FOXIES ON THE MARCH BUT SKIPPER SAYS “ONE GAME AT A TIME”

It was another disappointing Saturday just past as far as the local cricket scene was concerned with not a ball bowled in anger in any of the Irish Senior and National cup ties scheduled for the North West.

While there was plenty of rain up and down the country however, the teams drawn away from home enjoyed better fortunes and that was certainly true for one team in particular.

Fox Lodge were affected by the weather on the opening day of the season, however despite the delay in getting on the field, the Ballymagorry men celebrated their return to action with not one but two big weekend wins.

On Saturday, Brian Allen's troops recorded a third successive All-Ireland win against a strong Leinster outfit and they then played their postponed league outing against St Johnston 24 hours later; only just managing to cling on for a 2-run win in that one.

Speaking after the busy weekend, skipper Allen suggested that it was just the start that they had been hoping for. He himself had top scored with a superb 94 in Dublin on Saturday but he preferred to concentrate on what he felt had been a solid team performance.

"We played good cricket in Dublin on Saturday and that is what got us through to the next round. I thought our top order was strong and we gave ourselves a great chance by posting such a good score".

"Andrew McGinnis played a vital role with both bat and ball but it really was a genuine team effort. That was our main strength throughout last season too and it definitely helped again on Sunday".

"The St Johnston match was obviously a different type of game- especially once it had been reduced to 22 overs per side. We started off well in our innings with Jason Milligan again excellent for us at the top".

"Typical of how competitive I think this league will be however, the Saints fought back well and Andrew Fleming brought them right back into it with a good spell of 'death' bowling".

"We just about managed to sneak it in the end but once again credit to our bowlers who never gave up. I thought Gareth (Heywood) was excellent in the final over but every one of our bowlers did their job superbly and that's what got us home".

Ironically, the Foxies' next assignment is an all-Tyrone senior cup tie this Saturday against a Bready team that experienced a much different weekend. Allen though was again playing down the significance of the game and said his team would go there and enjoy their day.

"It isn't something we were deliberately building up to if I'm honest- truth to tell we didn't discuss the Bready game until our team meeting on Tuesday night".

"Obviously now that it's here we'd love to win it but the simple fact is that as a squad we won't be getting too far ahead of ourselves this season. We want to concentrate on getting our skills right and we'll see where that takes us"

"Nobody is getting distracted by setting ourselves goals and that includes the league race as well. We'll look no further forward than a game at a time and if we do things correctly we'll give ourselves a chance. We're time enough until September to start thinking in terms of promotion. Obviously that's the ultimate goal for the season but the world won't stop if it doesn't happen".

"I think it's more important at the minute to enjoy our cricket and if we look after things the way we should then who knows?"

For their part, Davy Scanlon's men were thumped by Waringstown on Saturday and then came up short against a Decker Curry- inspired Ardmore the following day in the Long's SuperValu Premiership.

The Irish Cup defeat was hardly unexpected; however the Bready captain will have been disappointed not to have tested the Bleachgreen side more in the league clash.

All of that puts a different spin on this Saturday's game now and for Bready in particular it is a contest that they will feel they need to win.

No doubt Scanlon would prefer to secure their top-flight status if he had to choose one thing, however winning becomes a habit and Bready need one sooner rather than later.

Craig Young's availability could be a factor here- the Warriors man is still to send down an over having picked up a finger injury just as the season started.

Elsewhere in the cup this weekend, Strabane entertain Burndennett with the Red Caps desperate to improve on that dismal recent record in this competition.

Ryan Gallagher's side should have more than enough about them to find their way through to the quarter- finals however the visitors are no great respecters of reputation. They have plenty of dangerous players in the ranks too and the Premier Division side can ill-afford to take their eye off the ball.

If anything, Donemana's task looks even tougher as they welcome Ardmore to the Holm. This is the only all-top flight tie in the round and Ricky-Lee Dougherty would probably have been eyeing up something a bit easier than this as his men set out on the hunt for a fifth successive cup win.

There is added spice of course with the inclusion of former Donemana players Decker Curry and Stephen Dunn in the visitors' ranks, especially given how both have started their respective seasons.

The holders will again start favourites- it's the senior cup after all- but this is far from a "gimme".

Before leaving the senior cup, a new sponsor for this year's competition was unveiled earlier in the week as Bank of Ireland replaces Danske Bank as the trophy's new partner.

North West Treasurer, Peter McCartney, said that the Union was delighted to have secured a high-profile sponsor for their flagship cup competition and promised that there would be a few new additions to the regular senior cup coverage.

"Our media team are taking a major hand in the senior cup this year and I believe there will be a Man-of-the-Match award in every single game, as well as the very popular Player-of-the-Round".

"We launched the new partnership earlier this week and Ian Stone of Bank of Ireland will also be participating in the radio previews of Saturday's matches as well as completing the quarter-final draw "live" on Radio Foyle next week".

"The Union is also currently working on ways to enhance the overall experience of cup final weekend for all involved".

Away from the club action and the North West Warriors begin their Interprovincial season tomorrow evening (Friday) as they play T20 cup holders, Leinster Lightning in Dublin. It is a baptism of fire for Ian McGregor's team, however with current Ireland Internationals, Andy McBrine, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young and indeed David Rankin in the side, as well as overseas players Marco Marais and Oraine Williams, they wouldn't necessarily be without a chance.

The Warriors took on a North West Select at Brigade last night as part of their warm-up programme with McGregor hoping his side can again be competitive across all three formats this season.

For now however we will bring you all the reaction to the first round matches in this weekend's senior cup as well as an in-depth look at the quarter-final draw next time.