A new season and a new format for the North West with 15 sides jostling for position in the Premiership and Championship next year. There hasn’t been the player movement of previous years, with the points system and a lack of genuine quality two of the main reasons for the stagnation.

Aaron Gillespie is captain at Strabane once again with the Red Caps still to confirm the name of their overseas professional, reportedly a middle-order batsman and medium-fast bowler from Pakistan. They have signed North County opening bowler Usman Azhar, who took over 40 wickets in Dublin last season and possesses genuine quality. On the debit side they have lost Ehtesham Ahmed and Tanvir Hasan who have switched back to Leinster, while Chris Havern has joined nearby Sion Mills.

Senior Cup holders Fox Lodge have not surprisingly retained Aaron Heywood as captain, and he will have Sri Lankan wicket-keeper batsman Gayan Maneeshan as their new overseas professional. They have retained all of their successful cup squad, while left-hander Aiden Logue returns to the Ballymagorry side after a season down the road at Burndennett.

Donemana have endured a terribly sad off-season with the recent death of Ash Buchanan – a member of their 2020 cup-winning team – plus the passing of club legend Ivor Dougherty, who in 30 years behind the stumps won an incredible 19 league titles as well as 11 senior cups.

Former Irish international Dwayne McGerrigle is entrusted with the captain’s armband, and he will be able to call upon a new overseas professional in former Zimbabwe Test cricketer Roy Kaia. The 31 year-old all-rounder is vastly experienced, having played 80 first-class matches, making four centuries, and has played in the UK and Denmark. One other new face is Irish qualified Australian David O’Sullivan who has played second XI county cricket in England. They suffered more than most clubs with availability problems last season and look to be without Andy McBrine for the majority of the campaign due to his Irish commitments.

2021 Premier Champions Bready missed out on back-to-back titles by the narrowest of margins last season, and they will have David Scanlon leading the side for the 12th successive season. Sri Lankan professional Irosh Samarasooriya returns, but there has been some movement, with the Magheramason side losing Ireland Under 19 international Scott MacBeth to Brigade. His loss is offset though by former youth international Kyle Magee moving in the opposite direction. Jordan McCorkell also joins from Newbuildings.

Conan Pollock takes over the leadership at Burndennett, who have opted not to engage the services of an overseas player. Mark Snodgrass and Aiden Logue have left, but on the credit side they have signed Derek Curry from Bonds Glen, and have an unknown quantity in Gopinath Siva, a young Indian who is currently studying locally.

Timmy Dougherty is the skipper once again at Killyclooney, and there is a new overseas professional with the signing of South African Blayde Capell. The 25 year-old is a wicket-keeper batsman, who has performed well for Kwa-Zulu Natal. They have retained their playing squad from 2022, while they have added Bready's Matthew Campbell and James McDermott.

Strabane face a tough assignment in Saturday’s opener as they travel to defending champions Newbuildings, while Bready entertain Killyclooney in an all-Tyrone clash. Fox Lodge travel to Donegal to take on St Johnston, while Donemana have a potential banana skin at Bonds Glen. Burndennett host Coleraine, while the other games have Glendermott playing Brigade and Eglinton entertaining Ballyspallen.

Newbuildings v Strabane
Bready v Killyclooney
Glendermott v Brigade
Eglinton v Ballyspallen
St Johnston v Fox Lodge
Bonds Glen v Donemana
Burndennett v Coleraine