Welcome to the new weekly roundup on the second tier of football in Northern Ireland, which kicked off on Friday evening past. Just to give you a quick overview of the league for those of you unfamiliar with it The Bluefin Sport Championship is a twelve team division and the league format is that the teams play each other twice home and away, the league then splits into the top half and bottom half with teams playing the teams in their half a further two times home and away for a total of 32 games per team, at the end of the season the team in 1st place gets promoted, assuming they meet the licencing requirements to play in the Premiership, 2nd and 3rd then play off against each other over two legs with the winner playing second bottom from the Premiership in the Promotion/Relegation play off, again over two legs. Now that we’re all familiar with the setup let’s take a look at the weekends results, starting with Friday nights fixture.
Dergview 1-2 Institute
Following two Promotion/Relegation play off defeats ‘Stute’ will be hoping to go all the way this year and while most people will be looking at Portadown as promotion favourites Stute will certainly be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. After two seasons at the club manager Kevin Deery opted to stand down at the end of last season but has been replaced by Paddy McLaughlin, who is no stranger to the club. Dergview took the lead in the game after just two minutes and they must have thought it wasn’t their day when they had Darryl McDermott sent off ten minutes into the second half but an Aaron Harkin free kick and a Ryan Morrow strike ensured Institute got off to a winning start this season.
Ballyclare Comrades 2-1 Loughgall
Both these sides managed top six finishes last season, Ballyclare in particular surprised many by finishing third and losing out to Institute in the 2nd/3rd play-off. Clifford Adams is entering his first full season in charge of the Comrades and will hope to further make his mark at the club. Loughgall have had a busy summer bringing in some highly rated players from relegated Armagh and Annagh as well as Jamie Douglas from Premiership side Dungannon. Samuel McIlveen opened the scoring to give the Comrades the lead but Douglas scored on his debut to ensure the two sides were level at the break. Mark Kelly scored what then proved to be the winner for the Ballyclare men just a couple pf minutes into the second half.
Larne 0-3 Portadown
Relegated Portadown start the game as most people’s favourites for the title, it’s not hard to say why as in Niall Currie that have a manager who knows his way around, and more importantly out of The Championship having secured promotion twice with Ards. Currie has also made a number of astute signings over the summer. A disappointing season for Larne last time out seen manager Davy McAlinden stand down and Tiernan Lynch take his place. Larne certainly seem to have ambitious plans but having brought in virtually an all new playing squad this summer whether they can gel quickly enough remains to be seen, a good start is crucial in this division due to the split. Goals from Niall Henderson, Matty Hazley and Kyle McVey ensure Portadown finished the day top of the table with Larne sitting rock bottom.
Limavady 3-1 Harland and Wolff Welders
The Welders are another side that had what could be classed as a disappointing season, after competing for promotion for a number of years the failed to make it into the top half last term ending up in 7th place, though bizarrely due to the split they did actually finish with more points than the teams in 4th, 5th and 6th and with the same number of points as Ballyclare in 3rd. After a spell away Limavady return to The Championship as Premier Intermediate League champions and showed on Saturday that they aren’t here just to make up the numbers. Shane Jennings gave his side the lead after just ten minutes and then doubled his and the Roesiders tally a few minutes before halftime, between the goals the Welders had Gareth McKeown sent off for an alleged elbow. The Welders did manage to pull a goal back midway through the second half but substitute Jordan Thompson secured the points for United.
Lurgan Celtic 2-1 Newry City
The fact that Newry City are in the second tier of Irish League football just a few years after their formation, due to the original club being wound up, is a truly incredible success story and you have to take your hat off to everyone who is involved at the club in any cpapcity but particularly those hard working supporters and volunteers behind the scenes. When Mark Hughes scored for Nerey just before halftime those supporters must have thought they were in for a dream start but unfortunately for them goals from Warner Mullan and Aaron Haire meant it wasn’t meant to be this week.
PSNI 0-0 Knockbreda
The top three divisions in Northern Ireland over the weekend seen a bucket load of goals go in but it would be greedy to expect the same thing in every match and unfortunately for spectators at this game there were no goals scored at Newforge Lane on Saturday.
Join us again next week for the Bluefin Sports Roundup when we look back on; Harland and Wolff Welders v Larne, Institute v Lurgan Celtic, Knockbreda v Ballyclare Comrades, Loughgall v Dergview, Newry City v PSNI and Portadown v Loughgall. Also check back in tomorrow when we will be looking back on the first weekend of action in Northern Ireland’s third tier, the Premier Intermediate League.