CHAMPIONS SEND OUT EMPHATIC MESSAGE AT BEECHGROVE

Thankfully the North West avoided most of the weekend’s thunderstorms as the third round of matches in the Premier Division were played to a conclusion across the region on Saturday.

The day’s big game was at Beechgrove where title rivals Brigade and Donemana locked horns and it was the reigning champions who landed a telling blow with a thumping win just when they needed one.

The pair may have gone into the contest in very contrasting form but once again that counted for nothing as the visitors recovered from a shaky start to get winning points on the board at the third time of asking.

The game was decided in two key areas; the first a superb unbroken stand between Malith Cooray and Gary McClintock that was worth 160 runs and the second, the quality of the Tyrone team’s spin options.

Two early wickets for Ryan Macbeth (2-20) and one for Andy Britton- all caught by ‘keeper Gareth McKeegan- saw the Holm side reduced to 8-3 early on as Brigade started strongly. A 78-run stand between Cooray and Andy McBrine (32) however helped Donemana back on an even keel before the real damage arrived in the second half of the innings.

Cooray showed plenty of quality as he built his knock all the way up to three figures, hitting 12 fours and 2 sixes in a superb effort. McClintock was all about power- 7 fours and 6 sixes for him from just 76 balls- but he was to fall just two runs short of a thoroughly deserved century.

At the end of their 50 overs the visitors had amassed 246-4 and the feeling around the “ditch” was that Brigade would have to go some to chase that down.

Openers Gareth McKeegan and David Barr got the first bit right by taking 39 from the first 7 overs, however the real threat on a dry deck was always going to come from the slow bowlers- an area in which the double-winners have few peers.

And so it proved as once Ricky-Lee introduced Jordan McGonigle and Andy McBrine into their attack, Brigade’s reply lost all momentum. The bowlers worked in tandem to great effect and the hosts simply had no answer. Once McKeegan was out-foxed by McGonigle for 38, the runs dried up and Donemana took complete control.

Andy Britton’s 24 was the best of it after that as McBrine (3-24), McGonigle (2-17) and William McBrine (2-21) did the damage before Dwayne McGerrigle (2-5) wrapped up an emphatic 120-run win.

This could well be a big moment once the story of the 2018 season comes to be written, however Brigade still have an advantage in these early stages of the title race. The ease with which Donemana recorded their first league win of the season though will have been lost on no-one.

Leaders Bready also lost their unbeaten tag as Ardmore won an agonisingly close encounter at the Green.

The visitors struggled early on in their innings as the returning Stevie Dunn and Conor Brolly picked up early wickets before Ross Dougherty (50) and Irosh Samarasooriya (49) clawed it back. Another brace of wickets from both Steve Lazars and David Anthony put Gary Neely’s men back in front again before an excellent half century from Craig Young (8 fours) and 27 from Andy Lucas got the Magheramason men up to a very respectable total of 235.

Bready’s cause was badly hampered when skipper Davy Scanlon had to go off after just 9 deliveries as the bowler was struggling with back spasms and the home side took maximum advantage.

Paul McDowell continued his good start to the season as he made 53 (7 fours and 2 sixes) but to be fair to Ardmore they coped admirably with missing Decker Curry and then losing their overseas man Grant Mokoena for 15.

McDowell’s half century was followed up by two more- from Lazars (69- 13 fours) and Kevin Martin (54- 9 fours) as Ardmore seemed to be rattling towards an emphatic win.

At 192-3 chasing 235 it should have been game over however the ‘Green side contrived to lose 5 more wickets before finding the required 43 runs.

It was a vital win for Ardmore given their league form so far and it is fair to suspect that they could well improve as a result of this.

If Ardmore’s late collapse was noteworthy then heaven knows what Strabane would have made of their journey home after making a real Horlicks of closing out their match at Coleraine. At 136-4 chasing 166 the visitors would have been pretty happy with their lot on the north coast-especially with some good batting options to come.

Somewhere along the way though the Red Caps took their eye off the ball and ended up losing their last 6 wickets for the addition of just 19 runs.

Having done all the hard work, the Red Caps will be snapping that they blew it, but credit Coleraine for digging in.

Rishi Chopra (3-31) Graham Hume (2-29) and Scott Campbell (2-36) fared best with the ball after an Aaron Gillespie half century and 26 from Chathura Peiris had got Strabane well on their way.

Earlier in the day, South African Hume had posted an unbeaten 48- the best of the home side’s 166 while Gillespie had again posed the main threat to the Bannsiders as he finished with 3-39. Rhys Logue (2-24) and Peiris (2-36) were also on the money but it was to be all in vain as Coleraine got home by 11 runs.

The final Premiership game was a preview of this season’s senior cup quarter final and it saw Eglinton record a very comfortable win at home to Fox Lodge.

Batting first, the visitors were again indebted to their skipper Brian Allen as his 63 (7 fours and 3 sixes) was a big part of their total of 187. Cebo Tshiki added 34 and Andrew McGinnis 30 but in truth it rarely looked to be enough.

Two wickets apiece for Mike Erlank (2-18), Jamie Millar (2-25) and Andy Millar (2-26) did the bulk of the damage for the villagers and It was the latter who then took the reply by the scruff of the neck.

Millar thumped 7 fours and 4 sixes on his way to an entertaining 82, and even after he departed the scene, Erlank (61 not out) and Thompson (26 not out) soon put the game to bed.

It was another big performance from the home side this and there is a real look about Eglinton at the minute to suggest that they could be a threat to all this summer.