The fixtures for the 2017 Endsleigh Insurance Senior County Championship have been confirmed with many of the fixtures anticipated months ahead of the games. The action starts on Sunday 7th May with some potentially excellent games.
Section 1 has Greater Manchester playing North Midlands with, I think, the Midlanders favourite if they use some of their wild and wonderful home greens and they are slightly ahead of the Manchester men in the odds. Greater Manchester have not had much success in this competition since losing in the final in 2010 and they used to be the team to beat in this competition.
Yorkshire take flight over to the Isle of Man to start the defence of the trophy they won last year and they start as 7/4 second favourites. The last time Yorkshire defended the trophy they reached the final and they will be confident of progressing through the group this year. Though the trip to North Midlands could be fun as they are hoping to do well as they have the BCGBA President, Phil Brown, cheering them on.
Another classic game could well be in section 2 as Warwick & Worcester play against last year’s runners-up Shropshire. Warwick & Worcs are 11/8 to reclaim the trophy after just failing to qualify from their group last year. They have had one or two off green issues to sort out and it may be that 10/1 Shropshire are worthy of a punt.
Also in the group are 2013 runners-up Derbyshire who play Wales. Neither of these teams are fancied in the betting but that only indicates the following for the other teams. I doubt if either Warwick & Worcs or Shropshire will be overly confident going to them knowing how well both these counties can play.
Section 3 looks fairly close with Cumbria playing South Yorkshire and Merseyside against Lancashire. South Yorkshire start the group as joint 4th favourites at 14/1 to win the competition and play 50/1 outsiders in Cumbria. This could be a very tricky game though depending on the venue Cumbria pick as I doubt anyone really fancies going to Lindal.
Both Merseyside, Supplementary champions from last year, and Lancashire are both 25/1 shots and this should be a close game between the neighbours. Lancashire, historically, have the best record in this competition but have struggled since the county borders were changed in the early 1980’s. The result of this change led to the formation of a number of new counties, Merseyside included.
Section 4 has the runners-up from 2014, Cheshire, playing last year’s semi-finalists North Lancashire and Fylde. Potteries take on Staffordshire in the other game. Cheshire start as more fancied in the group at 14/1 than 25/1 North Lancs. This should be a close game and maybe too close to call. Staffordshire are 16/1 shots to win the competition though they will have a hard game against outsiders Potteries.
Cheshire made a welcome reappearance in the final in 2014 and had struggled to repeat their runaway success of the early 2000’s. Although the squad North Lancs can put out will rank alongside any other, including 2016 Waterloo Champion Tim Houghton, they have struggled to really settle on home venues and this always appears to have cost them.
It should be a fascinating competition this season. Can Yorkshire repeat their success or can Warwick & Worcs put their troubles behind them and claim their 7th championship in 10 years. Shropshire could easily go one better than last year and a number of counties, north Midlands included, who will be looking to put their home greens to their advantage.
The semi-finals will be on Sunday 6th August and the final on Sunday 3rd September.
The odds are courtesy of the William Hill, please bet responsibly!
Sunday 7th May
Greater Manchester v North Midlands
Yorkshire v Isle of Man
Derbyshire v Wales
Warwick & Worcester v Shropshire
Cumbria v South Yorkshire
Merseyside v Lancashire
Cheshire v North Lancs & Fylde
Potteries v Staffordshire
Sunday 4th June
Greater Manchester v Yorkshire
North Midlands v Isle of Man
Derbyshire v Warwick & Worcs
Wales v Shropshire
Cumbria v Merseyside
South Yorkshire v Lancashire
Cheshire v Potteries
North Lancs & Fylde v Staffordshire.
Sunday 2nd July
Greater Manchester v Isle of Man
North Midlands v Yorkshire
Derbyshire v Shropshire
Wales v Warwick & Worcs
Cheshire v Staffordshire
North Lancs & Fylde v Potteries