Two Ulster victories over Leinster opposition in Saturday's Bob Kerr Irish Cup don't confirm a shift in the balance of power in Irish club cricket, but at least in North Down and Donemana, the NCU and North West have two clubs capable of reaching the competition's latter stages.
Donemana, who confounded the odds to reach the 2008 final before losing to North County , demonstrated that it was no fluke as they beat Malahide on their home ground by 18 runs. North Down meanwhile, the NCU's great white hopes, produced a fine batting performance as they topped 300 runs on their way to a superb 34-run victory at Rush, and in the process exorcised the demons of their controversial 2006 defeat at the same venue.
The other Ulster clubs didn't fare anything like as well however, with Ballymena, Glendermott, Fox Lodge, Carrickfergus and Instonians all falling to defeats to Leinster opposition that weren't exactly unpredictable.
There is no disguising who was the key man in Donemana's victory at Malahide. Pakistan professional Azhar Shafique made 62 out of a final total of 165 all out. The prolific left-hander was the only Donemana batsman to pass 16, but as they showed in last season's memorable run, Dwayne McGerrigle's men are adept at defending low totals. In a rare outing with the ball, McGerrigle struck early, and the stage was set for Junior McBrine turn the screw with his left-arm spinners. He claimed the key scalp of Ireland international Fintan McAllister, and then Shafique (4-48) resumed his dominance of Malahide with a four-wicket burst that tore the heart out of the home side's batting order.
At one stage, the result seemed a foregone conclusion with Malahide reeling at 94 for eight, but a ninth-wicket partnership of 54 ensured there were some late nerves before Jordan McGonigle (3-28) wrapped up proceedings in the 48th over.
At nearby Kenure, we were given an insight into North Down's all-powerful batting order as they rattled up 302 for seven against Rush. Ryan Haire made his first big contribution of the season with a dazzling 91 from just 86 balls, including eight fours and four sixes. Haire added 66 for the first wicket with Jo Montgomery and then 124 for the second with Jonathan Terrett (55) as North Down raced to 190 for one. Later in the innings Taimur Khan (25), Neil Russell (29) and Peter Shields (17) all made contributions as North Down passed the 300 barrier.
But just as they did in 2006, Rush made an excellent fist of their run chase. Peter Connell (2-18) and Gavin McKenna (3-57) combined to reduce the home side to 21 for three but a third-wicket partnership of 191 between Pakistan-born duo Nazeer Shoukat and Shahid Iqbal appeared to have turned the tie on its head.
When both players passed the century mark, Rush were in the driving seat, but McKenna was the partnership breaker, dismissing Iqbal for 106, and then Marty Moreland removed Shoukat for the same score. From the dominance of 212 for three, Rush lost their last seven wickets for just 56 runs to finish 34 runs short on 268 all out.
Elsewhere, Fox Lodge were never in the hunt after conceding 262 for seven to Leinster at Rathmines. They barely had a sniff in reply with only professional Darryl Brown (44) passing 20 as they slumped to a 151-run defeat. Glendermott meanwhile were shot out for just 69 by tournament favourites Railway Union, with West Indian Lendell Richardson providing the only resistance with an unbeaten 38. Magnum Nanan claimed remarkable figures of four for one and Railway Union knocked off the runs in 10 overs for the loss of two wickets.
NCU trio Instonians, Ballymena and Carrickfergus fared little better. Ryan Eagleson top scored with 38 as Carrick were bowled out for 125 at Clontarf, and Ireland 's Andrew Poynter made 55 as the home side cruised home by seven wickets.
Rory McCann was the last man standing for Instonians at The Hills. The wicketkeeper batsman made 56 but Instonians were dismissed for just 120 before Jeremy Bray, the Ireland opener, smashed an unbeaten 74 in a 10-wicket win.
James Kennedy (34) top scored for Ballymena for the second week in succession, but they could manage 111, as Merrion cruised home by 10 wickets with Dom Joyce making an unbeaten 61.
WITH three weekends in the season gone, a fixture pile-up is already looming for a number of NCU clubs.
All the Bob Kerr Irish Cup ties scheduled for the NCU and North West on Saturday fell victim to the weather.
The matches at Brigade and Limavady were called off on Friday night, with Lisburn versus Coleraine, Strabane's tie with YMCA, Bangor 's tie with holders North County and Bready's clash with Waringstown following suit on Saturday morning.
There was still hope at Stormont and Belmont until the afternoon, before another heavy shower ended any hopes of play between Civil Service North and Phoenix and CIYMS and Eglinton. CSN have arranged to travel to Phoenix this Friday.
NORTH Down and Donemana will both face testing ties in the next round of the Bob Kerr Irish Cup.
The Comber side, conquerors of Rush on Saturday, at least have the consolation of home advantage when they meet last season's semi-finalists Merrion at The Green next month. Donemana will be less pleased with the draw however. Dwayne McGerrigle's men will face the daunting trip to The Hills, one of the tournament favourites.
The winners of the still to be resolved tie between Waringstown and Bready have an enticing prospect in the next round. They will host holders North County .
3rd Round Draw:
Ties to be played on Saturday, June 13.