M&L Contracts Derry Senior Football Championship Semi-Final (Owenbeg, Saturday, 6pm)
Ballinascreen v Loup
Neither of these sides has tasted championship success too often, Ballinascreen victorious in 1973 when they achieved their 4th title, Loup winners in 2009 when they picked up their third crown.
After having to struggle somewhat to defeat Coleraine in the opening round Ballinascreen showed much improved form when ousting a highly fancied Magherafelt in a high scoring encounter, 2-14 to 1-12.
In their opening round Loup overcame Div 2 champions Glenullin who had opted to play in the Senior Championship and who started without Paddy and Eoin Bradley, introducing the later before half time, the former in the second half.
In the quarter final Loup were pitted against a young and vibrant Glen side that had impressed in their Preliminary Round win over Swatragh.
There was little between Glen and Loup for much of the game but Loup’s greater experience played its part after three early points from Michael Warnock gave Glen early control. Loup were comfortably ahead by five points and easily withstood a late rally from Glen that reduced the winning margin to three.
Loup have a strong and mobile midfield pair in Terence O’Brien and Aidan McAlynn, with Anthony O’Neill, Paul McVey, Paul Young and Declan McVey important players inside.
Keeper Thomas Mallon is very much in the Stephen Cluxton mould with his ability to set up attacking moves from well-placed kick outs.
Shane Mulgrew was the outstanding player afield in Ballinascreen’s win over Magherafelt, Benny Heron playing a huge role in the victory with 0-4.
Defender Michael McShane was forced to retire early in that game and could be a doubt but Ballinascreen have Dermot Scullion back after injury. With Dermot McBride, Phillip Bradley and the industrious Carlus McWilliams pushing forward from deep they have the providers to create the scoring chances for Mulgrew, Heron and Grant.
Former Derry star Johnny McBride has won two SFC titles with Loup and has the experience to guide Loup to another decider.
Ballinascreen have Trillick man Liam Donnelly at the helm this year and he has galvanised them into serious title challengers who might just start slight favourites to reach the final.