DERRY GAA: Glenullin favourites but Division Two looks open
H&A Mechanical Services Division Two (Sunday, 3.30pm)
Glenullin v Slaughtmanus
When you have the Ulster Senior League champions playing in Intermediate football, naturally they will be favourites to finish top.
Experienced manager, Liam Bradley, however, has warned that it will not be easy but, given the quality of players they have, it’s hard to see any team finishing in front of them.
They open their campaign with a home game against Slaughtmanus who have been keeping a lower than low profile in pre-season under new manager, Paddy Campbell. The former Glenties and Donegal defender has managed two Derry clubs in the recent past. They were Steelstown and Castledawson who both deployed a deep defensive game and proved very hard to beat.
Slaughtmanus have strength and experience on their side and will make Glenullin work for every score. However, looking at the players that Glenullin can turn out, like Paddy and Eoin Bradley, Gerard O’Kane, Brian Mullan alonsideg Eoin and Neil McNicholl, it’s hard to see them losing this one.
VERDICT: Glenullin to start with win
Desertmartin v Faughanvale
A tough start for the young Faughanvale team on their return to intermediate football.
Their drop to junior football was a wake up call and it probably did them no harm at all after they enjoyed an excellent season in Division Three last year. There they developed the winning habit and, under player-manager Joe Gray, brought through a number of very good young players like Jordan Curran, Michael McLaughlin, Kevin Martin and Sean Bradley.
They travel to Longfield to take on a solid Desertmartin team, well-tuned on a diet of good pre-season games and one which knows how to get results at this level.
Apart from the relative youth of the St. Mary’s team, they are also physically strong. The likes of Gray, Stephen King, Declan McGuinness and Ryan King will provide the experience. If they can make better use of the ball in attack, Faughanvale can get something from the game but on home soil the Murrays, McGoverns, Higgins and Breens are hard to prise a victory from but don’t rule out a surprise.
VERDICT: Desertmartin to edge it.
Ballerin v Doire Trasna
In their last two visits to Ballerin, Doire Trasna have come away with a draw and a win. They have been wearing the label of ‘most improved’ since they came back up from junior football in 2014.
The Waterside men have won away to other teams like Drumsurn, Ballymaguigan and Lissan during that time and are a team to be respected. They have a lot of individual skill and had two players, Conladgh Deeney and Tomas McCrossan, in the Derry under 21 panel.
Ballerin had a very poor 2015 and courted relegation for much of the season. The only two teams they defeated were Limavady and Moneymore. Maybe new manager, Ronan Rocks, can get a bit more out of them this season.
Enda Lindsay and Eoghan Carlin bring their side to Shamrock Park confident of repeating last year’s victory. Ballerin may be without the injured Gary Keane and will depend on Eugene Mullan a lot for scores.
Deeney, Michael McNaught, Colin Murray and Sean McNaught will be the leading lights for the Waterside men in a game that could go either way.
VERDICT: Could go either way.
Ballymaguigan v Craigbane
From being a struggling team in 2013 and 2014, Ballymaguigan were completely transformed in 2015 with the arrival of new manager, Darren Conway.
The former Ballinderry forward had done it all as a player and now he is proving as good in management. They have a home date along the lough shore with Craigbane, a team they have struggled against in the past. Now things look to be in favour of the St. Trea’s given the amount of players that the St. Joseph’s have lost through retirements and work commitments.
The visitors will be using the next few seasons to rebuild and do have some good, young talent coming through. However, with the Brady brothers and Ciaran McIvor providing the know-how, it looks like a home win.
VERDICT: Home win as Lilywhites rebuild.
Foreglen v Steelstown
Outside of Glenullin, this duo are among the strongest teams in the division.
These two have had quite a few close battles in this division down the years but Foreglen scored a recent 1-12 to 0-11 win over the Brian Ogs in the Dr. Kerlin Cup and will be fancied for a repeat. Having Kevin O’Connor fit and firing at full-forward is a great boost for the villagers. He missed a number of key games at the end of last season through illness, something which undoubtedly contributed to the O’Brien’s relegation. He was in rude health when scoring 1-11 against Craigbane in the quarter final of the Kerlin Cup.
With Neil Forrester, Mickey McKinney, Mark Foley and Eamon Donnelly, the city lads will not be blown away but doubts still remain over their ability to punish teams when on top and they have never adequately replaced Stephen Cleary in the forward line. The return of Oisin Duffy from county duty will be a boost for Foreglen who are anxious to return to senior football. This looks a tight game but home advantage to get Foreglen off to a winning start.
VERDICT: O’Connor to inspire O’Briens.
Lissan v Castledawson
Lissan always give Castledawson plenty to think about and on home soil at Tullynure it will be no different here.
Lissan improved a lot last year while Castledawson were their usual consistent selves. Both have a good mix of the new and ‘not so new’ which leaves them with well-balanced teams.
Over the last two years the St. Malachy’s have been bringing in younger players like Danny Devlin, Mark Chesney, Aidan Keenan and the very talented Niall Keenan. Last year they won the County Minor ‘B’ title which shows the work they’ve been doing with their younger players.
Despite losing several players through emigration, the Lissan side has remained as hard to beat as ever. Players like Stephen McRory have shown immense dedication over the years and in Barry McGarvey and Oran Donnelly they have good players. If ‘Dawson give Lissan full forward Paddy Coey too much space, he can punish them but St Malachy’s are favourites.
VERDICT: ‘Dawson to start with win.
Moneymore v Drumsurn
Moneymore just steered clear of relegation with a narrow play-off victory over Drum last season while Drumsurn enjoyed their best league run in a long time in 2015.
Declan Toner is the new man in charge of Drumsurn and he has got a good panel of players to work with.
Christopher Harbinson, Daryl Mullan, Cahir Mullan, Ciaran Mullan, Michael Mullan, Pearse McNickle and Stephen Harbinson are top class footballers and the St. Matthew’s will travel as favourites.
Moneymore have been bringing in young players as the more experienced men give way. They work with small numbers and for them to be in Intermediate football is excellent. Paudie O’Neill is their leading light, whether it be at midfield or in attack. Stephen Barker is an excellent goalie while Christy Young, Callan Bloomer and Emmett Crozier will not be found wanting.
Drumsurn are always good for a few goals which could be the difference.
VERDICT: Drumsurn’s ‘goal-den’ chance