Tough ties ahead for NW sides in Irish Cup
TOUGH TIES AHEAD FOR LOCAL SIDES IN BOB KERR SENIOR CUP
Once again the focus is on cup action for the Division 1 sides in the North West as the second round of the Bob Kerr All Ireland competition heads the list this weekend and the four remaining local sides have all been handed very difficult ties. Three of the teams have the luxury of home advantage whilst Limavady head back to Leinster for a crack at North County but we'll take a look at all four in more detail now as well as a check on the two league games also taking place.
GLENDERMOTT V CIVIL SERVICE NORTH
The Rectory side have enjoyed a very good campaign so far and pulled off one of the surprises of the last round when they travelled to Phoenix and came away with an excellent win. Whilst the performances of Stephen Smyth and Craig Averill have quite correctly come in for much praise, and the improvement in form of professional Hanke von Rauenstein has contributed to the Bonds Street side's good form, the stats are suggesting that Gary Neely has had a massive role in their shift in fortunes thus far. The former Ireland paceman is currently enjoying a real purple patch and although maybe not as quick as he was a decade ago still sits proudly at the top of the region's bowling averages. David and Ryan Barr have also played their way into things in the past few weeks and Gregory McElhatton has seized his chance when it came along to once again see some competition for places at the club. Bob Robinson and skipper Gordon Montgomery are others who can influence a game like this and the Belfast side will certainly be tested in unfamiliar surroundings in front of what ought to be another big, boisterous crowd.
The visitors of course have no shortage of quality at their disposal; professional Kieran Noema-Barnett, a Maori New Zealander enjoying a very profitable season at Stormont whilst Nigel Jones and the Coulters are others capable of causing the hosts plenty of problems. They took something of a pasting from Ballymena at the weekend however and the Rectory isn't an altogether ideal place to be visiting if your confidence was any way brittle. This could be a lot closer than might look to be the case with the Belfast side's class possibly just enough to give them the edge.
FOX LODGE V LEINSTER
Top of the North West standings meets the current holders in what could be a really entertaining game at Ballymagorry. The visitors of course accounted for Donemana in last year's decider and are a side with superb quality throughout. They boast a line up including Carlos Braithwaite, their West Indian professional as well as JP O'Dwyer and Anton Schultz, the all rounder who took home the man of the match award after lat year's win. And whilst those players will be well worth watching you would hazard a guess that a lot of eyes will be trained on spinner George Dockerell who made such a name for himself in the T20 World Cup recently. The teenager looks to have a massive future ahead of him but he might find the tight confines of Ballymagorry will test his skills.
The Foxes have been magnificent this season and are at the top of the tree purely on merit. Brian Allen has his side in excellent form and they too have players right throughout the side who could make a big impression on this one. Jason Milligan has enjoyed the best start to his season for many years and Johnny Robinson has been a revelation as well whilst professional Darryl Brown has been really prolific with the bat despite a blip in the win over Bready at the weekend. It isn't difficult to imagine plenty of runs being scored in this one and despite their lofty position at the minute the Foxes will be well aware that the visitors will travel as warm favourites.
COLERAINE V INSTONIANS
There won't be as many rushing to write off the Bannsiders this time after their convincing win over Clontarf in the last round. Things were a little different then of course; life was a lot easier for Coleraine too as they had got off to that whirlwind start; however they have been struggling a bit of late. Their cup defeat at Brigade last week would have hurt because of both the manner and the margin and they are likely to be tested every bit as much in this. A lot will depend on the experience of Ian McGregor, Tim Chopra and Mohammed Salman whilst the rest of the attack is going to have to ensure that Stevie Dunn gets plenty of support. Rory Knox and Scott Campbell are two who could well step up but neither has really fulfilled their potential as yet this season.
The visitors look really strong as well, skipper Eugene Moleon can call on the likes of Andy White, Rory McCann and John Stevenson as well as the very prolific Davy Jacobs. They warmed up for this with a comfortable win over Carrickfergus whilst Coleraine were getting something of a chasing at Beechgrove and if form was any sort of guide the visitors would certainly start favourites. As it is the quality in the away dressing room should ensure that the Bannsiders have to wait another week at least to get their season back on track.
NORTH COUNTY V LIMAVADY
This could well be the game of the day in the entire competition as Decker Curry takes his Limavady team into the lion's den at Balrothery. Both these sides have real pedigree in this competition and it is a contest that is likely to attract plenty of interest in and around Fingal. The Roesiders' excellent run of wins was rudely interrupted by Donemana in the Northern Bank senior cup on Saturday so you would expect that minds will be totally focused on the business to hand when they travel south at the weekend. Thee is no doubt that the visitors have the personnel capable of getting a positive result; skipper Curry as well as Andrew Riddles, David Cooke, Dean Curry and Chris Moore have all been in good nick this season but they really need to be on their mettle against a strong County side.
The hosts ought to have John Mooney and Andre Botha available and either of those players could take it away on their own, whilst the likes of Richie Lawrence, Conor Shields and Eddie Richardson are all players that will need to be kept under close scrutiny by the North West side. Had Limavady started with advantage I would have fancied them to just nick it and whilst they will start the match as underdogs it is a role they won't be unhappy about and that may motivate Curry's side enough to claim a place in the last eight.
BILLY HENDERSON PROPERTIES NORTH WEST LEAGUE
DONEMANA V ST JOHNSTON
No respite for the visitors in their quest for a first league win of the season as they travel to a Donemana side buoyed by their cup win against Limavady at the weekend. The Holm lads have made a really indifferent start to their league campaign this time, losing three of their first five matches, but having beaten Strabane and the Roesiders in their last two outings may be beginning to feel that it's coming together for them at last. James McBrine has been in really good form with the bat in what is rumoured to be his final senior season and Dale Olphert and Graeme Boyd have come good as well but it is the continued form of Andy McBrine with both bat and ball that is helping the cause no end.
The Saints had their first win of the season in the senior cup wiped off by the management committee over the registration of Heasley Robson but with the New Zealander now completely cleared to play they will be hoping that the addition of him and Giles Moan will add the little bit that they need to compete at this level. You get the impression that the Donegal side will be targeting four games this season but I would doubt if this is one of them. They're certainly not out of it but Donemana should win.
EGLINTON V STRABANE
Two sides that have reached the last four of the senior cup are set to lock horns here with the hosts, like St Johnston, in the hunt for a first league win. Eglinton simply haven't recovered from the loss of Stuart Thompson, Bobby Rao and Craig Averill and although Karl O'Doherty has added a bit of quality to the top order, their batting looks suspect at this standard. Andy Christie has been out of touch and has dropped himself down the order and in Neal Stewart, Adam Knezevic, Chris Pierce Mark Averill and Johnny Gardiner the hosts have players capable of making the visitors work hard for anything they get.
Strabane's defence of their title has been moderate enough by their standards and they have failed to build on an opening day win over Limavady. The return of Jonathan Beukes from injury is a boost but they will be hoping to have Phil Eaglestone back from Ireland “A” duty in time for this one. Peter Gillespie's excellent batting run came to an end in Strabane's unimpressive win over Ardmore in the cup but if the former International is in the mood to claw it back, it could be a long day for the villagers. Strabane really need to win here to keep any fading title hopes alive.