NW Preview

27 April 2019

By Lawrence Moore

The curtain rises on another North West cricket season this coming Saturday and weather permitting, there's a list of quality fixtures to welcome in the new campaign.

Champions Bready have a difficult start at Beechgrove first up, and it will be interesting to see how the Magheramason club fare out, having lost Craig Young and Ryan Barr from last season's potent attack. Defending the title was always going to be a difficult ask in normal circumstances, however the loss of Young in particular is a major blow.

The champions did manage to pull off one decent piece of business of their own in the close season, bringing talented Coleraine opening batsman Marcus Poskitt to the club for the new season.

There will be no shortage of challengers to Bready's crown over the coming summer, with Brigade and Donemana likely to be at the top of that list.

The Beechgrove boys have added Rachit Gaur and Ross Allen to their panel, and with the rest of last year's squad staying put as well, they really do look the side to beat this time.

Brigades forte was the cups in 2018- winning both the Bank of Ireland and Faughan Valley trophies, however there is little doubt that the Limavady Road side are eyeing another title, and see this as a big opportunity.

Donemana will be smarting too after a low-key effort by their very high standards twelve months ago.

Andrew Riddles has been entrusted with the captaincy, however apart from former Newbuildings player Dean Mehaffey and new overseas pro Bilawal Iqbal, there are few changes in personnel.

Iqbal is a highly-rated Pakistani fast bowler who is also very handy with a bat, and much will depend on how quickly he adapts to his new surroundings.

There is so much quality in the Holm side's ranks, and it is very unlikely that they will have two disappointing seasons in a row.

Glendermott are one club who have been busy in the transfer market over the winter, and Gordon Montgomery's team will provide the opposition to Donemana in Week 1.

Keshan Wijerathne is the new professional on Bonds Street and the Sri Lankan comes highly-recommended on the back of some impressive List A performances.

Gareth Burns and Ryan Barr come in to add options to the attack and Steve Moore is another very useful player to have agreed to come to the Rectory.

Competition for places seems assured and that could make Glendermott competitive on their return to the top flight.

It looks like a year of transition for Coleraine who have not only lost Poskitt, but will also be without Tim and Rishi Chopra for the bulk of the new season. Varun Chopra will now be available to new skipper Stephen Hutchinson, but overseas player Graham Hume will shoulder much of the Bannsiders' hopes.

There's no better man of course, the South African easily among the pick of the overseas players on display in the country this year.

Coleraine host newly promoted Ballyspallen in their opening match, and even so early in the season this could turn out to be a key battle for league position.

There are several new faces in the visitors' camp with Adam McDaid assuming the captaincy having joined from Muckamore. McDaid has been training with the Warriors throughout the winter, and is a quality batsman when in the mood.

Brendan Louw replaces Darnell McCallum as overseas pro in a like for like swap; the South African a highly- rated keeper/batsman who can score quickly.

Graham and Stephen Kennedy both wintered in Australia and should be ready to hit the ground running while Drummond's Kyle Morrow is another useful recruit for the battles ahead.

They could easily have enough about them to stay out of trouble this year although Ballyspallen are well aware that this represents a big step up in class.

Strabane and Eglinton will cross swords on Saturday's opening day and this too could be a fascinating encounter so early in the season. Peter Gillespie has been confirmed as Strabane captain and while there have been few changes to the squad here as well, Gaur's defection could hurt.

Chathura Peiris is back, as is Kevin Gallagher but Strabane will be pinning their hopes on a quality middle-order for their survival points.

Mike Erlank will lead the villagers this season and he looked a very useful player last time. Stuart Thompson's availability is likely to be heavily restricted over the course of the summer owing to representative duty and much of their season could depend on how they cope without him.

The loss of Ross Allen is obviously significant, but Eglinton are more than hopeful that they can cope. They should be OK in the grander scheme of things but don't necessarily look equipped to challenge for a title just at the minute.

The opening round of matches start at 1pm on Saturday and the full list of Long's SuperValu Premiership fixtures is as follows-

Brigade v Bready
Donemana v Glendermott
Coleraine v Ballyspallen
Strabane v Eglinton

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