handedly saw them beat Bready. Glendermott are also in action on Sunday when they travel to Eglinton.
There are a number of cup finals to be decided as well as the aforementioned All-Ireland T20 clash.
Ardmore, fresh from their Eric Cooke Cup success take on Newbuildings in the Sammy Jeffrey two-innings decider starting at Fox Lodge on Friday. Killyclooney and Fox Lodge also meet on Friday night at Burndennett in the Ladies Cup final.
The Qualifying Cup finals continue with Bready and North Fermanagh due to clash at Drummond, while in the Ulster Plate final, Eglinton and Fox Lodge meet at Ardmore.
PREMIERSHIP (Sat 12pm)
Brigade v Eglinton
Donemana v Strabane
Bready v Ballyspallen
Glendermott v Coleraine
Ballyspallen v Strabane (Sun)
Eglinton v Glendermott (Sun)
St Johnston v Bonds Glen
All-Ireland T20 Finals
CIYMS v Donemana (Sun 11am)
Sammy Jeffrey Cup Final
Ardmore v Newbuildings at Fox Lodge (Sat 12pm)
Ulster Plate Final
Eglinton II v Fox Lodge II at Ardmore (1pm)
Q3 Cup Final
N Fermanagh v Bready IV at Drummond (Sat at 12pm)
Ladies Cup Final
Fox Lodge v Killyclooney at Burndennett (6pm)