GALLAGHER GLEEFUL AFTER STRABANE GLORY
It was certainly a weekend to remember for Strabane, who despite being without the influential Peter Gillespie, recorded back-to-back wins beating Eglinton on Saturday, and then followed it up with a nerve jangling one-run win against Muckamore in the Irish Senior Cup.
All-rounder Ryan Gallagher took a hat-trick as Strabane fought back from a seemingly hopeless position as Eglinton on 176 for 1 looked destined to post 250 plus.
His dismissals of Ross Allen, South African professional Mike Erlank and Karl O’Doherty swung the momentum back to the Red Caps, and they chased down what looked a tough ask.
“It was a top-class weekend for the club,” said Gallagher. “Saturdays win was huge for us as its keeps us in the mix.
“It’s certainly one of the most open leagues in years, and I believe that it could be won by any team. We have the players and the ability to beat everybody in it.
“The lads are training hard and improving every week so on to the challenge of Brigade this weekend and hoping we can get another big win.”
Sri Lankan overseas professional Chathura Peiris played a pivotal role in both victories, scoring a century and a fifty, as well as bowling the crucial last over against Muckamore.
Gallagher was quick to pay tribute to Pieris and the impact he’s made at the club in his debut season.
“Chathura has really settled in well at Strabane as you can see that with what he is producing on the pitch.
“He is a great all-round cricketer as well as being a wonderful team mate, and he will only keep getting better, so we are all excited to see what he has got left in the tank.”
With Peter Gillespie on holiday helping elder brother Michael celebrate his half century of years, the third of the cricketing quartet, Mark, took the nail out of the boots and ‘unretired’ to help out the team.
The former Irish international all-rounder showed little signs of his rustiness with a crucial unbeaten 35, sharing a match-winning stand with Peiris to seal the win.
“It’s great to have ‘Gilly’back in the side. Players of his calibre never lose it and that showed on Saturday.
“He also adds a lot of knowledge and advice to the dressing room and I hope he can be persuaded to play more games this season.”
Strabane’s win over Muckamore means they are now into the last eight of the competition they won for the only time back in 1998.
It boiled down to the last ball of the match with the NCU side needing just one run, but a run out by Peiris sealed a quite remarkable win by the narrowest of margins.
“Sunday was a great game,” said Gallagher. “Just looking around the ground in the final stages you could sense the whole place was on tenterhooks.
“The atmosphere was electric and it was super death bowling from Aaron and Chathura to hold their nerve at the death when I thought we had blew it.
“When we secured the win, the place went wild, and it’s always great to come out on the right side of those close contests.
“Now it’s on to the last eight in the competition and to be honest we don’t mind who we draw, but obviously a home tie would be ideal.”
DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR DONEMANA
It was also a cause for double celebration as Donemana kept alive their dreams of a record breaking magnificent seventh consecutive senior cup triumph.
They went into the match at Coleraine with momentum after an epic run chase the previous day at home to Fox Lodge.
Facing a daunting 328, a century from Andy McBrine and fine innings by Andrew Riddles and former Irish international Dwayne McGerrigle saw them eke out a two-wicket win in a thrilling contest that ebbed and flowed throughout.
The game at Coleraine was a more attritional affair, but the Holm men know how to grind out a result, and thanks to important runs from McGerrigle again down the order and a tight display by the bowling unit, they prevailed.
“They were certainly two very important victories,” said Jordan McGonigle afterwards.
“Saturday’s performance wasn’t great on the field, but we turned it around with a brilliant run chase.
“That gave us a boost going into Sunday’s game with Coleraine where we produced a superb all-round performance.
“We knew 164 would be a tough chase for them if we bowled well on a difficult pitch and we did just that.”
Monday’s draw saw Donemana given home advantage over fierce rivals Briagde, while the other half of the draw has Championship side Newbuildings hosting Eglinton.
McGonigle is philosophical about the tough draw, accepting in the final stages of any competition there are going to be no easy games.
“A home draw in the semis is all you can ask for and we’ll look forward to that. However, before that we will focus first on our next two league games and the T20 semi-final at Bready next week.”
The senior cup semi-finals are scheduled to take place on Sunday July 1st.
HEYWOOD INCLUDED IN WARRIORS SQUAD
Fox Lodge off-spinner Aaron Heywood earned a call up to the Warriors ranks for their ongoing Championship clash with defending champions Leinster Lightning at Bready.
He’s one of a number of Tyrone players in Ian McGregor’s squad, with David Scanlon, David Rankin and Craig Young from Bready included, as well as Strabane’s Aaron Gillespie and Donemana’s Andrew McBrine.
The 50-over contest between the sides was abandoned on Monday with the hosts on 137 for 6. Niall O’Brien – who played for Ardmore in their senior cup loss to Brigade on Sunday – made 57 not out, while Irish skipper William Porterfield hit 37.
MCBRINE RECALLED TO IRELAND SQUAD
There was good news for Warriors skipper Andy McBrine as he was named in the Irish squad for Sunday’s game in England against Sussex Sharks. The Donemana man was left out of last weeks tri-series in The Netherlands.
He’s joined in the 12-man squad by fellow NW players Boyd Rankin, William Porterfield, and Stuart Thompson, but there’s no place for Bready speedster Craig Young.
Ireland play India next week in two T20 internationals at Malahide on Wednesday and Friday.