CIYMS captain Nigel Jones has played in the NCU for over a decade without winning a Premier League title - but that all changed when he led his side to a 42-run win over CSNI and with it the club’s first championship crown since 2012.
The 36-year-old came close on two occasions, with the most recent being last season when they lost out to Waringstown on net run-rate, but Jones says there can’t be any arguments about the best side this season in red-ball cricket.
“I remember my days at CSNI and we were docked a point to lose the league when we were joint on wins with North Down, and there is still a bitter taste from that,” he said. “Last year we lost on run-rate, but it’s tough to count that because if Waringstown had played all their games they would have won anyway.
“It’s been a long time coming, I’ve had 13 cricket seasons in Northern Ireland, so to cross that line is a fantastic feeling, but I’m most proud of the boys.
“I don’t think anyone can argue that we haven’t been the in-form team in league cricket this season, especially when you look at the winning margins.
“Our bowlers have fired and our batting group has scored plenty of runs.
“There is fielding stuff we need to work on, but it was great to win the league with such a dominant performance.”
Jason van der Merwe hit 49 in a low-scoring affair at Belmont, before Allen Coulter took four wickets to help bowl CSNI out for 75. Jones says there has been a change in mentality from last year, with every player now fully-focused on the task at hand rather than looking at a bigger picture.
“This year we tried to be process-driven rather than outcome-driven,” he said. “We focused on over-by-over, phase-by-phase and game-by-game and tried to be ruthless.
“We weren’t looking at the games ahead, but really focusing on the game at hand and it’s meant we were really concentrated when we turned up and that game is all that mattered at the time.
“We have carried a great bond from last year, CIYMS always take a lot of flack on the field and when you play there is always talk about us.
“This is the same group of guys that we had last year, adding in James Cameron Dow, and we all want to win games of cricket and play for each other.
“We want to get wins for CIYMS, and that’s exactly what we have done.
“It’s a testament to the attitude of the boys and the attitude they’ve had all year.”
The challenge now is to extend this form into the Challenge Cup and Irish Senior Cup - two competitions they lost in by fine margins this season. Jones is confident that this group of players can be competing for all the major accolades when 2019 rolls around.
“If we can keep this squad together, we have a real chance of doing that,” said Jones. “If you look at the Irish Cup, we lost by 10 chasing 280 down at Merrion, and we have to be brutally honest and say that was our own doing and we weren’t outplayed.
“In the Challenge Cup semi-final against Waringstown, that loss was all our own doing by dropping the catches.
“Every team is going to go through that, but it is all things we can put right and, hopefully, we have a good long run in all the competitions next year.”