STRABANE Athletic boss Eamon Curry is expecting a right royal battle with Ardstraw in tomorrow’s North Tyrone derby at Melvin Park.
Champions Athletic opened the defence of the Northern Ireland Intermediate League title with a comprehensive 12-0 victory over a young and inexperienced Trojans outfit on Saturday at the same time that Ardstraw were posting 3-0 win over new boys Newtowne.
Curry has been impressed by Ardstraw’s solid start to the new season and says were tomorrow’s opponents to get off to a fast start they could be dark horses in the race for this season’s title.
The Athletic supremo is also expecting a major challenge from both Newbuildings and Maiden City.
On Ardstraw he said, “I’m expecting a real tough game on Saturday, make no mistake about it.
“They always give us a hard game and to be honest they appear to have a really settled look about them this year. That will be key for them.
“They have good players and if we don’t treat them with respect then we could be in bother.”
Last weekend Warner Mullen and Adam McCrea both netted four times as Athletic ran riot against a Trojans outfit which look like being this season’s whipping boys.
Curry said it was hard to read anything into the one-sided affair although he was impressed by the manner in which his team had maintained their standards throughout.
“We kept doing all the right things, working hard off the ball as well as on it. It was professional and respectful and from my point of view it was good to see,” he continued.
“We have added a few big names to the squad this season, the likes of Johnny Lafferty, Tom McDermott and Gary Henderson. We have good depth and cover when missing one or two.”
Defenders Dylan Forbes and Liam McMenamin are slight doubts for tomorrow’s tussle although Curry expects one or both to be declared fit come the weekend.”
Curry’s opposite number Nigel Boyd says Strabane have set the standard and he is under no illusions how difficult it will be to win tomorrow’s derby encounter.
The Vaughan’s Holm outfit got their league campaign off to a flying start against Newtowne with goals from Sammy McKelvey (2) and Conrad Kee.
Under Boyd, Ardstraw have made a decent start in all competitions but he knows tomorrow’s crunch clash against the defending champions will be the acid test of his side’s true credentails.
“We are expecting a very tough game,” said the Ardstraw supremo.
“Strabane have lots of quality and have a very strong home record, so we are under no illusions that it is going to take a top performance to get a result.
“However we will prepare well this week and the players will go in to the game full of confidence. Hopefully it’s a great game and we can cause an upset.”