Finalists kept apart in Derry

By Michael McMullan

GLEN will begin the defence of their Derry, Ulster and All-Ireland titles when the club championship gets under way next month.

Malachy O’Rourke’s side have the chance to win a fourth title in succession to match Bellaghy (1961) and Sleacht Néill (2017) in the past.

They have been kept apart from beaten finalists Magherafelt in the draw for a new group format this season.

There will only be 12 teams in the mix this season with Coleraine and Ballinderry both relegated at the end of last season.

In a change of direction, Derry CCC will bring the number of teams back to 16 for next season with the four intermediate semi-finalists promoted for 2025 with nobody relegated from the top flight.

Glen have been paired with local rivals Sleacht Néill and Swatragh in their group.

They will be joined by current league leaders Kilrea as well as Dungiven and Bellaghy who both sit joint second.

The draw was seeded based on the standings in last year’s championship. Magherafelt are in with Newbridge who they beat in the 2023 semi-finals.

Ballinascreen and Lavey, who met in last year’s league relegation play-off, are also in Magherafelt’s group with Steelstown and Loup completing the six.

The round robin games will decide the quarter-final pairings.

The top four make the knock out stages on a first versus fourth and second versus third basis from each group.

Each team will have two home games, two away and one played at a neutral venue.

The semi-finals will be an open draw with repeat pairings permitted.

Action begins on the weekend of August 4 with the final down for Sunday, October 27.

The Derry champions are then at home to the winners of Armagh when the Ulster Championship comes calling in November.

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