Brigade will be expected to lay down a serious title challenge this season and Andy Britton’s men got their first points on the board first day as they beat Eglinton.
The Beechgrove skipper was in the thick of the action early as two wickets for him and one for Johnny Thompson saw the home team reduced to 19-3 in the opening exchanges.
Opposite number Stuart Thompson helped stop the rout as he made 44 while cameos from Richard Wylie (18) and Jamie Millar (13) allowed the villagers to post a modest 119 all out that took more than 47 overs to put together.
Britton (3-6) was best with the ball however David Barr who became a father last week chipped in with an equally valuable 3-15.
Brigade always looked in control in their reply but lost wickets in clumps to miss out on a couple of bonus points. They lost Gareth McKeegan for 16 with the score on 29, but then went from 67-1 to 68-4 losing Barr (21), Niall McDonnell (21) and Iftikhar Hussain without scoring.
Johnny Thompson got them back on track as he made an unbeaten 29 but there was still time for the visitors to get themselves into another mini tangle as David Murdock (10), Kyle Magee and Chris Dixon were all out before the end.
Coleraine served up a real on the ropes comeback at Ardmore as the visitors recovered from 15-5 chasing 183 to win by 3 wickets.
Varun Chopra was the man of the moment for the Bannsiders as he made a superb unbeaten 86- sharing a 112-run stand for the 6th wicket with fellow teenager Matthew Hutchinson who added 34.
Tim Chopra fared the best of the top order as he made 31 while earlier in the day Steve Lazars, who played his cricket at Sandel Lodge last season had top scored with 51 in Ardmore’s competitive total.
Gary Neely made 36 and Peter Harrigan added 35 while a wayward 31 “extras” provided the rest of the home side’s runs while Graham Hume (5-18) had proved too hot for the Bleachgreen team’s early batsmen.
Still, wickets for Neely (3-23) and Conor Brolly (2-39) looked to have given Ardmore a real foot-hold in the contest before Chopra’s late rally and having lost so many players from last summer’s squad this was a stunning win for Scott Campbell’s team.
The final game of the day saw Fox Lodge claim the honours in a high-scoring Tyrone derby against Strabane. Again the ironies were out in full cry here- Barry Scott posting his first Premiership century against the team he left just days before the season started.
Scott’s 107 coupled with 52 from Foxies’ overseas man Cebo Tshiki and 46 from Aaron Heywood- promoted to the top of the order- gave the home side a really solid platform. An unbeaten 31 from Andrew McGinnis heaped more pressure on towards the end as Brian Allen’s team posted 322 for 6 having been put in to bat.
Strabane were masters of their own downfall more than once- conceding 56 “extras” in that run-fest as well, however to their credit they made a great fist of the reply.
Aaron Gillespie gave the impetus to the top order as he made 62 before overseas professional Chathura Peiris weighed in with 74. The Sri Lankan was a surprise inclusion having been waiting on a visa earlier in the week, but this was a good effort in those circumstances. Neither of those represented Strabane’s best effort however- that honour falling to Khushpal Singh who hit 6 sixes and 7 fours in his unbeaten 95.
A final total of 284-8 was very respectable considering all that gone on over the past ten days, but the Red Caps need only compare the two “extras” columns to see where the battle turned.
And finally for this week the Championship was awash with big scores and superb individual performances as the race for promotion began as well. Top of the class was Darren Moan; the Killyclooney skipper making a magnificent 187 not out as they started with a home win over Newbuildings.
Darnell McCallum hit 12 sixes in his 81 as title favourites Ballyspallen began with a win at St Johnston while David Cooke’s class shone through as he made 82 not out to steer Glendermott home against Bonds Glen after an early scare.
Former skipper Mark Doherty top scored with 98 as Burndennett also began with a win as they were too strong for Drummond.