Seven home ties for Ulster sides in Irish Cup
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
The reward for the NCU and North West having 10 teams in the last 16 of the Irish Senior Cup is seven home ties next month.
Muckamore were the team to draw the short straw, with probably the hardest game of all, away to holders Merrion, but of the other sides only Waringstown and Brigade have to travel, to Ulster rivals.
Merrion were relegated from Leinster Division One last year but not only have they the best record in the Irish Cup this decade — two-time winners and five-time finalists in the last seven years — but Ed Joyce, still considered the best batsman in the country, is playing for them in some matches this year. This, unfortunately for Muckamore, will almost certainly be one of them!
Waringstown, last year’s beaten finalists, received a bye in the first round so they will start their quest to reach a third successive final with a trip to Coleraine, who knocked out Railway Union on Saturday.
Brigade who had a comfortable victory against Leinster — one of four Dublin sides to fall at the first hurdle — have been drawn away to Instonians, the other NCU side to receive a bye having reached the semi-finals last year.
The game at Shaw’s Bridge looks like the match of the round although neutral fans in the NCU have a choice of four second round ties on Sunday, June 11.
At Belmont, CIYMS will host YMCA, beaten by Merrion in last year’s semi-final, but who have lost Irish international Sean Terry and Yaqoob Ali to The Hills this season and do not look as strong as the team which also won the Leinster Senior Cup in 2016.
North Down, who knocked out Fox Lodge in the first round, will have a tougher task against Phoenix who impressed against Carrickfergus on Saturday, piling up 312 for eight and then dismissing the NCU side for 181, but Lisburn have a great chance to continue their superb start to the season with a game against Leinster Division 2 side Balbriggan.
No doubt about the top game in the North West — Donemana v The Hills, a fitting reward for the Ulster side who stunned Leinster double winners Clontarf on Saturday thanks to Gary McClintock’s 132 not out, rated by many as one of the great Irish Cup innings.
The Hills though — captained by Ireland international Max Sorensen — are the early league leaders in Leinster and promise to be just as tough an opposition so Donemana may be grateful for home advantage.
The other game in the North West is at Bready who, after easing past Cork County, will find it tougher against Pembroke who have Andrew Balbirnie available this year.
The draw for the National Cup was also made yesterday and here too an Ulster side has been drawn away to the holders with Rush hosting Killyclooney.
One match that will not take place on June 11 is Cregagh’s game against Strabane — the North West team playing in the second tier for the first time — as the NCU side are on tour that weekend, having already asked their union for a free Saturday.
Meanwhile, New Zealand followed up their win over Ireland in the one-day international Tri-Series in Dublin with a comfortable four wickets victory over Bangladesh in Clontarf yesterday.
It means when Ireland return to action against Bangladesh tomorrow, at Malahide, both teams will be looking for their first victory.
Despite five batsmen reaching 50, Tigers opener Soumya Sarkar was top scorer with 61 but the impressive New Zealand bowlers restricted them to 257 for nine and a fifth wicket stand of 80 between Neil Broom — who scored 79 against Ireland — and man of the man Jimmy Neesham gave the momentum to the Blackcaps who won with 15 balls to spare.
Despite the defeat Bangladesh remain on course to keep their top eight slot for automatic qualification for the World Cup finals, but they have never beaten New Zealand outside Bangladesh and have only one more chance, back at Clontarf next Wednesday.