Tough draw for NW sides
The draw for the Irish Senior and National cups took place in Dublin on Thursday and North West sides will have it all to do again in 2014 if they are to improve on this year's showings in both competitions.
Champions Coleraine have the advantage of a home start when they entertain a CIYMS side likely to boast several players well known to the Bannsiders. Team Manager Trevor Harper suggested that his club were delighted to have come out of the draw first and that could have a major bearing on the contest. "First and foremost you look for a home tie in cup competitions and we've got that" he said. "That said there are no easy games in the All-Ireland but we will definitely be looking to progress having gone out to beaten finalists Merrion last time. We are happy to be hosting CIYMS and their North West players who include of course Stevie Dunn who played a major role in the rebuilding process at Coleraine".
Brigade have also landed a home tie but skipper Gareth McKeegan readily admitted that he would have to spend some time on the CricketEurope website to find out more about his opponents. "I have to confess that I don't know a lot about Phoenix other that the fact that they had a tough time of things in Leinster's Division 1 last season. We're happy to have them at Beechgrove of course and I have no doubt whatsoever that they will be a quality side".
Bready, Eglinton and Fox Lodge are the other trio of local sides to come out of the hat first. The Magheramason men may have avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth last time but will fancy their chances at home to Ballymena while the Foxies host a Leinster team that pulled up few trees last time either. The Villagers look to have the toughest task of the quintet as they entertain a strong North Down outfit.
Elsewhere, Strabane have a chance to end their horrendous recent run in the Irish Cup when they travel to Lurgan. The Red Caps haven't won a match in the competition since 2008 but another away day is hardly what Tommy Barr would have wanted.
Donemana, winners in 2000 have to negotiate the long trek to Cork to take on County but skipper Richard Kee remained upbeat about the draw. "I would have much preferred something handier to Tyrone but we're well used to All-Ireland road trips by now. I would imagine we'll make a weekend out of it so I'm sure the boys will look forward to getting away".
Arguably the hardest task of all falls to Ardmore- the newly promoted side handed an away trip to Balrothery to tackle North County. The Bleachgreen outfit are busily preparing for the new domestic campaign even at this early stage but look really up against it at the home of the competition's most successful ever club.
Similar comments apply to the two Championship representatives, St Johnston and Glendermott who have been drawn away to CSNI and The Hills respectively. The Saints are never unhappy with an away day, indeed the only problem might be that Stormont isn't far enough while Gordon Montgomery's side would probably happily swap them.
In the National Cup, Newbuildings will look to enhance their growing reputation when they travel to Balbriggan while Ballyspallen landed a home draw to another Leinster team, Malahide. Bonds Glen and Creevedonnell head over the Glenshane to tackle Cliftonville and Derriaghy respectively while Sion Mills can have a few stop off's en route to Laois as they celebrate the start of their 150th anniversary year.
Burndennett versus Woodvale is a difficult one to call while Drummond can look forward to a home tie against Bangor. Killyclooney look to have a job on their hands when they entertain Rush but Sammy McElhatton's team did record a rare win in this competition last time when they accounted for Laois.
First round ties in both competitions are set for Saturday 10 May 2014.