This is the penultimate round of Division Two fixtures and Foreglen are the only team with a slim chance of catching long time leaders, Glenullin, who can clinch promotion back to Division 1 and the league title tonight.
Slaughtmanus v Foreglen (Friday, 7.30pm)
This is a very stiff test for Foreglen who have been winning without playing particularly well.
Slaughtmanus have made a dramatic improvement after a very bad start to the league and that recent home win over Craigbane, coupled with an away win at Castledawson, marks team as team to watch with the Intermediate Championship looming large.
Foreglen are the only team with the chance of catching Glenullin but that is a slim hope at best and they must keep on winning to keep those hopes alive. Slaughtmanus have a very tight defence and can win games with eight or nine scores but Foreglen can be a potent attacking force when on song and whoever comes out on top of that battle could decide the game.
Foreglen got it tight in their last a way game against Drumsurn and they could get it even tighter here. If they can crack that St. Mary’s defence, they will take the points but it is one of those games where they will find scores hard to come by and Slaughtmanus might take something from the game. This one looks very close.
Verdict: St Mary’s can take a point
Ballymaguigan v Faughanvale (Friday, 7.30pm)
This is a clash of two of the stronger teams in the division but neither the winner nor loser will be worse off as none of the clubs can go up or go down.
Ballymaguigan have a very good home record. They have lost only once on home soil in the league and that was a one point defeat to leaders Glenullin who have an unblemished record.
Faughanvale have had some good results with victories over strong teams like Castledawson, Slaughtmanus and Steelstown and their away record is actually better than their home one as they have lost three times at John McLaughlin Park.
Ballymaguigan play to their strengths. They have some good ball winners in the middle third and a very accurate free taker in Gary Burke. Faughanvale, a generally young team, are a work on process and this is another part of their learning curve. The ‘Vale may be without the injured Joe Gray which would be crucial as he is the man who pulls the strings. Home advantage may prove fruitful for Darren Conway’s men.
Verdict: Home experience gets nod.
Desertmartin v Ballerin (Friday, 7.30pm)
These two teams will meet next month in the championship so there are unlikely to be any secrets unveiled.
It would be fair to say that neither will be among the championship favourites but, that said, they will be giving it everything they have. Ballerin have slightly the better league record so far but both look to have enough points to keep clear of the danger spot.
Ballerin have not won at Longfield in many years but they look to have a chance of ending that poor run. The McGuckin brothers and Dermot Breen in the St. Martin’s attack can give the Ballerin defence plenty to ponder while at the other end, Paul Ferris, Gary Keane and Eugene Mullan can test the St. Martin’s rearguard.
Desertmartin won at Ballerin last year. This time Ballerin might reverse the result.
Verdict: Away win for Ballerin.
Lissan v Doire Trasna (Friday, 7.30pm)
This is a game that could go a long way to deciding the Division 2 future of either of these sides who are in the bottom two.
Doire Trasna have shown a bit of form after a long losing streak. They won at this venue before and will feel that they can do so again. In their last home game, Lissan lost to Desertmartin and if they are to win this one they will have to step up on that form.
Trasna have been moving closer to full strength and some good performances in defeat were followed by a first win of the season over Moneymore away. That said Naill Murray broke his jaw last week so is ruled out. On the plus side, Caolan Doyle, Derry U21 player Tomas McCrossan and Corma Carlin could return which would be a major boost to the Pearses for whom victory would take them above Lissan.
Lissan rely heavily on Patrick Coey for scores but the Waterside men may have the better balanced attack and that could give them a vital victory. This is last chance saloon for Pearses as defeat would relegate them back to junior football with one match to go.
Verdict: Vital win for City men.
Steelstown v Drumsurn (Friday, 7.30pm)
Steelstown’s home record has not good this season and they will not get anything easy against an experienced Drumsurn team that has been having a decent league campaign.
It will be interesting to see what impact new Steelstown manager, Paul O’Hea, will have among a lot of the players that were his team mates. O’Hea is well respected among his peers and if he can get the team pulling in the same direction they will be dangerous when the Championship rolls around.
The fact is, with the panel of players the Brian Ogs possess, they should have been doing better. They have lost some good players to emigration and a few others have just drifted away but they still have a solid looking panel. Drumsurn do not have big numbers and the loss, through injury, of Michael Mullan and Darly Mullan has hit resources hard. They have a lot of experience and an ability to win close games.
Steelstown need to regain momentum and should have enough in attack through Mark Foley and Ryan Devine to take them over the line but it won’t be easy.
Verdict: Brian Ogs look too strong.
Glenullin v Craigbane
With the influential Bliain Gormley ruled ut for a lengthy period following an ankle injury, this looks to be a task beyond the White Rock men as they travel to take on leaders and champions-elect, Glenullin.
It has been a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ season for Craigbane who are in transition. Due to retirements and injuries they have never had their best team out this season and as the games move on it does not get any better though they will hope to be stronger for the Championship.
If Glenullin need to win this they will be assured of a return to first division football next season after one year out. It will be interesting to see how the Mitchel’s perform without Paddy Bradley who is America bound. Still, they have kept on winning after Neil McNicholl picked up the dreaded cruciate ligament injury. In truth they have been untouchable so far but will want a perfect league record to finish.
Craigbane, with Lee Moore in fine form up front, will make Glenullin work but overall it looks like promotion and the league title for the Mitchel’s.
Verdict: Celebration time for Mitchels.
Moneymore v Castledawson (Friday, 7.30pm)
Having secured Division Two status with five games to go, Moneymore look to have switched off a bit.
However, they will need to be fully switched on if they are to get anything from the visit of Castledawson, a team getting back to form after slipping off the rails in a number of mid-season games.
Moneymore seem to play better against stronger opposition and with the championship looming the St. Malachy’s will have their sights set on another intermediate title, especially given runaway league leaders Glenullin are playing in the Senior Championship.
Moneymore need to get off to a good start if they are to cause an upset but it is not often that they put their best foot forward. On occasions they have not started to play until they were six or seven points behind and often give themselves far too much to do in games.
Castledawson are back to near full strength after a spate of injuries and they look set for a victory in this one. It won’t matter too much in terms of league positions at this stage but ‘Dawson are building nicely.
Verdict: ‘Dawson should take points.