Doire Colmcille v Sean Dolan’s Sunday (2.30) – Celtic Park
Ref: Cathal Doherty (Glack)

By Orlagh Mullan

It will be a battle of the city teams in Celtic Park on Sunday afternoon, and it could potentially be one of the closest games of the opening round.

Sean Dolans come into the game on the back of a losing streak that won’t fill the Creggan men with much confidence, while holidays and injuries have decimated Robby Doherty’s Colmcille in recent weeks and leave them heading in the championship in rollercoaster form.

With Curran brothers Dean and Harry out of action this season, Doherty, in his first season at the helm, has had to rebuild Colmcille around an abundance of young talent coming through. The Lowry’s Lane club have done well to hold a mid-table position in division three, but they are lacking experience and they could be exposed.

Dolans have struggled for numbers at times in the league, and were docked three points for failing to field against Glack. O’Donnell almost certainly won’t have to deal with that issue come Sunday, but exactly who he has available will be a massive factor in deciding what way this game goes.

Colmcille will have Michael Nash between the sticks, and he will be a massive asset against the likes of Mark O’Kane, Kevin Nixon and Joe Gallagher who are deadly scorers in the full-forward line and know their way to the net.

Eamonn Gillen will provide the level head in the heart of the Colmcille defence, but he could have his hands full if O’Donnell opts to play Paul Melaugh on the edge of the square – as he did when the sides met in the Neal Carlin Cup.

Melaugh has come out of retirement in recent weeks and while he has played a lot of his Dolans career in the midfield, his height and power make him a massive threat inside and against such a young defence the Creggan man should get plenty of opportunities.

Ultan Clancy and Fearghal McAnaney have boundless energy on each wing for Colmcille, and one of them will be tasked with keeping the equally lively Caolan McCosker quiet – a young player who really came to the fore in last year’s championship and can be deadly running off the edge.

Where Colmcille will struggle is midfield. Captain Richie Stewart needs to marshal promising talent Ciaran Curran, but they will have their work cut out against Eamon McGinley and Alan Grant – and it could force Nash to play short more often than not.

Doherty has a clinical scorer in the form of Mickey McCallion, but he will need support to break down the Dolans defence. Caoimhin Thompson needs to stay disciplined in balancing his attacking runs with stopping the opposition when they have the ball, and against Mark Ruddy he will relish a well-matched physical battle.

Ryan Loughran and Conor Doherty are both capable of finding scores, but one of them needs to track Gary Fisher who has the legs to make scoring runs from corner-back.

Ruaidhri McGurk and Ryan McLaughlin add further stability and make the task even more enviable for Colmcille.

It was Doherty’s team who edged the league meeting two weeks ago by the bare minimum in a curtain raiser for this weekend, but Dolans are a different animal when it comes to the championship – and their superior experience should see them over the line.

VERDICT: Sean Dolan's

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