THE North West season will start without St Johnston and Letterkenny after the union received confirmation that no teams in the Republic can play cricket yet.

North West chairman Peter McCartney said “that is the position for this weekend only and we still looking at the situation from May 10 onwards with both clubs”.

It means no fixture for Donemana who were due to host St Johnston tomorrow in their opening Group D match in the White Horse Hotel T20.

William McClintock continues as skipper for the Senior Cup holders but when the new 40-over League gets under way next month he will hand over the captain’s armband to Warriors skipper Andy McBrine who, ironically, will miss three of the first seven league games because of representative and international commitments.

Donemana were planning to have an overseas player but opted against it because of the uncertainty around the pandemic so it will be an unchanged squad but, as ever, they expect to add to their trophy haul this season.

“We were delighted to capture the Senior Cup last year and went close in the All-Ireland T20 final as well so looking to be challenging on all fronts again this year,” said McClintock.

They will be expected to win all their games in the T20 Cup – Ballyspallen, who have lost Graham Kennedy to CIYMS and Ardmore, for whom Decker Curry will not be involved in the early part of the season - are their other opponents.

Brigade will be extra keen to win a trophy in their 100th anniversary year and look too strong in Group A for Killyclooney and Strabane, who will be captained this year by Aaron Gillespie.

The Beechgrove side, beaten by Donemana in last year’s final, have lost Ryan Hunter to Newbuildings and Rachit Gaur, but have brought back former players Ryan Barr and pace bowler Nick Donnell.

Eglinton and Coleraine, led this year by Stephen Hutchinson, will fight it out for top spot in Group B which also includes Fox Lodge and Bonds Glen. However, both leading sides have been dealt major blows with Graham Hume leaving the Bannsiders for Waringstown and Eglinton’s signed professional Mike Erlank has told them he cannot leave South Africa because of Covid restrictions.

Group C could be the most competitive with Newbuildings seemingly going from strength to strength and next door neighbours Bready are always a force to be respected following their shock league win in 2018.

Hunter is joined at Newbuildings this season by his brother Ross while Bready have snapped up Steve Lazars from Muckamore, the 38-year-old, who played for the Warriors in 2017-18, returning to the North West where he also had spells with Coleraine and Ardmore.

Bready start today with what is always a tricky trip to Glendermott who have lost Barr and the experienced Gordon Cooke, who has returned to Coleraine, but have signed Nathan McGuire, who made his debut for Warriors last year, from Rush. Burndennett would appear to be the outsiders in this group.

Today’s fixtures (2.00) - White Horse Hotel T20: Brigade v Killyclooney, Bonds Glen v Coleraine, Eglinton v Fox Lodge, Glendermott v Bready, Newbuildings v Burndennett, Ballyspallen v Ardmore. Sunday: Strabane v Brigade.