Waringstown ready for Merrion challenge
David Holmes (News Letter)
The highlight of the Irish club season takes place at Clontarf on Saturday when Irish Cup holders Waringstown defend their title against Merrion – in a repeat of the 2015 decider.
Doubtless Merrion will be looking to avenge last year's result, when Waringstown replacement professional JP DeVilliers literally blew away their top order in less than 10 overs.
DeVilliers literally jetted in for the weekend, as the man instrumental in getting the villagers to the final – Ruhan Pretorius – had flown back to South Africa.
With the final being a week earlier this year no such challenge exists, but who can forget the part that Pretorius played, scoring centuries in both the quarter and semi-finals.
In particular the game at tomorrow's venue against Clontarf where he smashed six sixes in an over and more than 600 runs were scored.
Merrion may feel that Waringstown held all the aces last year with home advantage, but there will be as many from the village in Clontarf as captain Lee Nelson pointed out.
“I think it is a question of will the last man leaving turn the lights out,” he said.
“There are three buses going from the club, another from Glenavon who we have a close rapport with and many driving down, so I don't think we will lack support, nor do we worry about playing away from home.”
So, what about the Merrion team themselves?
“They are a quality side and we won't be fooled by their league position down there,” Nelson added.
“I think they are very much in a false position, having played a number of games without key representative players.
“You just have to look at the proven match winners in Dom Joyce, John Anderson, Tyrone Kane and Dave Langford Smith, every one of them a quality experienced all-rounder.
“We are really looking forward to the game, the whole place is bouncing and there is a real buzz around.”
The one piece of bad news is that Adam Dennison is not fit, carrying a foot injury and potential stress fracture, so David Dawson will play along with James Mitchell in what is a tried and tested line-up with few exceptions.
So if they win the toss can we expect to see Waringstown bat?
“I know we have a reputation for batting first and looking to close the opposition out of the game, but we have bowled first in every round of this competition,” said Nelson.
“I am just looking for a proper game, with decent weather.”
The only thing that has really challenged Waringstown this year is the weather – on three occasions they appear to have had the wrong end of Duckworth Lewis, all when batting first.
So what about this thought of home advantage last year?
“If you actually look at the game on the day, it swung backwards and forwards. Check the bowling analysis, if anything our spinners did not have the best of days,” Nelson said.
“I am in a bit of nick and it is great to have that positivity, helped by a bit of decent weather. It has been such a stop-start season, and until recently it felt like every game was the start of season again.”
So what do I reckon? Well, I'm going for a Waringstown win as each time I have watched them this year they always seem to have someone who steps up and bails them out when the pressure is on.
But let's hear the thoughts though of Andrew White, current Ireland selector and with first-hand experience having lost to them in the semi-final.
“I think Waringstown are favourites, to me they have all bases covered,” he said.
“The big difference on the day for Waringstown is that as opposed to most NCU sides the better Leinster sides do have more strength in depth.
“Despite that depth I believe if they get rid of John Anderson and Dom Joyce early Merrion will have a mountain to climb.
“Looking at Waringstown it is not just depth but quality all the way down the order.
“From an NCU perspective it is great to see us competing against the top Dublin sides, this year Instonians beat three on the way to the semi-final.
“I think the standards are coming together not just here but also the North West if you look at the performances in the Ulster Cup.
“On a final note I think that Lee Nelson has a vital role to play, he is getting used to the bigger games and in the semi-final he played an excellent innings in company with Greg Thompson.”