Second Phase Fixtures in Divisions One and Two
Second phase fixtures in divisions one and two are to proceed on Wednesday evening as those sides involved in the respective A sections proceed for another five rounds to determine the winners and in the case of the B section to determine which teams lose out. The A section will continue to determine the destination of the silverware in Division One with a similar conclusion reached in division two but the winner in this grade will earn promotion with the second finisher accompanying them on the upward and a place in the top division in 2018.
In Division One the current league champions from Cargin will start in the second phase currently occupying to spot in the ratings on 19 points, but the Toome men are just a point ahead of their near neighbours with Creggan currently in second. Little separates the top four in the division with St Gall’s on 17 points, and St John’s just one back on 16. Cargin are favoured by having four out of their remaining five games at home, something that would appear to give them the edge over their rivals.
The main aim of teams in the B section is quite frankly to avoid relegation, not a very exciting prospect to be honest for many of the teams who are relatively safe , but a frightening prospect for the two at the bottom who must contemplate life in the second grade in 2018. Casement’s, Rossa, and Aldergrove are tied at the top on eight points apiece with St Teresa’s just a point in arrears. St Paul’s are bottom of the pile on 4 points with Ahoghill just ahead on five. With little separating all involved in the B section nothing can be taken for granted and the relegation issue may well go right down to the wire.
Division Two bears a close resemblance to the top grade as to the current placings with the top based Glenavy having earned 19 points, the same amount as earned by the leaders of the top division. Similarly St Brigid’s have gained 17 points as have Moneyglass with fourth placed St Enda’s currently on 16, so it really is tight at the top.Moneyglass do have slight advantage over the other three having a three of their four games at home with St Enda’s and St Brigid’s having two, and top placed Glenavy just one on their own sod. That could well prove a telling factor in the end. Rasharkin are currently 5th in the ratings on 12 points a similar return to date as Tir na Nog but both this duo have four games at home to complete their quota and cannot be discounted in the race for the top two positions.
In section B of Division 2 All Saint’s, Dunloy, and Gort na Mona are occupying the top three positions, all with an accumulated 10 points and all seem assured of their status for the season ahead. The relegation issue would seem to concern, Davitt’s, on 4 points, St Comgall’s 3 points, and bottom placed Ardoyne 1 point barring accident. Davitt’s will play four out of their remaining games away from home with Ardoyne and St Comgall’s having three apiece at home. Davitt’s travel to both Ardoyne and Antrim and the latter pair will cross swords in Belfast later.
Fixtures and Previews Wed 19th July at 8.15
Division One Section A (second phase)
Cargin v Creggan
This looks an intriguing affair as top placed Cargin play hosts to their near neighbours as Kickham’s Creggan visit on this evening affair. The Toome men lost at Staffordstown in the first round meeting in the league, and John Brennan’s charges will be seeking to reverse the result this as they look to retain the Eddie Fitzsimmons Memorial Trophy. The Erin’s Own side have not been beaten since that trip to the Creggan arena and seem in form at the moment. Creggan have been impressing over the past few years and under the capable hands of Kevin Madden they have threatened breakthrough in the recent past and they will take the short road to Toome intent on a positive return. They have remained in the shadow of their neighbours however and it is a while since they recorded a win on the Toome sod. A big crowd is expected and the audience should be treated to a close one but Cargin will start as favourites and they may well gain the verdict.
Aghagallon v Lamh Dhearg
St Mary’s Aghagallon have done more than well to gain a berth in the top six on their first year back at the top division and they will look forward to further games in the competition with no pressure. The reigning Intermediate and Second Division champions have a youthful squad at their disposal and will look for experience gained to further progress within the senior ranks. They play hosts to Lamh Dhearg in this one and may well look forward to the Hannahstown men’s arrival to their domain with some confidence having taken a full return of points at the former’s abode in the opening round. Lamh Dhearg have proved a trifle enigmatic thus far in the league and will reflect on a 3-17 to 1-16 defeat inflicted by the Aghagallon men at Hannahstown a few weeks past as one to forget. Mairtin Lynch will bring his charges down to the Armagh border area seeking better this time. Another close one is in prospect, but if Hannahstown can find the sort of form they produced last time out in a 2-13 to 1-14 victory win over the Johnnies they should gain the points.
St John’s v St Gall’s
This Saintly affair sees the Johnnies, who reside in third spot in the ratings, play hosts to St Gall’s who currently have a place above them in what looks likely to be a very watchable encounter at Corrigan Park. The home side having started the season particularly well have lost a little in momentum lately but they are more than capable when in the mood. St Gall’s are certainly not renowned for their interest in the affairs of the league but they are up there jousting for position this term and seem to have interest on the bread and butter issues at present. The Milltown men, now under the care of former Antrim great Sean Kelly have only lost on a couple of occasions as yet in the league and they will most likely travel up to the Whiterock Road venue looking for points. This looks a close affair which could go either way but home advantage may tip the balance in favour of the Johnnies.
Section B (second phase)
St Teresa’s v St Paul’s
St Paul’s have struggled to make impact in their return to the top grade this term following a few years in exile. The Shaw’s Road side have only collected four points from their honest endeavours thus far, but they have never been far away and indeed managed a 3-09 to 1-13 win over second placed Creggan last month. The red and white hoops will look for more of that kind of form in their remaining fixtures if they are to banish the dark cloud of relegation, and will aim to make it happen here as they visit St Teresa’s. Glen Road based St Teresa’s have improved of late and berthed currently on 7 points, just the minimum in arrears of the top three and they will hope for further additions as they look to move upwards in the ratings. St Teresa’s may have been knocked out of stride last time when they endured reversal at Toome but they may well regain composure in this one and gain the verdict.
Ahoghill v Casement’s
This is a local derby affair as St Mary’s Ahoghill play hosts to their closest rivals from Portglenone as Casement’s pay a visit to Clooney. The home side appear to be suffering because of their involvement in both codes this term and with only five points gained thus far from their programme to date more is required if they are to move up the table. Casement’s have proved a trifle disappointing this term and the Portglenone men who looked almost certain to make the top six a few weeks past will reflect on a disastrous closing phase with huge regret. Jude Donnelly’s men looked nailed on to claim a place in the A section but failure to collect a single point from their last three assignments saw them lose out. Recovery is sought as championship time draws near and they will travel to Ahoghill seeking to regain some pride. This will probably be a close one which could go either way and indeed a draw and a share of the points may be a possibility.
Rossa v Aldergrove
Rossa have gained composure in the latter stages of the league and indeed the Shaw’s Road men only lost out on score difference from gaining a place in the top six. The Shaw’s Road men completed the opening phase with back to back wins gained over Casement’s and Aghagallon and will play hosts to Aldergrove looking to continue on the positive trail. Crumlin based Aldergrove also progressed in the league and indeed the St James’s men retained their best until the last as they recorded wins over Rossa, St Teresa’s, and Casement’s in the last few weeks and will hope to continue in such mode as they pay a return visit to the former. This may well prove to be another close one but ground advantage may well play a part and tip the balance in favour of Paul Close’s men.
Division Two section A (second phase)
St Enda’s v St Brigid’s
Glengormley based St Enda’s presently berthed in position four in the second Division ratings play hosts to South Belfast based St Brigid’s, a point better off and a couple of spots above in this one, in another intriguing encounter. The home side recorded an eye opening 2-16 to 1-09 win over the city men in the first phase of the competition and will look for a repeat performance on their own sod. St Brigid’s do seem on the up and up of late and having recorded a whopping 12-36 in their last two outings and back to back wins over All Saint’s and Ardoyne look in good shape to continue that winning run. They will take the road to Glengormley in confidence but no doubt will be quite aware of the task which awaits up at Hightown. Another close one in prospect with St Enda’s awarded a tentative vote
Rasharkin v Moneyglass
An all south-west Antrim confrontation in this one as the in-form Moneyglass men take a trip down to Rasharkin in what looks good game in prospect. The St Ergnat’s side fully aided by the return to the blue and gold of the Duffin brother into a strong youthful panel has seen an upsurge in form and ensures relegation is certainly in focus. Rasharkin have also regained composure over the past while and at the present the Dreen men have left their troubles behind them. They did look on the brink of relegation and an unsure future in basement level this time last year but they have grabbed a firm hold on the baton since those dark days and look intent on carrying it forward. The St Mary’s men have ground advantage and they will give it a real lash but the Moneyglass men may well gain a narrow verdict.
Section B (second phase)
Dunloy v All Saint’s
Ballymena based All Saints disappointed this term and although fully expected to be up there in contention for honours in the division they failed to fulfil expectations. There is no doubt they are capable of better and All Saint’s will look to make a mark in the upcoming Intermediate championship. Dunloy, having started smartly in the league this term, failed to sustain their early form and slipped down the table in the latter stages. The Cuchullian’s are capable of better and may well be holding fire for the championship as well. All Saint’s will enter the fray as favourites and they may well prevail.
Ardoyne v Davitt’s
Relegation is the issue in this one as Kickham’s Ardoyne play hosts to Michael Davitt’s with points at a premium for both. North Belfast based Ardoyne have failed to settle in their new home after earning promotion at the end of the 2016 season and with just a single win to date the spectre of relegation has haunted them from early in the season. Davitt’s have earned five points to date but such guarantees nothing for the Twinbrook men and they will travel in the knowledge that this is a must win assignment. Davitt’s did gain a full return of points in their first meeting this term, but only on a bare minimum and on their own sod at that. Both will be striving for the points to secure safety, with only a tentative vote given to the Davitt’s men.
In Division Three there is no ‘split’ and the teams involved proceed on a home and away basis to conclusion. The end is in sight with just a trio of rounds left in most cases until conclusion and at present seems almost resolved. Sarsfields started the season as warm favourites to take the title and indeed the Stewartstown road residents are certain to gain promotion and on the brink of the league title.
O’ Donnell’s currently reside in the runner’s up spot and seemingly en route to the second division with Glenravel five points in arrears of the Mc Crory Park residents at the moment. The Glensmen do have a game in hand, but the Con Magees will need O’ Donnell’s to fall flat on their faces in the run in if they are to overtake them.
Division Three at 7.30pm
Mitchell’s v Sarsfield’s
The Paddies are on their way back into the second grade and this trip to Mitchell’s and a further couple of points gained will take them within a point of the division three league title. Poleglass based Mitchell’s are to be loudly applauded for their continuing effort but points are hard to come by and barring major incident an away win looks the inevitable conclusion.
Glenravel v Pearses
Con Magee’s Glenravel appeared to be on the way to the second division for more than a while and with nine victories gained from their opening ten games they seemed in the comfort zone. The South West side lost their footing however in the second half of the campaign and several poor showings saw they slip back down the ratings and promotion seems lost. The do remain more than capable in this grade although they do seem to have fluffed their lines on the promotion trail the home side should pick up the points here as Pearses pay a visit.
St Malachy’s v O’ Donnell’s
Mc Crory Park residents, O’Donnell’s do seem on the promotion trail and they will travel to meet up with St Malachy’s seeking a full return of the points to aid them on the way. St Malachy’s took time to get it together this term and they are going well at present promotion is out of reach this term. O’ Donnell’s will travel in search of points and although they will have to work for that prize they should gain the day.
St Agne’s v Mc Quillan’s
Pride is the issue here as Ballycastle based Mc Quillan’s travel up the city and meet up with the Aggies with promotion out of reach for both and relegation not an issue in the division. Little separates the sides in the ratings with just a point between them but St Agne’s may well increase such difference here with an away win probable.