Slaughtneil face Ballinderry in the Derry SFC semi-finals this weekend after defeating Glen in the last eight.
FOLLOWING advice received from the Department for Health and Ulster GAA, this weekend’s Derry Senior Football Championship semi-final matches - originally fixed for Celtic Park - will now take place at Bellaghy.
"This decision has been taken to safeguard the welfare of our members and the wider community as we continue to navigate the on-going Covid-19 pandemic and follows meetings between Ulster GAA and government bodies," said a Derry GAA spokesperson.
The games will now go ahead as follows:Saturday 6pm at Bellaghy - Loup v Magherafelt and Sunday 5pm at Bellaghy - Slaughtneil v Ballinderry.
Both games will be streamed live on the ‘WeAreDerry’ platform and admission to the games is by ticket only.
Here, GAA correspondent Bernie Mullan previews two intriguing games...
Slaughtneil v Ballinderry
These two teams have won seven of the last nine titles between them yet it is a big surprise to see Balinderry in the last four after winning just one of their three group games.
That said, when the championship comes around, Ballinderry seem to rise to the occasion and they have reached this stage on merit.
Having beaten Newbridge in extra-time in the first knock-out phase, they got the better of Ballinascreen on Saturday by 2-12 to 2-9 in a thrilling encounter.
Quite a few of the Shamrock’s last title winning team of 2013 are still on board and no doubt eyeing another final.
Given the form that Slaughtneil have shown to date they will go in as very strong favourites. In the group games they easily beat Coleraine, Lavey and Kilrea.
Then, the first knockout game was against rank outsiders Foreglen and they negotiated that hurdle easily.
When they were drawn in the quarter-final against rivals Glen many thought that it would have made a good final. Last year, Glen beat the Emmett’s in the semi-final but there was to be no repeat at Celtic Park on Sunday.
Shane McGuigan has been excelling in the Slaughtneil attack and if the Shamrock’s are to upset the odds they will have to curb him which is no easy task as other defences have found out.
Slaughtneil set out their stall at the beginning of this mini season to win back the title and it is doubtful if the Ballinderry side has the power to stop them.
Magherafelt v The Loup
The champions Magherafelt have shown why they hold the John McLaughlin Cup.
They have been winning games while not playing particularly well and not scoring as much as they would like. At the other end of the field they have not been conceding much either.
They won two of their group games against Ballinderry and Magherafelt but lost narrowly to Glen, scoring only 1-5 in that game.
They negotiated a tricky first knockout game with Lavey and on Saturday past beat Swatragh by 1-11 to 0-10. It took a goal from defender Ryan Ferris to take them to a 1-8 to 0-9 victory in the win over Lavey.
The Loup beat Coleraine handily enough on Sunday but the Eoghan Rua side has not been playing well this year and were fortunate even to be in the last eight. Prior to that they had beaten a rookie Dungiven team by 0-21 to 1-11.
Victories, no matter what the opposition is, grows confidence and new manager Paddy Bradley will be pretty happy with the progress of Loup so far considering the injury problems they have had.
Magherafelt, who are very strong defensively, will start as favourites even though they have lost to Loup more often than they have beaten them.
Magherafelt’s counter attacking style with Conor Kearns the conductor is good enough to take them to the semi final.
They can stifle the Loup attack led by Anthony O’Neill and the Devlin brothers and get enough scores on the break to reach back to back finals.
The Chronicle will have reports and photos from both games in next Tuesday's paper...