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B & D Leagues 2014/15 - Week 1

The Belfast & District Leagues are now underway for the 2014/15 season - despite the withdrawal of the Silver King holders Fisherwick, it looks set to be as competitive as ever.

Division 1

Under normal circumstances, the withdrawal of the reigning champions could be said to "blow the league wide open" - however, given the conclusion to last season, it's difficult to imagine the league being much more open than it already was. Nevertheless, we will almost certainly be seeing a brand new name on the Silver King come next April - the only question is, who?

Lindores have brought in 2013 Ulster Champion Mike Redman from Ballynafeigh, although word is that he is unlikely to play much part until late in the season due to other commitments. In the meantime, Richard Gould arrives from Muldoons to bolster their lower order. Muldoons themselves, meanwhile, look set to rely on more or less the same squad that took them to second place last season.

Ballynafeigh have made their title ambitions clear with a fully-loaded first team (in contrast to last season when their first and second teams were of roughly equal strength) - the flipside of this is that Ballynafeigh 2 could find themselves struggling against relegation. That said, they are likely to benefit the most from the withdrawals of Fisherwick and Lagan - Chris Kelly will be turning out for BNF2 while Ian Woodfield - who could slot into either team - is also said to be moving to the Ormeau Road club.

Belfast South 1 are another team who have added a Lagan refugee to their panel (Chris Armstrong, in this case) while at John Strawbridge Cup holders Bangor, the top boards will have a similar look to last season - but word is that a number of promising young players are coming through.

Fruithill only finished fourth in Division 2 last season, although with the return of Alan Delaney from Lindores they were judged to be best-equipped to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of Fisherwick. If they can consistently put out their strongest line-up they should hold their own, although they were anything but consistent in their team selection last season.

On to the matches...

Ballynafeigh 2 0.5-4.5 Ballynafeigh 1

The race for the Silver King kicked off with a Ballynafeigh derby. Unlike last season, BNF1 were the clear favourites, although owing to absences the recently-crowned Ulster Junior Champion Eoin Carey was called up to board 5 for the first team. In the first game to finish, David Houston defeated Thomas Donaldson - Donaldson's blistering form was one of the stories of last season, but with a 450-point rating gap to overcome he was always going to struggle. Stephen Rush extended the lead with a win over Chris Kelly, while Soren Jensen drew with Damien Cunningham. The board 5 contest between Eoin Carey and Robert Lavery had "potential banana skin" written all over it - and so it proved as Lavery's king and rook were forked, securing the match for BNF1. Brendan Jamison completed the win with a defeat of Chris Black.

Belfast South 1 1-4 Muldoons 1

Muldoons 1 ran out easy winners against Belfast South 1 despite the absence of Stephen Wood. His replacement, Peter McGuckin, was held to a draw by Martin Kelly, but apart from that and a draw for Bruce MacLean against Des Moreland it was one-way traffic for the visitors.

Bangor 0.5-4.5 Lindores 1

Lindores 1 proved too strong for Bangor as the home side were given a harsh introduction to Division 1. Paul McLoughlin prevented the whitewash with a draw against Calum Leitch, but that was all Bangor took from this match.

Standings

PlayedPoints
Ballynafeigh 1 1 6.5
Lindores 1 1 6.5
Muldoons 1 1 6
Belfast South 1 1 1
Ballynafeigh 2 1 0.5
Bangor 1 0.5
Fruithill 0 0

Division 2

This season's Division 2 sees the welcome return of Queen's University to the League as well as additional teams from Lindores and Ballynafeigh.

Muldoons 2 3-2 Lindores 2

Muldoons 2 got off to a winning start against Lindores' newly-formed second team. Rodney Orr got the home side off the mark with a blistering win over Lindores debutant David Barr after a lapse in concentration in an ultra-sharp position. The returning Bernard McCaughey then drew with Shane Keers to maintain the home side's lead. Iza Bujak - also making her Lindores debut - equalised for the visitors with a win over Pat McKillen, despite dropping an exchange and getting into severe time trouble. Peter Wilson, despite giving away over 250 rating points to opponent Paul McNaughton, pulled off an impressive win to put Muldoons 2 back in front. Lindores' hopes rested on a third debutant, Andy Hughes, but he couldn't quite break Paddy Maguire down and had to settle for a draw.

Ballynafeigh 4 3-2 Ballynafeigh 3

The week's other Ballynafeigh derby saw the fourth team narrowly defeat the third team. BNF3 had two league newcomers in their line-up - Tyrone Winter and Owen McEvoy (the latter coming off a 3/6 performance at the Ulster Junior Championship) - but they could only score half a point between them as Winter lost to Barney McGahan while McEvoy shared the point with Paul Charles. The scores were even over the other three boards, giving BNF4 the win.

Ballynafeigh 5 0-5 Belfast South 2

In the week's only whitewash, Belfast South 2 ran out easy winners over Ballynafeigh's new fifth team, fronted by the debuting James Shaw. He proved to be no match for David Ruben, though, and his teammates followed suit shortly.

NI Civil Service 4-1 QUB

QUB suffered a disappointing start to their first league campaign since 2009-10; Chris Roe, in particular, will have felt that he should have achieved a result against Drew Ferguson. Newcomer James Baker scored the visitors' sole point with a win over Rhys McLean.

Standings

PlayedPoints
Belfast South 2 1 7
NICS 1 6
Ballynafeigh 4 1 5
Muldoons 2 1 5
Ballynafeigh 3 1 2
Lindores 2 1 2
QUB 1 1
Ballynafeigh 5 1 0
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