AIl Division 2C: City of Derry v Bruff (Judges Road, Saturday, 2.30pm)
City of Derry are eyeing up a hat-trick of victories on what could be a pivotal day for the future of the Craig Thompson Stadium club.
Saturday sees the club’s Third string take on Ballymena Fifths in the Butler Shield final at Limavady (2.30pm) at the same time as the Seconds travel to Randalstown trying to add the Provincial League Division 3 title to the promotion they secured two weeks ago.
And running simultaneous to these, Paul O’Kane’s First XV will continue the fight to secure the club’s All Ireland League status on what promises to be a huge weekend for the Division 2C table.
Third placed Bruff are the visitors to Judges Road on a day when top of the table Ballina entertain Derry’s relegation rivals, Tullamore, and Seapoint travel to second placed Midleton, meaning any points won this weekend could have a decisive impact.
An intriguing penultimate AIL weekend is completed by the meeting of the other two teams in the relegation picture, Bangor and Thomond, at Liam Fitzgerald Park.
“It’s a big weekend,” admitted O’Kane, “It will be very difficult for Tullamore in Ballina, Seapoint are at Midleton and we have Bruff - it’s a strange dynamic.
“Bangor will want a victory in Thomond but for Thomond, they are at a point where if they don’t win they are relegated. It’s all or nothing this week for them. It will be an intriguing set of fixtures.”
And there was mixed news on the personnel front for O’Kane who will welcome back the influential Simon Logue but loses Conor McMenamin to an Ireland under 19 call-up while Ben Pollin is facing an extended spell on the sidelines after damaging his cruciate ligament in training on Tuesday.
“We are going to have to back ourselves,” adds O’Kane, “This is going to be a very tough game but hopefully we can put in a performance. We let ourselves down badly against Seapoint.
“We were awful but I would put it down to a different type of inexperience in that some of the boys got ahead of themselves. Some were thinking about the what might happen if we won rather than actually going out and playing the game in front of them.
“Bruff are a hugely physically team. Between Bruff, Malahide and Bangor, they are probably the three most physical sides in the division. It is going to be a massive challenge.
“From the game we played in Bruff, we know if we turn up and do our job for 80 minutes, then we are in with a chance. Bruff are quite a similar team to Midleton. We know if we perform we will have a chance but it is all down to how we perform on the day. That’s the challenge.”
Despite the pressure, O’Kane said the club was moving in the right direction.
“It’s a big weekend in the club, no doubt. The Seconds can win their league. They are promoted already but a win on Saturday would see them promoted with a league winner’s medal in their pocket which would be brilliant.
“The Thirds are in the Butler Shield final as well so that is another big game and when you consider the Ladies are in their Cup final next week in Ravenhill, it shows who positive things around the club are.
“We just have to concentrate on the job in hand. It is our last home game of the season and we want to make sure we put in a performance to be proud of.”