“Winter training is a total and utter pain in the ass”, Galway All-Ireland winning captain Ray Silke’s take on pre season training. [see YouTube clip below ]. You associate this time of the year with wet, cold conditions and floodlights.
He also talks about the summer, the dry sod and the fast ball. That’s the scenario for the county player. Moulded Puma King boots, short sleeves and the razzmatazz of the warm championship days.
For the club player it is different. The business end of their season comes in September, hand in hand with the new school term and the drop in the evenings. It’s back to the floodlights.
I drove past
the other night, just before 9.00 and the lights were beaming across the bottom pitch. Championship preparations were underway, with Damien Barton preparing Slaughtneil for their game with Kilrea. Emmet Park
|Banagher Manager Paul Diamond|
Over in Screen Niall
will have been putting the boys through their paces on their top pitch. Down in the Port, it is not known what Coleraine will be doing, little is known about their preparation and their availability of lights. Judging by their condition and performances they must be doing something somewhere. We keep hearing about their pre-championship swims on Twitter. Conway
In Bellaghy an NIE arrangement means reduced rates for electricity after 8.00. They will almost certainly be finishing their training session under lights, with Joe Cass, the man calling the shots. Joe’s former team-mate Paul Diamond will be familiar with the Bellaghy routine.
He will know exactly the ritual that surrounds the championship. After all it is the only currency accepted in Bellaghy, and despite me predicting Magherafelt to dump them out last time, there will be whispers of title number 22.
Diamond had many successful days in the number 7 shirt with the Tones, but this year he would love to have been donning the maroon ‘Bainisteoir’ bib for Banagher this weekend. He will have seen many of the teams in action in recent seasons and has a great insight into the last eight teams.
I was in touch with him recently about the quarter finals and his take on the games and how they may pan out.
|Coleraine's Declan Mullan|
Loup v Coleraine
Will this game be predictable or can Loup cause a shock?
Paul’s View: There is no doubt that Loup have improved over the last two months but I think Coleraine are going to have just too much this time. Coleraine have superb pace and ability in all the right places and thrown in with that they have amazing levels of work rate.
Loup have good players in their team and will make it tough for Coleraine. However Coleraine have been playing a level above everyone else so far in this year’s championship and I don’t see this being any different.
Paul’s Prediction: Coleraine
Bellaghy v Ballinderry
This fixture will bring Paul back to his playing career and memorable encounters with Ballinderry. I asked him would he like to have been involved on Sunday.
Paul’s View: I think everyone that has ever played would once again love to play in games of this magnitude. Ballinderry are a team that have an abundance of gifted footballers but sometimes skill just isn’t enough.
|Kevin 'Moss' McGuckin|
Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin had a tremendous game from mid-field in the previous round but Fergal Doherty and Joe Diver are a completely different proposition. If these two play well for Bellaghy then Bellaghy will win. To be honest that isn’t a big “if” because they are both superb players.
Ballinderry also have their own superb players in Gilligan, Wilkinson and young
[Ryan]. These guys will take some stopping. Bell
However, The old saying ‘the game will be won or lost in mid-field’ is so true for this game and for that reason I think that if Bellaghy can win enough possession here and feed Eoghan Brown and Conor Doc then they'll win.
Paul’s Prediction: Bellaghy
Kilrea v Slaughtneil
Another hard one to call. Will Kilrea’s game with Ballinderry and extra time against Banagher stand to them?
Paul’s View: Kilrea have definitely been through a rollercoaster season but I don’t think this will have any bearing on this game. I think this result will depend on 2 things
1) How Slaughtneil deal with James Kielt. He is a superb talent and has the ability to hit big scores. Slaughtneil must ensure he is marked close throughout the game.
2) Who is refereeing the game? Slaughtneil, for me, have an over reliance on Paul Bradley and his ability to kick frees. So whether or not those frees are given will have a major influence on the outcome.
Slaughtneil not having a game for 5 weeks will only have helped them to get Paul Bradley fully fit. With the teams so close in ability it might come down to who kicks the frees and who doesn’t. Paul Bradley rarely misses so I am going for Slaughtneil to sneak through.
Paul’s Verdict: Slaughtneil
Dungiven v Ballinascreen
These are two teams with championship aspirations. Living in Dungiven Paul Diamond will have his finger on the pulse; is this the year of the Dungiven breakthrough?
Paul’s View: Every team has championship aspirations and these two are no different. I watched Dungiven against Greenlough and obviously when they beat Banagher and to me they are a team that are missing something.
With that said they just keep winning, even in the league games, and for that they deserve major credit. They have good players all over the pitch and they all work for the good of the team.
Ballinascreen also have a big pool of good footballers and should be doing better and no doubt it annoys them that they don’t but like Dungiven they seem to just have something missing in their play.
I think Dungiven will frustrate ‘Screen with their ability to retain possession and pick off their scores. Also, if Dungiven can restrict ‘Screen from getting one on ones in their full back line then I think Dungiven should come through.
Paul’s Prediction: Dungiven