Questions were being asked, even before the end of Saturday’s Gallagher Challenge Cup quarter-finals, if there was any point Section One teams taking part in the competition!
Defeats for league leaders Downpatrick by 251 runs and for Derriaghy by 238 runs would appear to back the argument but anyone who was at Seapark for Holywood’s game against Instonians would have held a different view.
Having already knocked out Premier League Muckamore, they reduced the Shaw’s Bridge side to 151-6 before Robert McKinley’s unbeaten 59 ensured the big boys not only batted out the overs but added 91 more runs to set Holywood a target 10 runs less they totalled in the previous round.
When they reached 138-2 in reply, with Mark Adair having posted his second consecutive 50 in the competition, it was definitely game on and worried Instonians skipper Andrew White had to turn to his seventh bowler.
But the difference between the top teams and the rest is their strength in depth and James Hunter did not let his more experienced team-mates down, removing both Adair (52) and Nathan Burns (37) to expose the Holywood middle-order.
The familiar names of Shane Getkate, James Shannon — who bowled 10 overs – Stephen Bunting and White then finished the job, completing a 43 runs victory.
So, respectability at least for one of the Section One quarter-finalists and if people want to go down the road of excluding teams who lose heavily then maybe North Down should be next on their hit list because they were hammered by 153 runs at Stormont by Civil Service North in the one all-Premier League tie.
Here, professional Andre Malan was the difference, scoring 140 of CSN’s 278 and he then ripped out the visitors’ top order, with opposite number Ruhan Pretorius – who had taken 5-35 - and Ryan Haire, among his victims, both dismissed for a single.
Cup holders CIYMS, and in particular, Allen Coulter, were much too good for Downpatrick at The Meadow. Replying to CI’s 297-7, the home side reached 22-1 and then lost eight wickets for nine runs with Coulter finishing with six wickets for six runs from his 10 overs.
It is the best figures in the Challenge Cup since Keith Morrison took seven for 18 for Waringstown against Dunmurry in 2007.
A last wicket stand of 15 ensured Downpatrick managed to avoid matching their previous low total of 31.
Waringstown complete the last four in the cup after their huge win at Derriaghy although here Ross Bailey’s 37 at least got the home side up to 91.
However, that was still two less than skipper Greg Thompson scored off his own bat for the league champions, before Marcus McClean finished the innings in remarkable style, hitting seven sixes (and not one four) in his 54 not out from just 20 balls.