Monday, 17 October 2011

Ulster Club Championship

With the Derry titles nearly all accounted for, the Ulster scene is next on the agenda.  In hurling Kevin Lynch's have had their hopes dashed by Antrim champions Loughgiel.  Now it is the turn of the big ball, with three ties down for decision in two weeks time.

Sunday 30th October
Senior- Ballinderry v Dromore/Clonoe
Intermediate - Craigbane v Kilclief (Down)
Junior - Doire Trasna v Derrytresk (Tyrone)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Watch out Sky Sports

At this year’s Tour De France, a TV car put Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha off the road and forced Johnny Hoogerland into a barb wire fence.  I watrched it and I certainly was scary stuff.  It was a case of dangerous driving and the personnel involved were removed! 

This year I decided not to cycle in the Tour Of South Derry, so I offered my services to make a video of the event.  I was assigned the club video camera and was chauffered around in Seamus Higgins’ flashy blue BMW.  I felt like royalty.

His driving skills meant that we would be safe, would not be involved in a pile up and ensure we got as much footage as possible.  Sky Sports will not exactly be quaking in their boots just yet, but it’s a start.

The best method of video editing is with the package iMovie with the Apple Mac.  I wonder will Santa keep me in mind for a MacBook?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Experience of Ballinderry or Emerging Kilrea?

“You certainly get value for money when you watch Kilrea”, was the comment of James Kielt when I was chatting to him during the summer.  Kielt was spot on.  Kilrea’s championship has been packed full of drama.  Paul Morgan’s goalkeeping heroics against Magherafelt, the sendings off against Ballinderry, Emmet McKay’s penalty save against Banagher and Benny Quigg’s winning goal against Slaughtneil.  That’s not even mentioning their spirited second half showing against Loup.
I have to admit, when they went down to 12 men against Ballinderry in the championship and lost the game, I reckoned that Banagher would end their season.  They were in disarray.  Ballinderry could absorb three suspensions to central players but not Kilrea.  How wrong I was.  I followed the Banagher game on twitter from a weekend break in Letterkenny and the availability of James Kielt and the fashion in which Peter Doherty regrouped his troops after the Lavey debacle, proved a masterstroke.
At Glenullin in the quarter final, Slaughtneil were in control of the game, but Benny Quigg’s goal proved the winner.  The team I thought would have been an easy touch for Banagher had now put the Emmet’s out of the championship.
2005 U16 Champions Kilrea
Driving home from work through Kilrea the past week, it’s hard not to notice the county final fever that has gripped the town.  It reminds me of Slaughtneil in 2008.  That year we played 7 championship games including two replays, but Ballinderry spoiled the end to our season.  Our dramatic championship journey was in vain.
This Sunday, Kilrea will take the field for the first time in a county final.  Kevin McGuckin will lead Ballinderry out of the other dressing room.  As he jogs onto Celtic Park, joining him will be Conlan, McCusker, Conway, Gilligan and Muldoon from the team that ten years ago took the Derry title on route to the All-Ireland.  
As Fabian Muldoon gets them into the warmup, they will be joined by Kevin ‘Moss’ McGuckin, Conor Wilkinson, Michael McIver, Martin Harney and Collie Devlin.  Also factor in Connor Nevin, Ryan Scott and Declan Bell who are now seasoned championship players.  The Shamrock’s have a great blend, with Ryan Bell, Dermot McGuckin, Aaron Devlin and Tony Martin the newest players in the mix.
Enda Muldoon
Against Dungiven in the semi final, Ballinderry were cruising but took their foot off the pedal and gave them a lifeline into the game.  With the game heading for the finale, the sides were level.  Ballinderry, as they so often have done in the past, found an extra level and pushed on to win by five points. 
They have done it so often.  In 2006 v Slaughtneil at Glen, in 2008 v Slaughtneil in the final, in 2010 v Slaughtneil at Bellaghy, 2010 v Lavey at Greenlough and in 1995 in the Ulster Club against Errigal Ciaran.  All stewards to end of match positions then enter Raymond Bell with two goals to win the game on a damp October Sunday at Ballinascreen.  They never seem to panic; it’s a great trait to have.  I remember ex-Crossmaglen manager Donal Murtagh saying that the first half was about making sure you were in the game, the second half is when you win it.
On Sunday when the game is in the mix will Ballinderry’s guile and experience prevail over the fresh new kids on the block?  Or will Kilrea follow on from Coleraine, Loup and Slaughtneil by winning a title with a team with a relatively low average age? The average age of Ballinderry’s starting 15 for Sunday (from Derry Post likely lineups) is 26, Kilrea’s is 22.
Of the 8 people who predicted the game for this blog, we had one draw, one Kilrea win and six saying that the John McLaughlin will be heading for Shamrock Park.  Here are the views of the pundits.
Paddy Downey (Bellaghy) - In my opinion Ballinderry will win John McLaughlin this year. I think that their greater experience at this stage will be key and also the fact that they have already defeated this up and coming Kilrea team in the championship gives them that extra belief and could put some doubt into the minds of the Kilrea players.
Ballinderry will not want to experience the same hurt as last year. Throughout the knock out stages of this year’s championship, whenever Ballinderry have been asked the question they have come out the other side with relative ease and in my opinion in Kevin 'Moss' McGuckin they have the player of the championship this year. I have no doubt that Kilrea will be contesting championship finals for the years to come but I just think that Ballinderry will shade this one in what could be a case of having to lose one before you win one for this group of Kilrea players.  Prediction: Ballinderry
Enda Gormley (Glen) - Both sides will be putting a lot of emphasis on the midfield battle going into this game. Ballinderry will be asking why their midfield has faded badly in the large periods in the second half of the Bellaghy and Dungiven games while Kilrea have shown a marked improvement in this area in their last two games.
This for me is mainly down to a vast improvement in James Kielt’s game as he seems to have taken his work rate to a completely different level recently. For Kilrea to win they will need a much better return from their full forward line which would lack both the ball winning ability and creativity of Ballinderry’s attack. For me the greater potency of the Ballinderry attack will decide the game in their favour.  Prediction: Ballinderry.
Mickey Drumm (Lavey) - It’s hard to look past Ballinderry for this one. They’ll be smarting from last year’s defeat to Coleraine so overconfidence shouldn’t be a problem.  Their side has plenty of experience and have introduced a few younger players this year and they seem to be doing well.
Kilrea are seriously fit so if they can keep it close going into the last 10 they’ll be in with a great shout.  Prediction: Ballinderry by 3.
Joe McCloskey (Slaughtneil) - Championship dictates that the two best teams reach the final, and on the evidence of their performances, this is probably true of this year’s final. Both teams will enter Celtic Park with an abundance of confidence that they can ferry the John McLaughlin cup back to their respective parishes.
The Kielt brothers are obviously the stand out players for Kilrea, but for me, it has been the half forward line that has laid the foundations for their victories this year. The Shamrocks suffered a blow with the loss of James Conway, but Kevin Moss [McGuckin] has more than made up for his absence with some powerful displays. The exuberance of a first final may drive Kilrea to the title, however, I feel that Ballinderry have a slicker attacking forward line which should see them edge it.  Prediction: Ballinderry
Gerard O’Kane (Glenullin) – The final on Sunday is something I am really looking forward to.  Like last year it is new territory for one of the teams and I suppose this also helps to keep public interest pretty high. 
On the subject matter of who will win, it is a real difficult one.  Ballinderry have the greater scoring threat from play, their forward line has been going really well, they would have the greater physical power than a younger Kilrea side and undoubtedly have greater experience. 
Taking all that into consideration it obviously points to a Ballinderry victory, however, having been in the position before that Kilrea are in, and I know it is an over used term in Gaelic football, hunger for Kilrea has to be a massive factor.  For a club never to have won it, to be in their first final it has to be a massive driving factor for them. 
That is not to say the likes of Kevin McGuckin, Enda, Deets, who have 4/5 medals don’t want it badly either and after getting beat last year it might also spur them on too so all in all it makes for an interesting day.  At the risk of being accused of sitting on the fence (or offending any of my mothers side of the family in Kilrea as she is from Kilrea but is now a Glen woman) I am going to say it will take a second day to separate these 2 teams.  Prediction: Draw
Richard Ferris (Drumsurn) - Most experts will go for Ballinderry on the experience of their side but this young Kilrea team will love the challenge come Sunday, having had lots of success at underage levels these boys know how to win big games.
The Shamrocks are favourites and rightly so with  players of the quality of Kevin McGuckin, Enda Muldoon, Conleith Gilligan and probably the player of the championship to date Kevin Moss McGuckin. Add to this the younger talent Aaron Devlin, Tony Martin and the new kid on the block Ryan Bell it will take a big performance from the men from the banks of the Bann to defeat Ballinderry.
Kilrea will look to the Kielt brothers, the McWilliams, Enda McAleese who I think is going well this year.  The Pearses have young guns too with Benny Quigg, Paddy McNeill, Joe Morgan and Tieran Rafferty all class players.
It’s all on the day and Celtic Park is the place you want to play and you want to be there to play on County Final day for your club, not many get the chance. Both teams are well prepared by two very experienced managers Martin McKinless and Peter Doherty.  So a great game is expected for a number of reasons, will experience out do youth. Prediction: the young guns this time - Kilrea to cross the Glenshane with John McLaughlin.
Neil McCloy (Loup) - An intriguing final between an experienced Ballinderry team and an emerging Kilrea team. I believe Ballinderry will be victorious Mal. I feel they will be smarting from defeat last year and will have learned from that valuable lesson. I also feel that they have too many quality forwards that will be hard to contain on the wide space of Celtic Park. Sometimes you have to lose a final before winning one and therefore Ballinderry get my nod. Prediction: Ballinderry
Paddy Bradley (Glenullin) - Ballinderry are hot favourites for the final and rightly so as they have consistently been the top team in Derry for 5-6 years now. After losing the final last year I don’t see complacency as a problem and they will be keen to get their hands on John McLaughlin again after last years disappointment.
Kilrea have had luck on their side to date. Magherafelt missed a penalty, Banagher had a goal disallowed, Loup a man sent off at a crucial stage. You need luck to win championships. Had we had luck we could possibly have won another 1 or 2. I think the game will be fairly close for the majority of it but in the end I think Ballinderry have better forwards and expect this to pull them through in the end. Prediction: Ballinderry by 4.
Thanks to the pundits for expressing their views.  Sunday will answer many questions, or will Gerard O’Kane be spot on with a draw.
Follow the game on twitter @malmcmullan

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Midfield crucial in Intermediate Final

Two contrasting semi finals, Craigbane conceded 5 goals but racked up an impressive 2-19 tally to see off Drumsurn.  It was an open game which Derry PRO Chris McCann referred to as one of the best games of the season.  Then again he wasn’t at the Slaughtneil v Glen U14 final the same day, but as a Slaughtneil man I am probably biased.
Craigbane's Lee Moore
If one semi final was open, the Moneymore and Swatragh game was a war of attrition, with neither team taking a grip of the game, until a late Swatragh scoring burst saw them advance to the final. 
After the game I informed Swatragh manager Artie Kearney of his final opponents, he indicated that he would be concentrating more on his own side than Craigbane.  However, when ‘the Swa’ meet to put their plans together I’m sure Lee Moore will get a mention in their blueprint for success.
At the other end of the county Kevin Moore will be getting his troops ready for action.  On looking at the record books, it indicates that Craigbane have won the intermediate title on six previous occasions, pointing to a strong championship pedigree.  In fairness, it’s a statistic you can’t compare with Swatragh as the Davitts have spent most of their time in the senior ranks and will have huge aspirations of a return in 2012.
Due to playing in a different grade, I am not aware of any previous championship meetings, but there is a link between the two clubs.  Former Swatragh player Anthony Tohill resides in Craigbane, but with a new house under construction along the Moneysharvin Road, the Tohill name will once again be on the Swatragh teamsheets in the years to come.
Conor McAtamney’s vital point against Moneymore or Craigbane’s impressive points tally will matter little as Martin McErlane throws in the ball at on Saturday at Ballymaguigan.  Championship games are all on the day and anything can happen.  Whatever happens between then and the final whistle will determine the destination of the title. 
The only intermediate game I saw this season was Swatragh v Moneymore so it will be hard to make a call on this game.  However, knowing the capability of Lee Moore the midfield sector will be vital, deciding the amount of possession he sees on Saturday. 
Over the past few days I have been in contact with various people from the intermediate ranks, seeking their opinions on the game.  One common denominator is evident, the supply of ball to the Craigbane attack.  Here are their opinions and predictions.
Ciaran Mullan (Drumsurn) - This is a tight one to call, I think it'll be fairly even in round the middle.  If Craigbane can get Lee Moore enough ball he'll test the Swatragh defence and the same can be said about big Ruairi Convery at the other end.  I think Swatragh have the tighter defence and that should narrowly see them through in a low scoring game by 2-3 pts.  Prediction: Swatragh
Martin Donaghy (Claudy) – I think Craigbane will maybe just shade it by a point or two.  It will depend a lot on how their defence copes with the aerial threat of big Ruairi [Convery].  The midfield battle will also be key as both teams are strong in that area and will be the launch pad for feeding two dangerous full forwards.  Prediction: Craigbane
Declan Toner (Ballerin Coach) - This years Intermediate Championship final has the potential to be a classic as it is being contested by the 2 strongest teams in the division.  I feel it will be a very close encounter as both teams are filled with very talented footballers.  Both teams would be very strong in the midfield sector and whoever comes out on top in this area, by winning the most break ball, should go on to win the game.  Putting my head on the block I think if Craigbane win enough primary possession I fancy them to win this game (if they don't concede too many goals) as I feel their forwards would be more clinical with their chances in front of goal compared with Swatragh's.  Prediction: Craigbane.
Mickey Friel of Swatragh
Paddy McGuckin (Moneymore manager) - I think it will be a very close game between two evenly matched sides. I feel the midfield sector will be crucial and it may boil down to who can dominate possession in this area. The battle between Mickey Friel and Blaine Gormley will be important.  If I was to predict a winner I would go for Craigbane to edge it, as I think with the Moores and McLaughlin up front they have the slightly more dangerous forwards.  Prediction: Craigbane
Neil Forester (Steelstown) - After the blip at the start of the year Swatragh quickly realised Intermediate football can be a dogfight and have gone on a great run and from playing them recently they don't have too many weak links.
Obviously their strength lies in midfield but even if Craigbane manage to break even or win the area, Swatragh have a lot about them to get by anyway through turnovers. Craigbane have great players in key positions but lack a full 15 with some older players, something Swatragh should exploit but they have a deadly attack with Lee Moore and Aidy McLaughlin I think they will run riot.
Conceding 5 goals against Drumsurn in the semi-final can't be overlooked. They struggled badly that day with the half-backs isolating the full back line and Convery will undoubtedly play a part in this final, and I’m not sure if Craigbane can cope with the big man, and the inside forwards Swatragh have can cause damage too as they did to Steelstown in the Quarter Final.
I believe the senior experience will shine through for Swatragh as it did with Castledawson last year, just about.  Prediction: Swatragh
Chris Collins (Ogra Colmcille) - My prediction for the intermediate final would be Craigbane, I believe Swatragh have a couple of slight injury concerns and with Craigbane's mixture of youth and experience I think Swatragh would need to be full out and playing well to beat them.
It's a big day for the likes of Rory and Ryan Moore and James Kearney and Conor McAtamney playing their first full senior season and to be in a final, ask most footballers coming to an end of their playing career and they'll all tell you they don't come around that often so don't let it pass you by and try to enjoy it!  Prediction: Craigbane
Mark McGeehan (Limavady Coach) – I think Lee Moore is the major difference between the two teams and Swatragh’s ability to stop his supply will be vital.  I think however that a more industrious and physical Swatragh team will be able to cope with it.  Then it’s a case of Craigbane’s ability to handle the inevitable introduction of Ruairi Convery to the edge of the square.  This game will be very close to call and I think it will take more than 60 minutes to separate them.  Prediction: Draw
Oisin Duffy (Foreglen) - From playing against both teams I think Craigbane are a better all round team. They have better players all over the field. I imagine Ryan Dillon will try to mark Lee [Moore] but if the right ball is played into him it won’t matter who is marking him.
I think a lot will depend on how well Blaine [Gormley] or Aidy [McLaughlin] do on Friel but Aidy is very athletic and is hard to stop on the run. However if Robbie McWilliams gets good ball into him at full forward he's very sharp and very dangerous so hopefully it will be a good game but I imagine Craigbane will run out eventual winners. Prediction: Craigbane
Cahair O’Kane (Derry Post) - Has the potential to be a cracking game, better than the Senior Final. There might be nothing in it. Craigbane might have the championship pedigree in the last 20 years but it is 10years since they won one and most of their players have no medals to show. Swatragh haven’t won much since 1979 and as such there will be no shortage of hunger on either side.
I just think that the tight Ballymaguigan pitch will suit a physically strong Swatragh team and narrow the space in front of Lee and Ryan Moore. But in the end it will come down to which side gets the goal. Prediction: Swatragh
So based on the pundit’s predictions, Craigbane won’t be going to Ballymaguigan to make up the numbers.  Last season Castledawson’s senior experience helped them across the line in a few of the games.  Artie Kearney indicated his Swatragh side won’t be too concerned about Craigbane and will be confident in his side’s ability to dig out results.  If he is reading this column, he won’t be too concerned and I am not sure if this column will make it onto the back of the Swatragh changing room door this week.  As the clock ticks towards half five and Martin McErlane blows his full time whistle, we’ll know more then.
For live Twitter updates follow @malmcmullan on Saturday.
Once again thanks to the various people for contributing to this preview.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Derry County Final Weekend

After this weekend the majority of the Derry 2011 County championships will be complete.  Kevin Lynch's have already taken the hurling honours with All-Ireland Camogie Champions Eoghan Rua retaining their Derry title. 

Doire Trasna recently won the Junior Football Championship and this weekend two more football finals are down for decision.

On Saturday the Intermediate Final (Swatragh v Craigbane) takes place in Ballymaguigan.  The Senior Final between Kilrea and Ballinderry takes place on Sunday.  Kilrea were beaten by Ballinderry earlier in the season and with the help of the ‘back door’ have qualified for the final.

Previews will be added later in the week and there will be live twitter updates at both venues by following @malmcmullan

Saturday 15 October at Ballymaguigan
4.00 - Intermediate Championship Final
Swatragh v Craigbane (Ref: Martin McErlane)

Sunday 16 October at Celtic Park
3.15 – Senior Championship Final
Ballinderry v Kilrea (Ref: Dessie Loughrey)

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ar An Rothar - On The Bike

It’s heading for the ‘wee small’ hours of Sunday morning in Teach Sean Óg’s (pub) in Bunbeg.  As I order a few more beers, I overhear the locals in full flow ‘as gaeilge’ beside me at the bar.  I pause for a minute or two while my pint of Guinness settles, gather my thoughts carefully, then I go for it.  I nudge into their circle of conversation and let fly.  ‘Chuaigh me go dti Gaoth Dobhair inniu ar an rothar’.  It wasn’t that hard was it?

This is translated as, ‘I came to Gweedore today on the bike’.  The locals gave me a blank look in response.  I wasn’t sure if they didn’t understand my Maghera dialect of Irish, or the fact that only elite athletes cycle 85miles in a day and your’s truly was sitting here waiting on his pint of plain to settle.  Would Mark Cavendish, Cadel Evans or Nicholas Roche be at it?

Eventually the ‘muintir na háite’ (locals) got chatting and I informed them of my recent attendance at Irish classes and they appreciated my attempt at the language.  Also, I pointed out that an eighteen strong Carn Wheelers crew were staying at the nearby Seaview Hotel as part of the now annual ‘Tour Te Donegal’. 

It is basically the Carn Wheelers end of term bash.  Most bashes are relaxed affairs; this one is a little different.  It comprises of a 90 mile cycle to Gweedore, an overnight stay followed by a return cycle back to Maghera the next morning.

I’ll take you back to Saturday morning at Maghera Leisure Centre.  Tour organiser Darren Mulholland had the reminder texts sent out, hotel and food booked.  All he needed now was the weather.  Friday was a day for ducks, but Saturday morning was perfect.  We gathered up in Maghera, with Danny O’Kane again providing the support vehicle, his red Transit van.

We packed the sports nutrition, extra gear and disco clothes into the van.  After a send off from Rory, Ronan and the WAGs it was time for action.  We headed from Maghera up towards Moneyneana.  We left new cyclocross enthusiast Cathal Doyle off at his sister’s house on route.

Once we took the right turn it was into climbing mode; it was everyone for themselves up the Feeny mountain.  A look over our right shoulder towards the more challenging Birren made the climb a bit easier mentally.  It was followed by a descent into Feeny and onto Claudy for a brief stop.  Here, we lost a bit of time with a puncture (the only one of the weekend) then it was into Ardmore and on to Derry via a stiff climb on a back road in Altnagelvin.  It was much steeper than the main road.

We went under the Craigavon Bridge, then towards Letterkenny via Newtowncunningham.  On our way into Killea, we encountered a real case of road rage, from a man in a light blue car.  His type brings motorists a bad name.  Through Letterkenny we managed to get past the numerous pubs, with Barry Young speculating how much Liverpool was beating Everton by.  His 2-0 prediction was spot on unfortunately.  L

I didn’t realise that Letterkenny was on such a hill.  It was into Andy Schleck mode, up past the fire station and the hospital.  It was some bit of climbing before we reached the Mountain Top Service Station.  It was here that some controversy crept into the tour.

Myself and Martin Loughlin headed for a ‘sit down’ hot food snack against the wishes of the rest of the group.  It tasted great, but the group headed on and we had a 5 mile handicap.  In a case like this, you need a man in a van…..enter Danny O’Kane.  Well nourished, the van ferried us up to the rest of the group.  It was all downhill anyway, so I still claim we missed very little.  Anyone could have cycled that bit of the route!

Next up was Kilmacrenan, a left turn and through Glenveagh National Park to Gweedore.  With about 70 miles in the legs, this was a tough one with a long gradual climb around Mount Errigal.  Barry Young kept telling us to look out for Mount Errigal, the one with snow on the top.  I am still looking for the snow.

Once at the top there was a great long descent down into Gweedore and the picturesque Poisoned Glen.  The breakaway group up front stepped on the gas and were lucky to avoid a couple of lazy sheep in the middle of the road.  Once in Bunbeg, the customary beach photo was taken before checking in at the hotel.

I wasn’t for cycling home on Sunday, I had to be home early, so my bike was put into the van and I headed for a few well deserved pints.  With the bike parked for the night (and the season) we relaxed before heading for a beautiful four course meal, courtesy of Carn Wheelers.

After dinner the form was lively as we headed for Teach Sean Óg; this night was always going to be a good one.  It was a fitting end to a great day of banter and cycling.  Next morning, there were a few dodgy heads at breakfast with people trying to work out if they had been in the nightclub or not.  It was that sort of night.  

The group then got kitted out and geared up, with myself and Paul McNamee getting ‘yellow cards’ for not cycling home.  Paul cycled later in the day, but I jumped into Rory’s car, my average speed was much faster on the way home!

This week it is the Tour of South Derry, but I will be stewarding at it.  With ‘the cube’ (road bike) now hung up for the winter, I turn my attention to Davagh and Garvagh forests and a spell at the mountain biking.  Barry Russell says I corner like a woman (not very politically correct Barry) so the mountain biking should help my overall skills on the bike.  Not without a good few bruises and bumps along the way I’m sure. 

Next year I will be completing both legs of the Tour Te Donegal ‘ar an rothar’.  This time next year I will be able to hold a longer conversation with the Bunbeg locals.

Video (Danny & Betty Anne O'Kane Media Productions) -

Tour Te Donegal Squad: Darren Mulholland (Tour Manager), Danny O’Kane (Transport Manager), Ronan Higgins (Race Radio 1), Rory O’Connor (Race Radio 2), Trevor Averill, Marc Heaney, Tommy Heaney, Aidan Higgins, Gerry Kelly, Alan Lamont, Martin Loughlin, Tommy McGrath, Michael McMullan, Paul McNamee, Berry Anne O’Kane, Pat Purvis, Dessie Smyth and Barry Young.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Tour of South Derry

By Paddy Heaney (Irish News)

The booming popularity of bike riding over the past few years can be charted against the entry figures for the annual Tour of South Derry which takes place next Sunday (October 9).

The inaugural event attracted 190 cyclists and generated £3,000 for Macmillan Cancer Research. Two years ago, 250 riders set off from Magherafelt GAA club and their admission fees raised £4,000.

Last year, 350 cyclists, almost double the figure from the first Tour in 2008, raised £6,000.
The event is designed cyclists of all abilities.

Newcomers or those who prefer a more leisurely spin can follow the 35-mile route which starts and ends in Magherafelt after coasting through Moneymore, Draperstown, Moneyneany, Maghera and Castledawson.

More experienced cyclists who wanted a tougher challenge can take the 50-mile course, which takes a detour in Maghera for a series of climbs on the slopes of the Sperrin Mountains around Slaughtneil.

The Tour of South Derry is organised by the Maghera-based Carn Wheelers Cycling Club. The club’s PRO, Ronan Higgins draws particular pride from the fact that every penny raised from the £15 admission fee goes directly to Macmillan Cancer Research.

“The sponsors cover the cost of catering, printing, t-shirts and road signage. That means all the money goes to Macmillan,” said Higgins.

The Carn Wheelers spokesman stressed that the emphasis during the Tour of South Derry is in pleasure rather than pursuit.

“We would encourage any cyclist to come and try the event and enjoy a bike ride on the scenic roads of South Derry. Everyone, whatever their ability, will be assured a warm welcome by Carn Wheelers," said Higgins.

While it is possible to register on the day of the event, those who wait until Sunday mightn’t receive a much-coveted ‘Tour of South Derry’ t-shirt.

“There is only a limited stock of t-shirts. But anyone who enters online is guaranteed a t-shirt so we could encourage anyone who wants a t-shirts to enter that way,” said Higgins.

Registration gets underway at 9am in Magherafelt GAA club, which will provide parking, refreshments and changing. The Tour starts at 10.30am.

The website, provides links to the online entry service as well as detailed maps of the 35-mile and 50-mile routes.