Orchard and champions Bluebell lock horns in huge LSL derby

By Stephen Leonard

UNDOUBTEDLY the big game in the Leinster Senior League title race this weekend is the clash of Cherry Orchard and defending champions Bluebell United.

In a match that sees third host second, the Ballyfermot giants will welcome Bluebell to Elmdale in the hope of picking up their first league win since before Christmas.

Cherry Orchard v Bluebell 09022017

Having returned to the top ranks after winning Senior One last season, the Orchard made a great start to their current campaign, dropping a mere three points in their opening eight games.

Yet they have endured a slow start to 2017 with just two points secured from three outings- something they will be looking to rectify this Sunday.

“We play very attacking football” Cherry Orchard manager Declan Hevey told The Echo. “We draw very few games and are never beaten by more than a goal.

“We came up from Senior One and had a great start. We went on a run of about six wins, but in our last three league matches we’ve had two draws and a 2-1 reversal against St Mochtas, so we need the win to get the confidence back up.

“And there’s no better game than one against Bluebell to do it. This could kickstart another run for us.

“They’re the defending champions and they’ve set the bar over the last couple of years” he said.

The Orchard should have back striker Danny McGuinness for this much-anticipated derby and will be hoping he and Ciaran Byrne can supply the goals they need to return to winning ways.

They have had to cope without the services of goalkeeper Darren Kelly who has been out since picking up injury while playing with the Defence Forces team before Christmas, although Sean Holmes has done well in filling in for the regular Number One.

While the Orchard have not enjoyed a great run in recent weeks, Bluebell will certainly not be taking their challenge lightly having already shipped narrow losses against them in the league this season and in the Charlie Cahill Cup last year.

“They [Cherry Orchard] are a very good side” stressed Bluebell manager Andy Noonan. “They beat us 1-0 at home earlier in the season.

“It was disappointing to lose at home, but they’ve got good players and a very good manager in Deco Hevey.

“He has them very well organised. If they take a lead against you they’re very hard to break down.

“We threw the kitchen sink at them the last time and they could have even caught us on the break a couple of times so we definitely won’t be underestimating them.

“They’re third in the table on pure merit and it’s going to be a good match.

“It’s very rare that we’re beaten twice by the one team in the same season and they’ll be looking to do that.

“Fair play to you if you can take points off us, but we’ll be well up for this match” he insisted.

Given the amount of players they have injured, Bluebell have done remarkably well to remain on the heels of current Senior Division leaders St Mochtas while also mainataining a strong cup presence.

Indeed they will be coming into this match off the back of their 2-1 victory over Ballincollig in the FAI Intermediate Cup- a game in which they were missing some 12 players between, injuries, being cup tied and other committments.

Yet goals from John Cleary and Shane Stritch saw them through, and they will be looking to carry that same fighting spirit into Sunday’s crucial tie.

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