It’s do-or-die for both senior teams this weekend with the firsts playing yet another ‘biggest game of the season so far’ in the quest for a first ever Premier League title and the seconds with the opportunity to reach the club’s first ever senior cup final.
The Newcastle Premier League is now effectively a three-horse race between reigning champions Ballyvea, second placed Carryduff Colts and Annalong Swifts, who are trailing in third place but have significant games in hand. Newcastle Swifts and Celtic Bhoys still have a mathematical chance while third placed Killough are out of the title hunt but will still be pursuing a top three finish.
With 20 games to play in total, this is how the top of the table now looks:
This weekend sees Colts go to Annalong and Ballyvea go to Killough in what could be a pivotal weekend for the title. Full league table is available at http://www.nadafl.co.uk/league/110618/mc_c_a_l_l_s_p_r_e_m_i_e_r while remaining fixtures are at http://www.nadafl.co.uk/upcomingFixtures/01-04-2017/13-05-2017
There are a range of permutations:
· If the Colts win and Ballyvea lose, it will put the destiny of the title in Colts’ own hands for the first time as Annalong would also be 12 points behind with an inferior goal difference.
· If both Colts and Ballyvea win, Colts will require Annalong to beat Ballyvea in their last game of the season and with Annalong still going for the title that is a strong possibility.
· If Colts lose and Ballyvea win, then the title bid is over for the Colts as Ballyvea would be seven points clear and Colts have only two games to play.
· If both lose, it is still possible for Colts to win but Annalong will be in the driving seat with a number of games in hand.
· A draw for the Colts would keep them in the hunt given goal difference is neck and neck but would mean Annalong could overtake them if they win all their games in hand.
First manager Eamon Deeny said: “With 10 minutes to go last weekend we were out of it. But the big crowd stayed with us and the players said afterwards it had really kept them going and to grab two late goals and then hear Ballyvea had got beaten was such a lift.
“But we have it all to do this weekend. Annalong will have a big support and know if they beat us they are back within six points of us with four games in hand and if Ballyvea win at the same time it is over for us. I hope we can bring some support to Annalong with us but the boys know what they have to do. We have gone 12 games unbeaten, winning 10, and have beaten all of the top teams at least once, so we are not without confidence.
“Annalong proved last week they are a good side but once we got the measure of them I felt we dominated the second half and we need to maintain that high level of performance no Saturday. We have a few injury concerns with our two top scorers DA Brownlee and Stevie Doherty both doubtful along with Conor ‘King’ Cassidy who has been outstanding in defence. However, we have a strong squad and I feel no matter what starting XI we put out we will push them all the way.
“We have had a remarkable season and if we can honour Stevie Milburn’s memory by lifting our first ever Premier League title to add to previous wins in the third and second divisions, then that would be a dream come true. Even if things to go our way, we still face Mourne Rovers twice – home and away – and although they are struggling towards the bottom you can never take anyone for granted in this league. However, it is the old cliché of one game at a time and no matter what happens this weekend or in the coming weeks, the boys have done themselves and the club proud.”
Meantime, the seconds face Newcastle III in the semi-final of the Bignian Cup.
Manager John Smith has transformed the seconds this year and they are currently lying second in Division Three with Newcastle a point behind with a game in hand. The teams met in the league at Lough Moss back in September with Newcastle the 2-1 victors but the seconds have improved unrecognisably since then and Saturday will be a great encounter.
Saturday’s Bignian Cup game is a 1.30pm kick off at Lough Moss while the Firsts game at Hillmount Park, Annalong, kicks off at 2pm. We are urging as many as possible to make the journey to Annalong to lend their support to the Firsts but anyone who can’t should try to get along to Lough Moss and get behind the Seconds.