Four NCU sides reach Irish Cup last 8
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
The cricket statisticians will have been feverishly checking the record books last night.
When was the last time four clubs from the Northern Cricket Union, for too long bit-part players in Ireland's premier knockout competition, reached the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup?
True, Waringstown have won the trophy twice in the last five seasons, but apart from the successes of the villagers and indeed Instonians reaching the final in 2011, the competition has been dominated by Leinster for too long.
Sunday's sun-drenched second round ties hinted at a changing of the guard. Waringstown, the holders, predictably marched on, routing North West side Eglinton by 10 wickets, and surprise package Derriaghy had the easiest of seven-wicket victories over minnows County Galway at what is becoming their Queensway fortress.
But perhaps the bigger achievements belonged to Instonians, who beat Dubliners Pembroke thanks to a brilliant Nikolai Smith century at Shaw's Bridge, and most notably CIYMS, who put a miserable start to the season behind them with a surprise victory over two-times winners The Hills in their own backyard.
Waringstown barely had to break sweat in the North West after Cobus Pienaar, the South African professional, took three wickets with his first five balls, including that of Ireland's Stuart Thompson first ball. Eglinton rallied from four for three and 37 for seven to reach 124 all out thanks to Ross Millar's unbeaten half-century but Waringstown treated that target as almost an insult.
James Hall smashed an unbeaten 80 from 43 balls, including eight fours and five sixes, and with James McCollum unbeaten on 38, the holders were home in the 17th over.
The innings of the day was Smith's at Shaw's Bridge. Pembroke had posted a testing 246, and without the unavailable James Shannon and Neil Russell, that could have been a testing target for Inst. But the opener struck 11 fours and a six in a faultless 107 from 119 balls. The homes side cruised home with 11 balls to spare.
CI, a day after a demoralising collapse against Carrickfergus, restricted The Hills to just 193 for nine as Johnny Thompson and Justin Kemp shared seven wickets.
Kemp then produced comfortably his best innings in CI colours, making a composed 58 during a 98-run partnership with captain Nigel Jones (60) for the third wicket. Thompson rounded off a five-wicket win with an unbeaten 30 from just 16 balls.
Derriaghy spinners Wayne Hughes and Curtis Moorhead took three wickets apiece as County Galway were dismissed for just 79. The only NCU blemish was Carrickfergus' defeat at Merrion.