Intriguing finale is lying in store in NCU and North West leagues

CSNI are in action against Lisburn this weekend

CSNI are in action against Lisburn this weekend

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The business end of the season is approaching in both the NCU and North West, with a pivotal weekend awaiting if the rain stays away.

If anything, the NCU Premier League race is the more fascinating.

Waringstown remain top of the table with seven victories from eight matches, but their hold on top spot is perhaps more tenuous than it initially appears.

The villagers travel to Eaton Park on Saturday where they have lost in each of the last three seasons, and it will be a searching examination given their selection issues.

What makes this title race all the more intriguing is that apart from Ballymena and Muckamore, the bottom two, all of the other six teams continue to have title aspirations.

Lisburn and North Down have both lost four matches, but given that the last two title winners have triumphed with 10 wins from 14 matches, neither can be ruled out if they remain unbeaten for the rest of the season.

North Down, the Irish Cup semi-finalists, know they have no margin for error against Instonians on Saturday. Inst are the team with the momentum, having started the season two defeats they have won six consecutive games since.

Their most recent victory, a last-ball triumph over CIYMS when the game had seemed dead, could well be a season-defining point for Neil Russell’s men. Last season the Shaw’s Bridge side were the team everyone wanted to catch after leading the title race all the way before a late slip allowed Waringstown a share while this season it may suit them to come from behind.

Russell has a full strength team at his disposal, with long-term injury victim, Andrew Forbes, the young seam bowler, back in the team. Ben Wylie, the left-arm slow bowler, is now available after university and other commitments.

There is also no margin for error at Wallace Park where Lisburn take on Civil Service North, the Challenge Cup winners. CSNI have three defeats to their name and this ranks amongst one of their most difficult matches. However, a victory here would keep them well in the hunt for the title along with CIYMS, who will be strong favourites at home to Muckamore.

Elsewhere in the NCU, Lisburn seconds face Academy, the favourites, in the Junior Cup final at Moylena on Saturday.

In the North West, Brigade, the league leaders, travel to Ardmore on Sunday where they will face Decker Curry fresh from his remarkable heroics against Bready two weeks ago.

Strabane, their closest rivals, travel to champions Coleraine with the Bannsiders back in the title hunt.

Gordon Cooke’s men endured a tough start to the defence of their title, but victory over Strabane would put them right back in the hunt.

There are two games on Saturday with Bready, the Ulster Cup finalists, hosting Eglinton and Donemana travelling to Fox Lodge.

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