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Cracking clashes expected in Derry SFC first round

Senior Football Championship

Lavey v Greenlough

Friday, Owenbeg, 8.30pm

Lavey reached last year’s Senior Championship perhaps against the odds. Though their appearance proved that tradition is still very important when it comes to championship.

What also helped is having John Brennan and Seamus Downey at the helm. That duo of championship winners brought a number of the minors into the senior team, and led them to the decider. However, they lost to Coleraine in the final. A result that Brennan and Downey will be desperate to reverse.

The club have Niall Toner and Declan Hughes back for the game. Both were in America over the summer, though they may not have the match fitness of the rest of the team.

They play Greenlough this weekend, who have a number of threats.

Niall O’Loughlin missed out on last year’s championship as he was in Australia, but he is back involved this year and presents a major threat.

Unfortunately for them, their other talisman Enda Lynn has a torn ACL. He will play but will not be at 100 per cent. They won’t have Chris Kearney as he went to Dubai for 12 months.

Verdict: Lavey

Senior Football Championship

Newbridge v Slaughtneil

Saturday, Glen, 2.30pm

League champions Slaughtneil have a mixed bag of team news for this game.

The positive stuff is that Patsy Bradley and Gerald Bradley, two strong players for the club, have came through their rehab well and should be fit to play on Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately there are a few other important players who are not as fortunate. Paul McNeill (collar bone) and Antoin McMullan (back) and Peader Kearney (knee) are unlikely to play any part as their injuries are causing them a good deal of trouble.

For Newbridge, there are likely to only be missing two players. Odhran McGlone and Conor McGrogan suffered broken jaws in the past few weeks and will miss this game.

Slaughtneil are heavy favourites, and should win this one, against a Newbridge team who finished second in division 1B.

Verdict: Slaughtneil

Senior Football Championship

Ballinderry v Dungiven

Saturday, Glen, 4pm

Ballinderry had a mediocre run in the league even though they finished in fourth place. They won five and lost five, but that is a fair enough foundation for a bid for championship glory.

Fabian McGlone had no injuries to report this week, which he was pleased about. He did note that there were some niggly injuries but not enough to cause him any sort of concern.

Dungiven had a league campaign to forget, and finished in relegation spot, second from bottom.

The news got worse for them when Sean McKeever was carried off in their last league match of the season, against Bellaghy. He is a major doubt. Stiofan Tracey is a long term injury concern and will not play.

Verdict: Ballinderry

Senior Football Championship

Banagher v Bellaghy

Saturday, Owenbeg, 6.30pm

Banagher face a big push to turn their campaign around after the team were relegated out of division one.

Declan Mullan and Enda Muldoon started the season at the helm of the footballer, but now Charlie O’Kane and Mark Quigley are in charge. The positive news for them is that they have everyone fit to play.

Their opponents Bellaghy were one of the mid division teams in the league this year. Bolstered by their Ulster minor championship winning players, Joe Cassidy’s team are a team with great potential.

Whether they can deliver is a different matter.

Paul Cassidy, one of their better younger players, is not going to be available. He is undergoing shoulder surgery following an injury in the Ulster u-20 final. Bar that, Joe Cassidy has a full squad to pick from.

Verdict: Bellaghy

Senior football Championship

O’Donovan Rossa v Coleraine

Saturday, Owenbeg, 8pm

Magherafelt head into the championship after a middling run in the league in which they won just four games. They make take positives from wins against the likes of Ballinderry, but they lost to Glen, Swatragh, Coleraine and Slaughtneil. The margins of defeat weren’t great though and Adrian Cush should feel positive about his team.

Unfortunately they are up against the county champions Coleraine who are always strong. Notably they didn’t go to the All-Ireland sevens last weekend, which they usually do. So they should be fresh.

Verdict: Coleraine

Senior Football championship

Glenullin v Swatragh

Sunday, Bellaghy, 1.30pm

Glenullin battled their way to safety in division 1B this year which was their first priority.

They should have a clean bill of health for this weekend, barring Gerard O’Kane who has back trouble, though he has not been involved for a few weeks. The only other concern is Eoin Bradley, who is playing Irish League soccer for Coleraine. So as long as he comes through Saturday okay, then they should be fully fit.

Swatragh had a fine league campaign, as Enda McGinley’s team finished in third place with seven wins. They are a young team, and play an exciting brand of football.

However, they are waiting on some players at the moment. Lorcan McWilliams, James Kearney, Paul McAtamney and Jude McAtamney are all returning from injury and may not be ready for this game.

Verdict: Swatragh

Senior Football Championship

Kilrea v Ballinascreen

Sunday, Owenbeg, 6pm

Kilrea had a good run in the league this year and finished third in the division, almost capturing a promotion spot.

Manager Declan Bradley told Gaelic Life that he has a clean bill of health heading into this game. He did say that he might give chances to some of the younger players so that they can taste senior championship football.

Their opponents are Ballinascreen who are managed by Liam Bradley, along with Mickey McBride, John Scullion and Benny Quinn.

Screen had a difficult run in the league and finished third from the bottom, avoiding relegation.

Verdict: Kilrea

Senior Football Championship

Glen v The Loup

Sunday, Owenbeg, 7.30pm

This game will be one of the most exciting matches of the championship weekend.

Jude Donnelly’s Glen team almost captured the league title a few weeks ago.

They exited the championship at the hands of Lavey last year, and will have felt that they should have done better.

The Loup have a good championship pedigree, and will feel that they can challenge after finishing mid table in the league alongside Coleraine, Ballinderry and Bellaghy.

Verdict: Glen

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