Senior clubs Finn Harps and Derry City begin the new year with games against the Four Lanterns Ulster Senior League’s so-called ‘big two’ this weekend when action resumes.
Derry City host Letterkenny Rovers with the champions Cockhill Celtic having home advantage against Finn Harps Reserves, in a game that has been reversed to the Charlie O’Donnell Sports Grounds.
Rovers are the pace-setters this season. Eamonn McConigley’s team have won all eight of their USL games so far, conceding only three goals and scoring 22 in the process.
A 2-0 win over Derry City in December, when Gerry Gill and Laurence Toland netted, brought Gavin Cullen’s men to within three points of Rovers – who are also planning for a huge Intermediate Cup game against Crumlin on January 20th.
Cockhill have won SIX USL crowns in a row and will hope to make some inroads over the coming weeks.
All eyes will be on a crunch meeting of the two leaders at the end of the month.
The senior outfits remain something of an unknown with wholesale changes from week to week making them an at times tricky opponent for managers to plan towards.
With the first teams of both Derry and Harps having returned to pre-season training this week, it may well strengthen the hands that John Quigg and Joe Boyle are able to play.
Bonagee United have shown a resurgence under the management of Jason Gibson and the Dry Arch side will hope to stay on the coat-tails of Rovers and Cockhill.
Gibson has added Chris Flanagan to his squad, as the midfielder makes the cross-town switch from Rovers. A number of clubs had courted Flanagan, but it’s to Dry Arch he goes and will hope to impact on their charge.
Bonagee host Swilly Rovers on Sunday and will aim to take the early-season promise into the new year.
Transfer activity among the League’s clubs has been minimal so far and there are few changes expected to squads ahead of a busy spell for clubs.
Sunday 6th January, 2pm
Derry City Reserves v Letterkenny Rovers
Finn Harps Reserves v Cockhill Celtic (Game reversed to Cockhill)
Bonagee Utd v Swilly Rovers