McGurk Chartered Architects Senior Hurling Championship
The new-look Senior Hurling Championship was played in a league/knockout format with the top two teams going automatically into the semi-finals and thus kept apart at that stage.
As expected holders Slaughtneil topped the table, with last year’s beaten finalists Banagher finishing in second place.
Kevin Lynch’s v Lavey
(Mon, Owenbeg, 8pm)
Until Slaughtneil took over as the dominant force in Derry hurling, Lavey and Dungiven/Kevin Lynch’s were the major forces when it came to winning the Fr. Collins Cup.
There was a winter league played this season alongside the Nicky Rackard Cup, clubs able to give game time to fringe players.
This competition saw Kevin Lynch’s and Slaughtneil meet in a final game ‘winner takes all’ encounter and inspired by Niall Ferris, Lynch’s won the Emmet Park duel.
Lynch’s will be without Gavan McCormick who has left the panel and the injured pair of U21 star John Mullan and Niall Smith. Key players will be keeper BJ Lagan, Paddy Kelly, Ciaran Mackle, Ciaran Steele, Liam Óg Hinphey in defence, Mark Craig and Kevin Hinphey in the midfield zone and Niall Ferris, Corey O’Reilly and Odhran McKeever in attack.
Pearse McGill is a dependable keeper for Erin’s Own, while Dermot O’Neill, Paddy Henry and Colm Murphy form a dependable half back trio. Colm Dillon and Shane McGill are the likely midfield pairing, while the Dodds brothers bring a wealth of experience to the attack.
Lynch’s go in as odds on favourites and it would be a surprise if they did not advance.
Prediction: Kevin Lynch’s
Swatragh v Ballinascreen
(Mon, Celtic Park, 8pm)
While Ballinascreen have a good record at underage level, their achievements at senior championship level are confined to the distant past. They were winners in 1938 and 1939 but they have not claimed the coveted prize since that double.
The Davitt’s lifted the Fr Collins Cup once, back in 2012, but have rarely threatened a breakthrough since.
Neither side made much impact in the league and they know that defeat in this game will fast-track the loser into the reconstructed Intermediate hurling championship.
Ballinascreen management duo, Gabriel O’Kane and Vivian McSorley, have injury concerns about Conal O’Kane, Charles Gilmore, Johnny McCullough and former Inter-county star Sean McBride, although the latter pair are expected to feature.
Ballinascreen player Conor McSorley was suspended after an incident during a recent hurling league game against Banagher in which Banagher’s PJ McCloskey received a serious leg injury. It is understood that he has appealed the suspension, so unless that appeal is successful he will not be available.
Key players for ‘Screen are keeper and captain, Gareth Haskins, John McCloskey, former Antrim star Brendan Herron, Phillip McGlade, Paul Cleary, Aaron Kelly, Kieran Conway and evergreen marksman Sean McBride.
Swatragh will look to Ruairi Convery, Michael Kirkpatrick, Sean McBride and Sean F Quinn but they will need good service from Paddy Bradley and Fintan McGurk in the middle third.
Keeper Conor O’Kane and defenders Conor Quinn, Eugene McGuckin and Patrick Turner will all have to be at their best to fend off the Davitt’s front men.
‘Screen won the league meeting by seven points but that will hardly be an indicator to the winner of this championship encounter.