CRUNCH TIME FOR KEE'S MEN AS HECTIC WEEKEND LOOMS

What a week it has been for Donemana after the highs of hitting top spot in the table following their crushing win at Beechgrove on Friday night to the lows of losing out in the semi final of the Ulster Cup at Stormont on Sunday. The Holm side then travelled to Bready on Monday night for a re-arranged T20 league fixture and skipper Richard Kee was quick to point out that while they would take stock of the defeat in Belfast he was happy to move on and deal with what he referred to as "probably the most important week of the season".

"We didn't play well against Civil Service North and we know it" he began. "We feel that several decisions went against us, indeed I don't think I've ever seen anything like the lbw decision that Ritchie McBrine got but you just get on with it. It was frustrating because we felt that another 40 runs would probably have been a winning score and I know we were worth two more wickets in their reply so while we're deflated we have to concentrate on getting our own job right".

This was only Donemana's second defeat in 14 games this season so perhaps they were entitled to an off-day but Kee wasn't so sure. "We've been playing really well and everybody has been doing their bit which is what has us at the top of the league and in the latter stages of the domestic cups. The fact is that if three or four are playing well and the rest are able to dig in that will always give you a chance. Look at Strabane in 2010- they won the title on the back of three players scoring 800-1000 runs and the rest batting around them".

The fact that there was no play at Bready on Monday night has probably added to the burden given that prospects weren't fantastic that the sides would get the game finished last night. That of course is already a T20 game so if it hasn't been played by now it never will be and the Donemana skipper cut a forlorn figure as the umpires abandoned play without a ball bowled on the first evening.

"We have worked really hard to get ourselves into a good position so I don't want to give it up easily. This is a huge week for the club because we have key matches in three of the top competitions over the next 6 days. Both ourselves and Bready are desperately keen to get a result in the league game one way or the other and then its a big cup weekend with Railway Union in the All-Ireland on Saturday and Glendermott in the senior cup on Sunday".

A busy schedule ahead then but the skipper refused to comment on which trophy was at the top of his wish list. "We're out of the Ulster Cup now and while we're still in the Faughan Valley, our involvement in the other major trophies hinges on what we do this week. There's no point in thinking further ahead than the next game so that's where we're at. Andy McBrine and Ryan Hunter are away with Ireland under-19's at the minute so they weren't in the team for the Bready game but they will both be in the squad for Dublin on Saturday. Jordan McGonigle is back in the side too although work commitments will probably rule him out of Sunday's contest as it did against CSNI. We're at full strength for the Railway Union match so I'm happy with that".

And speaking of the big game in Leinster it appears that the North West side are travelling in confident mood despite their winning run being interrupted at the weekend. "To be brutally honest I know very little about Railway other than the fact that Kevin O'Brien and Tom Fisher play for them. They have a good pedigree in this competition but we're going there to play our own game and we feel we have enough quality in the team to give us a chance against anybody. We don't feel under any more pressure than would normally be the case because at the minute all we want to do is play cricket".

It's a big weekend for St Johnston too, indeed the Donegal side has an almost identical schedule to Donemana as they head south on Saturday to play Rush in the RSA National Cup before returning to entertain Brigade 24 hours later. The RSA competition has proven very successful in these parts despite the fact that David MacBeth's team are our sole survivor but the visitors definitely have a chance on Saturday. The Saints are currently unbeaten in the league, a record they share with Eglinton, and they have made a really solid start to their season.

The game with Brigade on Sunday is already under threat however as the Boathole was saturated over the weekend before this week's additional rainfall. Brigade have offered to switch the contest to Beechgrove which is playable, or indeed to play it at a neutral venue but the Division 2 club have dug their heels in as is their right.

Skipper MacBeth clarified the picture at the weekend when he said that "it has been absolutely impossible to get gang-mowers on to the field as it is just far too wet. The outfield is very heavy but while it hasn't been possible to work on the pitch, the mat is playable. We don't want to forfeit home advantage in the quarter final of the senior cup so going to Beechgrove isn't an option. There is no reason why we couldn't play the game on the mat".

The problem there is that both sides have to agree and Brigade are reluctant to go down that road as playing on the artificial pitch could be a great leveller. The Beechgrove outfit are believed to be disappointed by the fact that the square has been uncovered for the past couple of weeks but then the Saints argue that dragging heavy covers on at this stage would do more harm than good.

There are also two league games scheduled to go ahead on Saturday- there had been four but Donemana can't play at home to Brigade if they're in Dublin and Coleraine v Limavady is postponed because the Intermediate Cup semi- final is at Sandel Lodge. That leaves Strabane at home to Bready and Glendermott hosting Fox Lodge and the irony that Strabane and Bready still have to play their first league game will not be lost on the players.

With things so tight at the top of the league any advantage now would be crucial but both Tyrone teams continue to be without key personnel. Strabane's absentee list has grown again and Kevin Martin has been added to the number although Waqar Orakzai remains in place to cover professional duties. Peter Gillespie has volunteered and indeed thrived in the opening spot even though it is quite clear he would rather bat at 4 but finding a consistent partner has proven difficult.

To be fair they have done well to hang in there given the circumstances but their mettle will be fully tested in two games against the cup holders. Bready are likely to still be without their own opener, David Rankin as well as the unfortunate Ian Young but they at least have several options at the top of the order. Brian Crumley has struggled for runs all season but could be worth a punt in the Number 1 berth while Bryan Scanlon, David Barr and Mark Olphert are all available as well.

There is every bit as much at stake at the Rectory as Glendermott host struggling Fox Lodge in a vital match for both sides. The confidence looks to be completely shot from the Ballymagorry men and with just one win from eight league games so far these are testing times for Jonny Robinson. There is no doubting the individual quality in the side but the bowling looks as light as it has ever been and that has been their undoing. Despite their own poor start Gordon Montgomery's team has two wins to their name and the skipper knows full well that another one here will give his side a magnificent chance of staying up. Weather permitting there should be a decent crowd at Bonds Street on Saturday and you get the impression from this weekend's fixtures that we'll know a good deal more come Sunday night.