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Strabane breathe a sigh of relief

New Buildings captain Dale Culbert receives the Sammy Jeffrey Shield from Gail Ritchie

AFTER a very indifferent 2015 season Strabane’s players and officials  were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief on Saturday afternoon  as a narrow victory at St Johnston finally put an end to any  suggestion that the reigning champions would be involved in this  year’s relegation scrap.

Such has been the turnaround in the club’s fortunes that the win, their fourth in succession, lifted Strabane into the top four and safety with two games to spare. It has been a tough ride for a team that lost over half of the  players that led them to the title last season, but who then seemed  to get caught up in their own plight.

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An excellent campaign from  Peter Gillespie coupled with the timely return to form of Tawanda  Mupariwa, Ryan Gallagher and Aaron Gillespie however means that all’s  well that ends well for the Red Caps.

Down at Magheramason it’s a very different story as Bready look  likely to need a second play-off in three years to retain their top- flight status. Unless Davy Scanlon’s men can beat Brigade this  Saturday and then Strabane on the final day, and hope on a favour or  two elsewhere, they could now be tackling either Drummond or Fox  Lodge for a spot in next season’s Premiership.

The issue is complicated by the fact that if Bready are beaten on  Saturday the game at Ardmore then becomes a double-edged sword. The  Bleachgreen club host St Johnston and should the Saints win that,  Bready would go joint-bottom of the table with one game to go.

If  Ardmore win, it sends Scanlon’s men into the play-off with the Saints  almost certain to be relegated automatically.
The outcome of the Championship will also be confirmed on Saturday  with Drummond entertaining Creevedonnell. The Roe Valley club need to  win first and foremost otherwise it will be the Foxies who go up but  they will also need to win in very good time as well as net run rate  currently favours the Tyrone club.

Drummond won’t want reminded that  this time last year the Championship trophy was at their ground on  the final day of the season but had to be rushed very quickly to  Donegal after Burndennett failed to win it at the death.

With professional Marco Marais already back in South Africa, Brian  Allen’s men will be hoping to get up without the need for a play-off,  but the ball is now firmly in Drummond’s court.

Sion senior bid thwarted Sion Mills’ attempts to return to the senior ranks have been thwarted  for the foreseeable future at least after Simon Galloway’s men were  beaten by Ballyspallen earlier this month. The defeat means that the  local side cannot now catch ‘Spallen in the table and although both  are behind Donemana 2nds who are on course for the double, the  highest-placed finisher between the two first teams will get a play- off against the bottom side in the Championship.

That position is currently held by Creevedonnell who were rocked by  the fact that their prolific overseas player Jean Symes had to go  back to South Africa much earlier than planned and their weekend  hammering by Newbuildings in the Sammy Jeffrey Shield is the sign of  a side currently struggling.

As it is though, Sion will now have to  hope that the North West rethinks the 8-team league set-up, or, more  likely, regroup for 2016 and go again.

For their part, Sion have maintained throughout that they have  enjoyed their season in Qualifying 1 but that the goal remained to  return to the Championship as soon as possible. A spokesman for the  club said that they were badly hampered by a number of factors in  2014 and had paid the price with their senior status but that things  had been steadily improving.

“This year has been something of an eye-opener if truth be told but  the boys have definitely enjoyed the fact that we’ve won more than we  lost. One of the positives is the fact that we’re playing on senior  grounds like Bready and Donemana but one of the drawbacks is that  second XI’s are always much stronger if you meet them on a day when  their 1sts have no game.

” That’s just how it is and you have to get on with it but it takes a bit of getting used to. We’ll just keep trying until our opportunity comes and if we have to  wait then so be it. The fact of the matter is however that it isn’t  always a level playing field and for the struggling clubs it makes  things a lot harder to compete over the course of a season.

“ We have enjoyed a very good year all told, but the drive goes on.  We intend to continue working hard over the winter to secure our long- term future in whatever division that may be, ensuring that cricket  is still played in the village where it has been part of the fabric  for 150 years.”

  T20 finals rescheduled

The North West Union has said that it looks more than likely that the  postponed T20 finals will now have to be split over two different  dates following Sunday’s washout at the Rectory. A Union spokesman  confirmed that a number of dates had been considered and offered to  the clubs involved but that there were difficulties tying down a day  that suited everyone.

“We have scheduled fixtures up until 6 September and then a couple of  play-offs to factor in after that but we offered the four competing  clubs dates including the upcoming Bank Holiday Monday, the 12th and 13 of September and also the
following weekend, the 19th and 20th but we couldn’t find a compromise.

“At this point therefore it looks likely (but not yet confirmed) that  the Eric Cooke final between Brigade and Killyclooney will be played  on Sunday 13th September while we look for a suitable opportunity to  play the Donemana v Eglinton Faughan Valley final. To be fair,  Donemana had requested a free weekend over the 12th and 13th since  before the season began as there is a family wedding taking place  there so we have no issues with that whatsoever.”

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 15 Main Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AS