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Larkin out of North Down's win or bust battle

By Ian Callender

While Ireland's games against Sri Lanka A, at Stormont today and Coleraine on Sunday, take centre-stage this weekend, a full programme of NCU and North West fixtures goes ahead tomorrow without the internationals.

And, in both top flight leagues, the leaders are in direct opposition.

It is a four-way tie at the top of the Ulster Bank Premier League and North Down, who must do without new international Nick Larkin, have played two games more than Waringstown. They know it is win or bust when the teams meet at The Green, while the other co-leaders, CIYMS and Instonians, who each have an identical record after seven matches, meet at Belmont.

Only four points separate the top six because Civil Service North and Lisburn are just one win behind the leaders and it will stay that way if, as expected, CSN beat bottom-of-the-table Muckamore at Stormont and Lisburn win their home match against Ballymena.

In the North West, Strabane and Brigade have a four point gap at the top of the Premiership table at the halfway point of the season and tomorrow's game could have a huge bearing on the title.

How Brigade react to their Cup final defeat to Donemana last weekend will be crucial, but they will also have to reverse their league defeat at Beechgrove last month, when Strabane completed a comfortable 61 run victory.

Bready and defending champions Coleraine are the closest challengers and it should stay that way as they play the bottom two.

The Bannsiders go to Fox Lodge and Bready are away to Ardmore.

Completing the weekend's action are the two Ulster Cup semi-finals with NCU up against North West in each game.

If either Bready, against CIYMS, or Donemana against Waringstown, win the final will be in the North West and Bready would appear to have the best chance of getting the 'home' final.

CIYMS professional Rassie van der Dussen won't be around on August 10 but new signing Jeremy Bray, the former Ireland opening batsman, is available for Sunday's semi-final and, of course, if they reach their first 40-over final.

TODAY: International (10.45am): Ireland v Sri Lanka A (Stormont). Ulster Bank Premier League (5.00): Waringstown v Ballymena (T20).

TOMORROW (12.00): CIYMS v Instonians (11.30), Civil Service North v Muckamore (11.30), Lisburn v Ballymena, North Down v Waringstown. Section One: Derriaghy v Carrickfergus, Downpatrick v Cliftonville, Holywood v Dundrum, Lurgan v Templepatrick, Woodvale v Bangor. SUNDAY (12.00): Carrickfergus v Downpatrick, Holywood v Templepatrick.Section Two: BISC v Cooke Collegians, Drumaness v Academy, Laurelvale v Donacloney, Saintfield v Armagh, Victoria v Millpark. Section Three: Donaghadee v Ards, Larne v Cregagh, Monaghan v Dunmurry, PSNI v Dungannon. Long's SuperValu Premiership: Ardmore v Bready, Donemana v Eglinton, Fox Lodge v Coleraine, Strabane v Brigade. Sam Jeffrey Cup quarter-finals: Bonds Glen v Creevedonnell, Killyclooney v Glendermott, St Johnston v Burndennett, Sion Mills v Drummond.

SUNDAY (10.45): International: Ireland v South Africa A (Coleraine). Ulster Cup semi-finals (1.00): Waringstown v Donemana, Bready v CIYMS.

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