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Coleraine must beat Donemana to keep title race alive: Cooke


By Ian Callender

The wait for an Irish Cup finalist may have gone into a 14th season, but the North West has its own match of the day tomorrow when Donemana host Coleraine in the Premiership.

It's second v first, but the pressure is all on the Bannsiders whose lead is only 3.5 points and the champions have a game in hand. But the game could not have come at a worse time for Coleraine as captain David Cooke reveals.

"It's looking like a very difficult weekend for us," he said.

"Scott Campbell and Tim Chopra are unavailable, while Steve Lazars has been ill all week as well, although we're hoping he will be OK to play."

And Cooke is honest enough to admit tomorrow's game is a must-win - and not just for Coleraine.

"We have to win to keep the title race open, both for ourselves and also Brigade (in third place). If we lose then I can't see either of us getting close to Donemana with just two games to play."

Campbell is a huge loss for the Bannsiders, not only with the bat but with the ball. He took four wickets in the first league game at Sandel Lodge, and even then it was not enough to prevent a first defeat of the season.

The second was last Saturday when a wet pitch at Eglinton saw the 79 posted by the home side prove to be a winning total as Coleraine crashed to 73 all out, with Lazars top scoring with 25.

The loss was compounded on Wednesday night when Donemana completed a four wickets victory over Ardmore to almost wipe out the Bannsiders' advantage, so it's little wonder that Cooke believes it is win or bust at The Holm today.

Coleraine are back in action on Sunday when they travel to Saintfield for the first time for the Ulster Cup semi-final against Waringstown, but Cooke is realistic enough to accept that it will be an almost impossible task to reach the afternoon final against North Down or Bready.

"If I'm completely honest, Sunday is about fulfilling the fixture because I think we're four players down for that. That's not to suggest we won't be going out to compete but it's a massive ask against a side like Waringstown."

Meanwhile, Ulster Shield finals day, being hosted by Strabane on Sunday, has turned into something of a nightmare for the organisers with NCU T20 champions Armagh following Woodvale as a 'no show' and leaving late replacements Holywood as the only NCU representatives.

Armagh claim they told the NCU before the season started that they had no interest in an Ulster competition and phone calls round NCU clubs - even some Section Two sides were asked - drew a blank.

It was also too late notice for any other North West clubs to join the action so the revised line-up is that St Johnston, as the North West champions, will receive a bye into the final and play the winners of the one semi-final between Strabane and Holywood.

FIXTURES: Tomorrow (1.00): Long's SuperValu Premiership: Ardmore v Brigade, Donemana v Coleraine, Drummond v Eglinton, Fox Lodge v Bready.

Championship: Burndennett v Ballyspallen, St Johnston v Killyclooney, Strabane v Newbuildings.

Sunday: Ulster Shield semi-final: Strabane v Holywood (12.00, Strabane Park). Final: St Johnston v Strabane or Holywood (4.00, Strabane Park).

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