The draws for the first round of next season’s Irish Cup have thrown up several really intriguing ties as North West clubs look to end a really poor run in the country’s premier cup competition.
Both of last season’s ISC finalists will line out against local sides - holders Waringstown likely to start hot favourites against Bready, while Coleraine will be capable of testing 2015 runners-up, Merrion, when they meet at Sandel Lodge.
Newly-promoted Fox Lodge have to travel to Leinster but will be buoyed by the fact that they have won both meetings between the sides in the past five years.
Ardmore are bang up against it as they go to Balrothery to tackle multiple-winners North County, however the Bleachgreen side snatched a dramatic 11-run (DL) win when the sides met in 2014.
Strabane certainly wouldn’t be out of it against Malahide in a game that sees Ryan Gallagher come up against his former club while Eglinton will also feel that they have a chance against Ryan Haire and Muckamore.
Premier Division newcomers Drummond have yet to declare their hand ahead of the new season but will be happy enough with a home tie against Carrick while two sides who won this competition in the mid-80’s, Phoenix and St Johnston, will square up in Dublin.
Donemana always fancy their chances against anyone at the Holm and won’t be too upset at having been paired with Derriaghy while quite possibly the tie of the round will be at Beechgrove where Brigade and CIYMS clash.
There will be plenty of familiar faces in the visitors’ camp on 7 May with Chris Dougherty, Trevor Britton and of course Johnny Thompson all having plied their trade at the Waterside venue.
The addition of a quality professional in Justin Kemp and Ireland pace bowler Max Sorensen doesn’t weaken the Belmont side any and they will be a tough nut to crack.
Andy Britton’s Brigade side proved too strong for CIYMS in last season’s Ulster Cup clash in Belfast.