Ian Callender (Sunday Life)
FOR THE first time in seven years, the NW Senior Cup final takes place without Donemana but it leaves their semi-final conquerors Brigade in an unusual position.
As skipper Andy Britton, a former Donemana player, puts it: “That feeling was almost as good as winning the cup. But we still have to go one step further. We have done the hard bit, now we have another match to win it.”
That statement is no disrespect to Eglinton, who lost the 2015 final, but after seven consecutive final appearances, Donemana and the Senior Cup final have been inseparable.
As a result, the crowd is not expected to be as big when the two-day showpiece gets under on Friday in Bready (noon).
But it promises to be a closely contested affair between a Brigade side who found themselves bottom of the league table after two months of the season and an Eglinton side who, having beaten Donemana twice, are capable of winning the big games.
“At full strength we are a dangerous side,” says captain Stuart Thompson.
“Our pro, Mike (Erlank) is very good for us, in Ross Allen Lee Ritchie, Andy and Jamie Millar and Richard Wylie we have a bowling attack which can bowl teams out and while our batting is top heavy (Thompson and Erlank are their outstanding batsmen), others like Karl O’Doherty and Andy Pierce are chipping in and coming into a bit of form. So if everyone is on the same page we look like a very good side.”
Games against Killyclooney, Fox Lodge and Newbuildings offered them a straightforward route to the final – although they lost nine wickets chasing 80 in the semi-final – but as Thompson says “you can only beat who’s in front of you” and confidently adds: “Brigade will be very good challenge but if we play our best cricket over two innings we have a very good chance of beating them.”
The best team invariably comes out on top in two innings matches but the captains agree there is no outright favourite this year.
“We haven’t been playing well in the league, although we’re only halfway and hopefully a couple of wins will change that,” says Britton.
“But we need everybody to click in the final although Mark Simpson has come in (again - as the former captain prepares for his eighth cup final) and is taking two or three wickets every match.”
Simpson will share the new ball with Britton in what is still regarded as the best bowling attack in the North West with Ryan Macbeth, Johnny Robinson, Ifti Hussain, Johnny Thompson, plus Davy Barr as back-up.”
If the Brigade batting fires, they should have enough ammunition to bring the Cup back to Beechgrove for the first time since 2010.
Brigade: A Britton, G McKeegan, D Barr, I Hussain, J Thompson, D Murdock, N McDonnell, J Robinson, R Macbeth, M Simpson, K Magee, N Donnell, C Dixon.
Eglinton: S Thompson, M Erlank, A Millar, J Millar, R Wylie, L Ritchie, S Olphert, K O’DohertyR Allen, C Pierc e, A Pierce , T Orr, R Millar.