It was a day of drama at both ends of the Premier Division table on Saturday as three of the four top-flight fixtures threw up varying degrees of surprise results.
Performance of the day came at Ballymagorry where Fox Lodge, who started the day at the bottom of the table, inflicted a second successive league defeat on Brigade. It was no fluke either- the home side amassing a very competitive 279 for 6 before dismissing the title-challengers for less than half of that.
The home side’s healthy total came courtesy of an excellent knock from Jason Milligan who hit 13 fours and 4 sixes in his 93. An expectant home crowd were getting ready to acknowledge the affable all-rounder’s century when he cut one straight to David Barr at point just 7 short of the landmark, and his disappointment was clear for all to see.
Milligan and Cebo Tshiki (34) added 83 for the third wicket and that stand teed it up nicely for Brian Allen (42*) and Andrew McGinnis (38) to crack on in the final overs as the hosts added 87 runs for the loss of one wicket in the last 10.
Former “Foxie” Iftikhar Hussain fared best with the ball taking 2-33 from his 10 overs, but Brigade’s batting really let them down in the reply. Barr’s 30 and Chris Dixon (23*) were the best in a really disappointing effort from the Beechgrove team but credit the home bowlers who never let them settle into any rhythm.
Adam Walker (4-37) showed that he is continuing to grow in confidence at this level while Tshiki’s 3-15 completed a good day for him and a great one for his team as the visitors came up a long way short.
The result suggested again that this could be one of the most open title races in many years and the point was further reinforced at the Holm where Coleraine stunned the reigning champions.
Rarely, if ever, have the home side made such a low-key start to their innings as was the case here; chasing the Bannsiders’ competitive 247-9, Donemana scored just 2 runs in the first 7 overs of their reply.
The highly-rated Graham Hume was one of the men keeping things tight- the South African bowling 5 consecutive maiden overs straight up before eventually finishing with figures of 2-9 from 8. Stephen Hutchinson was almost as miserable at the other end and with the two bowlers picking up early wickets, the hosts were always playing catch-up from then on.
William McClintock, who had played for the Warriors a day earlier at Bready continued his run of good domestic form as he hit 7 fours and 3 sixes in his 56, but other than him only Andy McBrine (33) and Tom Riddles (32) troubled the scorers much as Donemana chased in vain.
Rishi Chopra (3-34) was best in the wickets column for Coleraine and it was the same player who had led the way as the north coast side asked the question with the bat earlier in the day.
Chopra’s 90 included 8 “boundaries” and 2 sixes while there was valuable support from Marcus Poskitt (35), Patrick Carson (30), Hume (26) and Campbell (22) in their sizeable total. The champions never looked on course at any time and with this being their third defeat in four league games they will go into next weekend’s senior cup quarter-final tie down at Sandel Lodge next Sunday in bottom place in the league table.
Another of the fancied sides to come a cropper on Saturday were Eglinton after they lost at the Bleachgreen.
Batting first the visitors, who were missing regular top-order batsmen Andy Millar and Ross Allen, struggled to get to terms with the hosts’ attacking options. Gary Neely led by example as he claimed 3-19 while there were a couple of wickets apiece for Decker Curry and Conor Brolly.
Stuart Thompson was again the exception to our rule as he hit 8 fours in his well-made 69 with support coming from Mike Erlank (29) and Andy Pierce (21), but there was little else to write home about as the villagers were all out for a disappointing 162.
Grant Mokoena (43) and Peter Harrigan (29) gave the home side a solid footing, but after Decker Curry was out for 20, Neely’s men lost their way.
Just as they did last time against Bready, Ardmore slumped from 86-1 to 123-7- still 40 runs short of their victory target but it was to be the same winning result for them as Brolly (26*) and Neely (17*) steered the ship home from there.
Erlank (4-33) and Lee Ritchie (2-27) kept their side interested up until that point but they were unable to break up the two set batsmen and finally succumbed to a 3-wicket defeat.
The final game in the top-flight saw Bready retain top spot in the table with a 6-wicket win over Strabane.
A half century from Ryan Gallagher (53) coupled with cameos from Tommy Barr (39) and Aaron Gillespie (36) were much the best of the Red Caps’ competitive total of 195-7. Irosh Samarasooriya led the way with the ball for Bready and the Sri Lankan showed his quality with the bat too as the league leaders carved out a pivotal win.
Irosh top scored with an unbeaten 72 and was kept company by Jamie Magee who made a valuable 68 at the top of the order.
Strabane’s bowlers plugged away- Gallagher with 2-35 and Chathura Peiris (2-46) the men on target but Davy Scanlon’s side were always in charge.
On a day of surprises and in a year when pretty much everything still looks possible this was an excellent result for the Magheramason side who extended their lead a touch because of results elsewhere.
For Strabane, another couple of wins would give them a fighting chance of avoiding trouble, however those victories by Fox Lodge and Ardmore will have done little to brighten their mood over the weekend.