Oliver Metcalfe returned to school yesterday with an All-Ireland Under-15 winners’ medal his new favourite possession.
The Instonians captain proved a different class to anyone else in the last two rounds, scoring 95 not out in the semi-final win over Fox Lodge and, on Monday, adding another 134 unbeaten runs in the final against YMCA.
Yet, after a thrilling decider in Dublin, the Shaw’s Bridge side had a winning margin of just one run, with Sam McLarnon taking the final wicket with the third ball of the penultimate over as last man Richard Ainsworth was caught by James Hunter.
It was Hunter who had taken the ninth wicket, leaving YMCA needing eight runs from 17 balls, but they fell just short to bring the Ian Lewis Memorial Cup back to the NCU for the first time since North Down’s win in 2010.
Alan Lewis, Ian’s son, is the current chairman of the Ireland selectors, and the former international was present to watch the final and had a close-up view of Metcalfe’s innings.
Instonians coach Stephen Crothers said: “Alan told me he was very impressed by Olly’s innings and I make it that he has scored 380 runs not out in the NCU and All-Ireland cups this season.
“His wagon wheel showed he scored all round the wicket and he has had a wonderful season.”
Instonians, never slow to promote youngsters into their Premier League side, have already selected Metcalfe for five games this season and they have still three more to play.
The Under-15s are still on course for the treble, having already won the Graham Cup final (Metcalfe 67 not out) — their passage to the All-Ireland semi-final — and this evening at Shaw’s Bridge they face Derriaghy in the league semi-final having won their first five matches without their star batsman.
And youth success extends all the way down the club. Instonians have the chance of an All-Ireland double as they play Rush in Kenure on Sunday in the Under- 13 final, after winning the NCU’s Banoge Cup, while the Under-11 As have retained their league title.
There is certain to be an Ulster winner of the All-Ireland Under-11 Cup as Civil Service North, last year’s beaten finalists, host St Johnston, with that game also on Sunday.