FOXIES ON A RUN
It’s been a great start to the season for Fox Lodge, who produced one of their best performances at Premier level with their destruction of Brigade at the weekend.
All-rounder Jason Milligan was pivotal to that superb win, and he acknowledges that the victory will be a morale booster ahead a huge two days for the club when they travel to Donemana in the league followed by a senior cup quarter-final clash at Eglinton.
“That was a massive win for us against Brigade,” said Milligan. “It was the performance we have been hoping for since season has started to be really good in all three aspects of our game. The batting was very good, the bowling excellent and the fielding effort was top class.
“If we can play to that level week in week out we will win more than we will lose.”
Fox Lodge have yet to play in a senior final, reaching the semi-final last year before losing out to Championship side Ballyspallen. Could this be the year they go one step further?
“As far as we as a team are concerned we aren’t looking that far ahead just yet. “We go away to Eglinton this weekend in the competition. Even missing Stuart Thompson, they are a very good side and it will be a tough game, but we will give it a real go. Our main focus this year is for us is to remain in the premier league.
There’s a real sense of camaraderie at Ballymagorry, and despite having one of the youngest squads in the division, there’s enough talent and experience to hold their own in the top flight.
“The mood in the squad from personal opinion is that it’s probably been the best it’s been for quite some time. Everyone is fighting hard on the pitch and giving their all.
“We have good banter in the dressing room and are all playing with smiles on our faces and really enjoying our cricket. I’d say we aren’t far away from being the youngest squad in the league but that is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. To be able to be competitive and also develop our home-grown youngsters is brilliant. I’ve been in that position myself at a young age been thrown in at the deep end and it’s definitely the best way to learn. Hopefully the young lads will take all experiences on board and learn from them.”
SION INTO CUP SEMI-FINALS
Simon Galloway was happy to have a touch of the Mark Twain's this week as the Sion Mills skipper pointed out that pre-season rumours of the Tyrone club's demise had been greatly exaggerated.
True, they lost a trio of players in the close season who would have been first team regulars in the normal course of events but the keeper/batsman felt there was little to be gained from worrying about that.
"We've been working hard to get the ground into the best shape we can and the boys are down several nights a week cutting, strimming and tidying. The recent spell of good weather has obviously helped but there's a really good vibe about the place again."
Sion progressed to the semi-final of the Q1 Cup at the weekend when five wickets from Rian McKelvey – who also made 36 – and 40 from Jordan Stewart saw them beat Bonds Glen by three wickets.
Galloway said that they would dearly love a couple of days at a final at Ardmore to look forward to in August.
"We've got a home tie against Eglinton in the semi-finals and that's probably as tough as it gets but you never know. We haven't really been able to get our best side out yet with guys working or on holiday but hopefully they'll all be available for the semi-final."
It has been an in and out start for Sion this season but the skipper admitted that they've accepted the reality of their situation.
"We lost at Ardmore but I feel we were unlucky there having been players down. Donemana were far too strong for us and our National Cup game at Holywood was a mis-match but other than that we've been holding our own.
“The big thing for us is to galvanise the players we have and hopefully get one or two of the former players to turn out again. We're getting decent support from within the village again too and are planning on buying a new portable mat for the bottom nets. It's all about trying to keep the ground in good nick and making it a place where local lads want to play."
Given that the forecasters were predicting that this may be the latter stages of Sion's involvement in the North West, the club captain said that they were feeding off the prophets of doom and that if anything, it was making the current crop of players more determined than ever not to give in.
"We've heard it all before, but we've been in far worse situations than this and survived. Sion Mills is a club with an amazing tradition; one that most clubs can only dream about. Things have been difficult for some time now but we're determined to keep battling. As the old saying goes.....not on our watch!"
DOUGHERTY LOOKING TO KICKSTART SEASON
The league table makes poor reading for Donemana supporters, with their side languishing at the foot of the table after four games.
It’s an unusual position for skipper Ricky-Lee Dougherty and his team, but with a home league game against Fox Lodge, followed by their cup quarter-final at Coleraine, there’s an opportunity to get their season back on track.
“It’s certainly another big weekend for us,” said Dougherty. “Teams are certainly raising their games against us and we need to respond to that.
“We showed just what we are capable of as a team with that thumping win against Brigade a few weeks ago but we need to be more consistent. We can’t let our standards drop as the league this year seems to be one of the more open of recent times.
“The senior cup definitely brings out the best in us and we will use that as a springboard and we go for a record seventh consecutive triumph.
“We are going to take it one match at a time and I’m certain that the results will take care of themselves.”
T20 SEMI-FINAL DATES
The NW have announced the dates for the semi-finals of the T20 Cup. Holders Bready will host Donemana in the all-Tyrone clash, while in the other semi-final Brigade entertain Coleraine. The games are scheduled for Thursday June 28th, with the winners going forward to represent the NW in the Ulster and All-Ireland T20 finals.