With all three divisions up and running and the cobwebs shaken off, it is now time to get into the nitty gritty of the club league season.
While some teams eye promotion others are trying to avoid the threat of relegation, and good results in these opening weeks are key to achieving either of those goals.
There will be no intermediate games over the Easter weekend, and with Sean Dolan’s enjoying a bye week it is up to Claudy, Doire Trasna, Doire Colmcille, and Ardmore to fly the flag for North Derry.
Of the four, it is only Pearses who have had success in their return to competitive action but every team will be keen to get two points on the board come this weekend.
All games throw in on Saturday at 4pm, unless otherwise stated.
Dungiven vs Claudy (Dungiven – 4.30pm)
Ten miles separate them, but make no mistake that this a derby game that both of these teams will want to win.
Neither will be in with a chance of winning the league title come the end of the season, but the immediate key for both is to secure safety as early as possible and a win at this early point would go a long way in helping that.
Both suffered similar fates on the opening day, with the Mitchel’s losing out to reigning league champions by 3-10 to 1-8, while St Canice’s left Ballinascreen with nothing more than a 3-11 to 1-7 loss to show for their efforts.
Former Derry wing back Kevin Johnston is an important player for Dungiven, and if the McGahon brothers Shane and Eoin and the Claudy defence can stop his runs from deep than they will go a long way to quelling the St Canice’s attack.
As always, joint captain Aaron Kerrigan is the man that they look to to put the scores on the board, and even if they find themselves in a sticky situation they know he can produce some magic.
Prediction: Dungiven edge derby.
Ogra Colmcille vs Doire Trasna (Ogra Colmcille)
This is already a huge game for Doire Trasna as they face one of a handful of teams tipped to battle them for promotion.
It’s clear that the Waterside men are still rusty, and the absence of five key starters didn’t help them as they managed a narrow victory over Sean Dolan’s on Sunday.
In the end they took advantage of playing against 14 men for 45 minutes when they won by the narrowest of margins, but it is clear there is work to be done.
Ogra Colmcille started with a bang when they comprehensively defeated Doire Colmcille by 4-17 to 1-3 on the opening day, and they will want to get back to winning ways after a two point defeat to Magilligan on their last day out.
Darren Harkin went off injured in that clash with Dolan’s and Pearses will be sweating on the fitness of the full forward.
In this division, no team can afford too many defeats so Pearses can expect a tough test but with captain Eoghan Carlin and three others returning from suspension they should have what it takes.
Prediction: Pearses win on the road.
Doire Colmcille vs Magilligan (Pairc Cholmcille)
Darren McShane’s Championship winning Magilligan have looked for from convincing in these opening two weeks, and Doire Colmcille will be keen to target that.
The boys from Benone went down to Colmcille’s city rivals Sean Dolan’s by eight points, but they responded well to defeat Ogra Colmcille in a closely fought game four days ago.
Magilligan were tipped as one of the favourites for promotion this year but it already seems that the focus of the club is to retain their Championship crown.
That will be music to the ears of Doire Colmcille, who are keen to establish themselves as a force in Division Three.
Dee Watson captains the team and is the focal point around which Simon Doherty’s squad operate.
Dean Curran started for Derry in their Ulster U21 defeat against Donegal on Monday and if they can get him on the ball he will make things happen against a talented Magilligan defence containing the likes of Eoin Kelly.
The key battle will be in midfield, with the experienced Ciaran O’Hare dictating play and winning marks from Michael Doherty’s kicks.
With home advantage on their side, Colmcille should be optimistic of giving McShane’s team a run for their money.
Prediction: Colmcille cause upset.
Dungiven Thirds vs Ardmore (TBC)
It may be early days yet, but this Ardmore team will want to get as many points as possible under their belts to build some confidence around McCourt’s.
With the small squad at hand, William McLaughlin’s team have struggled to lift themselves in pre-season, and they look a shadow of the club that enjoyed such fantastic Championship success in 2010 and 2013.
St Mary’s have no desire to try and target promotion in a division that they know they are going to struggle in, but this is one game that the Waterside team will be targeting to pick up some points.
Anthony Hargan is the key man for the amber and black, but he cannot send them on a winning run by himself and the likes of midfielder Richie McGrotty will be crucial to keeping possession and relieving pressure on the St Mary’s defence.
Dungiven Thirds will be no pushover, especially with home advantage, and they proved that they are out to make a point when they beat their Slaughtneil counterparts 5-10 to 0-3.
Prediction: ‘Ard day’s work for St Mary’s.
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