Larne manager Tiernan Lynch (c) Presseye

BLUEFIN SPORT CHAMPIONSHIP: BOXING DAY PREVIEW

There's four festive fixtures in the Bluefin Sport Championship on Boxing Day, we look ahead to all of the games in our preview.

Carrick Rangers v Limavady United (venue: Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena; kick-off: 3pm)

Suddenly after a slow start to the Bluefin Sport Championship season, Niall Currie’s Carrick Rangers are back in the promotion push. Saturday’s win against Portadown moved the East Antrim side into second in the table, and despite the chasm between them and leaders Larne, the race for second place will be vitally important come the end of the season.

By contrast Limavady United go into this game off back-to-back defeats and only one league win since mid-September. The Roesiders are currently only a point off the bottom of the table and will be hoping to repeat August’s 2-1 win over the same opponents at the Showgrounds, albeit without the winning goalscorer that day, Robbie Hume, who has moved this week to Ballinamallard United.

Dergview v Ballinamallard United (venue: Darragh Park; kick-off: 3pm)

The NI Football League’s two furthest west teams meet in this Tyrone v Fermanagh clash at Darragh Park on Boxing Day. Ivan Sproule’s side have enjoyed an unbeaten December with draws against Larne and Ballyclare and a vital three points against relegation rivals Limavady United which has taken them within a point of safety going into this game.

Harry McConkey’s fine run of form with the Mallards continued last week with a first defeat of the season for Larne which made it three wins from their last four games. They will have to win this and hope results go their way for the next few weeks if they want to hold out any lingering hope of a top six place in the split come January but most importantly Ballinamallard are now seven points clear of the foot of the table after such a disappointing start.

Larne v Ballyclare Comrades (venue: Inver Park; kick-off: 3pm)

Dreams of an unbeaten season ended last week against Ballinamallard United but the ultimate aim of automatic promotion is still well on track for Tiernan Lynch and Larne as they maintain a healthy 16 point lead going into this Boxing Day derby. The Inver Park club strengthen their hand at the weekend with the signing of Lee Lynch from Sligo Rovers, who will not be available until the New Year.

Seventh-placed Comrades make the short journey to Inver Park keen to keep their hopes of a top six finish alive. Stephen Hughes has been plagued by injuries this season which has disrupted a promising season. In the last meeting between the clubs in September, Larne ran out comfortable 4-0 winners at Dixon Park thanks to a Martin Donnelly hat-trick.

Portadown v Loughgall (venue: Shamrock Park; kick-off: 3pm)

It’s all going wrong for Matthew Tipton and Portadown at the minute after another defeat on Saturday, this time to Carrick Rangers. That defeat leaves the Ports in sixth place at Christmas and now keeping one eye on ensuring they make the top six split in four games time.

Neighbours Loughgall make the trip to Shamrock Park ahead of their opponents on goal difference. The two sides met on the opening day of the Bluefin Sport Championship season with nothing separating the sides in a 1-1 draw. Expect another close encounter in Mid-Ulster this Boxing Day!

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