Future of Ulster Shield in doubt
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
THE future of the Ulster Shield is in doubt following the apathy of clubs last week to take part in last Sunday’s Finals Day.
Section One clubs at the start of the season were asked if they wanted the Ulster Shield to continue in its previous format – the top eight in both unions playing each other in a 40-over knock-out competition – or change the competition to a T20 format, or scrap the competition, already under pressure because of fixture congestion.
The feedback from the clubs, according to tournament organiser Roger Bell, was that a T20 tournament was the preferred option with the finalists in the NCU and North West competitions going through to Ulster semi-finals, followed immediately by the final.
With the Ulster Cup equivalent taking place in the NCU, the North West was confirmed as the venue for the Shield but within 24 hours Armagh beating Woodvale in the NCU final both teams had pulled out of the finals day.
Armagh have since claimed that they were one of the clubs who had wanted the Ulster competition scrapped and Woodvale also could not get enough players interested to travel to Strabane.
Holywood, as one of the NCU’s beaten semi-finalists quickly stepped into the breach but despite many phone calls, not one other club in the NCU or North West wanted to take part, most citing it was too short notice.
Now, the questionnaire is certain to go out again ahead of next season and only clubs committed to Finals Day - which would be in the NCU - will be invited to take part, if that is even the majority view. And after this season, that seems most unlikely.
For those spectators that turned up at Strabane Park on Sunday they were treated to a thrilling final with the game between the hosts and St Johnston going to a super over after a 156 tie.
After the Donegal side had scored 7-1, Strabane scored six off the first five balls of their over leaving Kevin Pretorius - who had earned the tie by conceding only three runs in the last over of the game – to hit the last ball for two. He did.
The trophy went some way to making up for the disappointment of their National Cup semi-final defeat by Terenure on Saturday, and it will be an all-Leinster final at Bready on Sunday September 3 as Malahide hammered Derriaghy by 10 wickets in the other last four game.
The other trophy winners at the weekend were Donaghcloney Mill II – although they actually lost the Intermediate Cup final to Carrickfergus II!
Unfortunately for Carrick – and secretary Glen Graham who hit the “winning runs” in their four wickets victory at The Meadow – they did not remember that 16-year old Luca Johnston had only joined the club from Academy on June 19. The deadline for cup competitions is May 31!
Johnston only made his 2nd XI league debut the previous week and after impressing retained his place for the final. To compound Carrick’s agony he did not take a wicket when bowling and did not bat.