Irish League Preview of the Week

Dr. Grant Campbell of the ‘Campbell’s Footballs’ podcast (a.k.a. Stato) discusses his predictions and thoughts each week in the Danske Bank Premiership in Northern Ireland. Grant will provide his thoughts on the upcoming league matches and offers his predictions.

MatchesStato’s PredictionsActual scoreline
Crusaders v Cliftonville1-12-2 (1pt)
Glenavon v Ballymena2-13-2 (1pt)
Glentoran v Dungannon Swifts4-12-0 (1pt)
Larne v Linfield1-11-1 (3pts)
Portadown v Carrick Rangers1-02-0 (1pt)
Warrenpoint Town v Coleraine1-21-2 (3pts)
Glentoran v Coleraine (TUES)2-12-2
Portadown v Dungannon Swifts (TUES)2-01-0 (1pt)
Warrenpoint Town v Carrick Rangers (TUES)1-00-0

From the six games played last weekend, I got six correct outcomes with two perfect score. As close to a full house as I’m going to get! I picked up one point from the matches on Tuesday evening with no perfect scores. Let’s see if I can fare as well, or better, in this weekend’s matches.

Player of the Week: Rory Donnelly (Glentoran)

After his double against Dungannon and overall performances against the Swifts and Coleraine this week, Rory Donnelly wins my player of the week award (pictured).

Glentoran striker Rory Donnelly ready to brave the shave for charity - how  to watch - Belfast Live
Acknowledgement: Belfast Live and Glentoran Football Club

His first goal against Dungannon was an exquisite finish but his second goal was superb vision and sheer opportunistic brilliance. Donnelly took advantage of Roy Carroll being so far out of his goal to head the ball from all of 35 yards out into the net.

If that was Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, I guarantee you it would have had billions of views on YouTube and other streaming channels.

You can perhaps blame the goalkeeper for his decision making but you can’t take anything away from Donnelly and his quick thinking.

He probably won’t score a better goal than that in his entire career.

Certainly not with his head anyway!

Team of the Week: Portadown and Northern Ireland Women

After back to back wins and clean sheets against Carrick and Dungannon respectively, Portadown win my team of the week award.

It’s been a superb week for Matthew Tipton’s side as goals from Lee Bonis and Ben Tilney secured the win over Carrick Rangers on Saturday before backing that up on Tuesday night against Dungannon as Adam Salley’s only goal was the difference.

Portadown F.C. - Wikipedia

Those two wins moved Portadown nine points clear of the bottom and they are now right on the coattails of Warrenpoint in ninth. When I spoke to Matthew for my Campbells Footballs Podcast at the start of the season, he said tenth was the target and anything else would be a bonus. The way things are going at present, you wouldn’t bet against them picking Warrenpoint off for ninth yet. The momentum is certainly with them.

You have to also give a massive congratulations to Northern Ireland Women on qualification to the Euro 2022 Championships. Kenny Shiels girls’ won 2-1 over in Ukraine and followed that up with an excellent 2-0 home win in the return game at Seaview.

Led by captain Marissa Callaghan of Cliftonville Ladies, Shiels’ team showed great tenacity, determination and quality to see off their opponents at the home of Crusaders on Tuesday. Callaghan was brave in taking advantage of inept defending to put the hosts in front before a late goal by Nadene Caldwell (pictured) sealed a perfect storm for Northern Ireland as they won 4-1 on aggregate.

In pictures: Northern Ireland 2-0 Ukraine
Acknowledgement|: Irish FA

The first leg was a superb showing as well with Rachel Furness and Simone Magill delivering the goods out in Kovalivka but it was in truth two magnificent team performances across the board.

Julie Nelson and Ashley Hutton were in particular solid in defence throughout the two legs and the team played with bravery and passion throughout. Kenny Shiels described it as the biggest sporting achievement in the UK. I don’t think he’s too far wrong.

As Thomas Kane said superbly in commentary: “sometimes dreams do come true. Northern Ireland are heading to the Euros…”

And HOW!! Congratulations to the girls and Kenny.

Friday 16th March – Coleraine v Glentoran, Coleraine Showgrounds, KO 19.30, BBC Sport NI

For the second time in a week, it’s second against third in the Irish League, as Coleraine and Glentoran go head to head again, this time at the Coleraine Showgrounds.

After both teams won last weekend against Dungannon and Warrenpoint respectively, the two teams shared a four goal thriller on Tuesday night at the Oval.

It’s been an interesting few days for Coleraine. Stephen O’Donnell doesn’t score many goals but his brace on Saturday turned the game around for the Bannsiders after they fell behind at Warrenpoint. At the Oval, Matthew Shevlin (pictured) looked to have been the match winner with two well taken goals of his own but it was a freakish own goal by Josh Carson that ended up gifting Glentoran a point in the end. Carson could have made that challenge 10,000 times and only once would that have occurred. You simply have to see it to believe it.

Shevlin signs for Bannsiders - Alpha Newspaper Group
Acknowledgement: Coleraine Chronicle

For Glentoran, it’s been an intriguing week for them too.

Rory Donnelly will probably have never been viewed as much on social media as he has been for a long time after his 35 yard header for the second goal against Dungannon on Saturday. It was opportunist and clinical from the big striker. If that was done in any of Europe’s top leagues, it would have to be a clear winner for the Puskas award. His first goal wasn’t bad either. Not to be out done though, his brother Jay got in on the act too in the Coleraine game with an exquisite opening goal which left Martin Gallagher with no chance.

Both teams were competitive on Tuesday night and I expect this to be another exciting game on Friday night, though I expect whoever wins this game is probably going to finish second. The gap to Linfield at the top, for me, is too large to close down.

Glentoran boss Mick McDermott threatening to pen an intoxicating new  chapter in Oval club's history - Belfast Live
Acknowledgement: Belfast Live

Mick McDermott’s (pictured) team will be keen to get one over Oran Kearney and his side before the split and I will boldly predict that they will get the win here and put themselves in pole position to finish second behind the Blues.

Stato’s Prediction: Coleraine 1-2 Glentoran

Friday 16th March – Carrick Rangers v Dungannon Swifts, Taylor’s Avenue, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI

The bottom two meet on Friday night at Taylor’s Avenue as Carrick host Dungannon with both teams on a six game winless run.

Niall Currie’s (pictured) side have had a mixed week after losing 2-0 away at Portadown where they came undone by two fabulous finishes before claiming a rare clean sheet in a goalless draw away at Warrenpoint.

I'm a summer guy': Niall Currie lends support to Irish League season switch  after win over Crusaders continues Carrick's good form -
Acknowledgement: Belfast Telegraph

As for Dungannon, they also came unstuck at Portadown and were on the end of a Glentoran masterclass at the Oval last weekend. The biggest problem for the Swifts this season has been a lack of goals. They have only scored 17 in the league all season and like Carrick have conceded too much at the other end.

Dean Shiels (pictured) has a lot of work to do to try and make Dungannon competitive but this is the time to do it especially with no relegation this season.

Has he let me down, I don't know': Dean Shiels fumes after Dungannon  captain Dougie Wilson confirms Ballymena United switch -
Acknowledgement: Belfast Telegraph

Dungannon have not scored against Carrick this season and Carrick won the last meeting between the two sides 2-0 at Stangmore Park earlier in the campaign.

I’m going to go for a narrow home win here. You always feel Carrick have guys in their side who can score and I think one goal might settle things.

Stato’s Prediction: Carrick Rangers 1-0 Dungannon Swifts

Saturday 27th March – Crusaders v Glenavon, Seaview, KO 19.45, BBC Sport NI

The battle for the top six continues to hot up this weekend as Crusaders and Glenavon meet at Seaview on Friday night.

Crusaders come off the back of a draw in the North Belfast derby last weekend and I think overall Stephen Baxter will have been pleased his side got something from the game. Philip Lowry’s (pictured) cheeky back heel finish rescued a point for the Crues but what will concern Baxter is the two goals his team conceded to Cliftonville as both were route one. There’s small signs of life still in Crusaders season but they need it more than ever now.

MY BEST 11 I PLAYED WITH: Philip Lowry | Derry Journal
Acknowledgement: Derry Journal

I fancied Glenavon to beat Ballymena last weekend at Mourneview and I was proven right as the Lurgan Blues picked up all three points in an entertaining encounter. Two of the three Glenavon goals came from set pieces and a late Danny Purkis penalty won it for Gary Hamilton’s men in the closing stages.

I was pleased to see James Singleton (pictured) get on the scoresheet last weekend. He’s a classy full back and always puts in consistent showings for Hamilton and Glenavon.

Singleton scores as Glenavon beat Town 4-2 in friendly | Banbridge Leader
Acknowledgement: Banbridge Leader

Crusaders come into this match favourites with the bookmakers but Glenavon are unbeaten in their last four meetings with the Crues and have won three of those.

I’m going to back an entertaining draw here which I’m not sure will suit either team in their quest to get into that top six.

Stato’s Prediction: Crusaders 2-2 Glenavon

Saturday 27th March – Larne v Warrenpoint Town, Inver Park, KO 20.00, BBC Sport NI

Larne and Warrenpoint take on each other this weekend at Inver Park.

Tiernan Lynch’s side played very well against Linfield last weekend but only got a point for their efforts. Marty Donnelly was back to his best with some fabulous ingenuity and creativity and Ronan Hale got himself on the scoresheet again.

It was agony for Larne though as they conceded a late equaliser and to make matters worse Fuad Sule (pictured) came so close to scoring one of the goals of the season late on had it not been for a stunning save by Chris Johns.

Hard work paying off for Larne says Fuad Sule | Belfast News Letter
Acknowledgement: Belfast News Letter

It’s been a frustrating week for Warrenpoint, who have now gone ten games without a win since that 2-0 victory at Crusaders. From their two home games against Coleraine and Carrick, they only amassed a solitary point for their efforts. The Point had Coleraine in all sorts of trouble when Kealan Dillon (pictured) opened the scoring with an exquisite finish from distance but they’ll have been annoyed with the two goals they conceded from set pieces.

As for Carrick, they’ll have been disappointed to have only got a draw I’m sure.

Barry Gray thrilled to see Warrenpoint Town continue their upward  trajectory after ruthless win away to Carrick Rangers -
Acknowledgement: Belfast Telegraph

Both previous meetings between the two sides have finished 1-1 but I am backing Larne to continue their good form of late and record a comfortable home win and go unbeaten in ten of their last eleven matches.

Stato’s Prediction: Larne 2-0 Warrenpoint Town

Saturday 27th March – Linfield v Ballymena United, Windsor Park, KO 17.30, BBC Sport NI

David Healy’s men will be aiming to take another massive stride towards defending the title on Saturday as they host David Jeffrey’s Ballymena at Windsor Park.

Linfield were abject for much of the game at Inver Park last weekend but when you have a poacher like Andy Waterworth (pictured) to bring off the bench you’ve always got a chance and the Blues legend tapped home late on to claim a vital point for Healy and his side. What was just as crucial was the stunning Chris Johns save from Fuad Sule late on to preserve the draw. It was an outstanding finger tip save.

Linfield striker Andy Waterworth opens up on contract talks and full-time  conundrum - Belfast Live
Acknowledgement; Belfast Live

Ballymena will have been disappointed with the quality of goals they gave away last weekend at Glenavon. The first two goals were awful to concede from corners but the Sky Blues showed great character to come back to 2-2. Unfortunately a late penalty conceded by Ryan Harpur (pictured) proved decisive as Glenavon won the game.

Jeffrey will know the importance of bouncing back from that and what better game to do that than in a matchup against the side he had so much success with back in the day.

Ryan Harpur | NI Football League
Acknowledgement: Northern Ireland Football League

Ballymena won the previous meeting between the two sides at the Showgrounds with Connor Keeley’s double proving decisive but going to Windsor and getting a result is so tough and I simply cannot see history repeating itself here.

Therefore, I’m going to go for Linfield to win this match by a couple of goals.

Stato’s Prediction: Linfield 3-1 Ballymena United

Saturday 27th March – Portadown v Cliftonville, Shamrock Park, KO 17.30, BBC Sport NI

Having picked up back to back home wins this week, Portadown will be keen to make it three in a row as they host a Cliftonville side who are still ticking along nicely in their quest for top six football.

What was also rare about Portadown’s back to back wins was also the fact they kept clean sheets in both games too. Jacob Carney (pictured) was a big reason for that with a string of fine saves and growing confidence in between the sticks. The goal scoring was also of real quality this week from Portadown too with Ben Tilney, Lee Bonis and Adam Salley all scoring fine goals.

Coveted Jacob Carney's attacking strengths best form of defence for  Portadown | Belfast News Letter
Acknowledgement: Belfast Newsletter

Paddy McLaughlin looked a man massively frustrated that his side dropped two points against Crusaders last weekend. He was disappointed in the manner of the two goals his team conceded from set pieces and I can definitely understand his frustration. He’ll have been pleased though that his side did not lose the game as his team are still very much in pole position to get into that top six and push on for Europe.

Cliftonville's Paddy McLaughlin in player warning
Acknowledgement: MSN

It’s over ten years since Portadown beat the Reds at Shamrock Park in the League so all the form must go to Cliftonville heading into this one.

This could be a very intriguing game though and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Matthew Tipton’s side got a draw here, especially as there seems a renewed confidence in his side. They have nothing to lose and that makes them more dangerous.

Cliftonville will have to play well to win here.

Stato’s Prediction: Portadown 1-1 Cliftonville

Useful Links and sources which you should check out:

NIFL Premiership Highlights Show:

The Score NI with Michael Clarke:

The Waffle – Irish League Podcast

That’s What I Call Football

Check out quality Irish League content from some of the Leagues top names:

Joel Taggart, Liam Beckett, Michael Clarke, Nicola McCarthy, Colin Hopkins, Steven Beacom, Mark McIntosh and find some of the characters I’ve interviewed so far by visiting the Campbell’s Footballs archive.

NIFL Premiership - Wikipedia

Published by Dr. Grant Campbell

My name is Grant and I am the host of "The only show where bad predictions are cancelled out by good craic": Campbell's Footballs. This podcast will host plenty of wild football predictions as well as interesting stories from a diverse range of guests from all life within football such as grassroots, media and journalism, ex-professionals and genuine football fans. Contributions, shout outs and conversations encouraged! In Association with music from Toby Johnson and Rory Hope.

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