We probably should have known that a weird and wonderful domestic cricket season would have one more twist left as Ballyspallen defied the odds to beat Ardmore in Saturday's promotion/relegation play-off at Bready.

Having lost out in the season-finale last year, the Roe Valley side put that experience to good use as they had 91 runs to spare over Gary Neely's men this time.

Two excellent knocks of 93 and 92 from Darnell McCallum and Graham Kennedy- the pair sharing a 3rd wicket stand of 123- were the catalyst for 'Spallen's imposing total of 263-8.

And even when Ardmore fought back to take 4 middle order wickets for just 1 run, an 8th wicket partnership between Kennedy and James Thompson (27*) repaired the damage.

The Premiership side's bowling was poor; even they will concede that, and despite cameos from Decker Curry (46), Gary Neely (38) and Steve Lazars (35) they never really got close in reply.

Craig Averill (3-18), Stephen Kennedy (3-48) and Mark Averill (2-17) brought the curtain down on another season as two teams won promotion to the top-flight for the first time since the 8-team league was introduced.

It has been a memorable summer in so many ways; not least at Interprovincial level where the North West Warriors played some superb cricket on their way to winning the Interprovincial Championship.

The addition of William Porterfield and Boyd Rankin certainly gave Ian McGregor's men a huge lift and while Rankin's appearances were restricted due to injury, the inclusion of the Donemana-born batsman was a master-stroke.

McGregor's title-winning side included only one player born outside the region, although Niall O'Brien is quickly becoming a nationalised 'North Westie' after his second season in the blue and green.

At club level it was Bready who stole the show- Davy Scanlon's men collecting their first ever top-flight title in a year when their consistency picked everyone else off one by one.

The skipper maintains that the glorious summer weather of May and June was of particular significance to them. Boasting a pace and seam attack that was the envy of the division, this was the first year that Bready found conditions truly to their liking.

The skipper was backed up superbly by Craig Young and for this reporter's money at least, it is no coincidence that this pair spear-headed the Warriors attack to great effect as well.

It wasn't just with the ball either- both men posting very valuable late order runs to nurse their side over the line when hardy came to hardy in the title run-in.

David Rankin had a great year at the top of the order as did Irosh Samarasooriya who gave the champions exactly what they needed from their overseas man.

It was of course a team effort and every player chipped in to what was a magnificent achievement- Andy Lucas, Andy Austin, Jamie Magee, Gregory McFaul and Conor Olphert others who made a decent mark this year.

Away from Magheramason, Brigade captured the Union's other main silverware, the Bank of Ireland senior cup.

Andy Britton's team set off at a real pace, but defeat at home to Donemana sparked a run of 4 league losses from which they never recovered.

Their highlight will undoubtedly be that cup semi-final win at the Holm; a result that may have surprised many, although not everyone. There has been a long-held belief that the Beechgrove side are happy to play Donemana anywhere except Beechgrove!

It will be a summer that the reigning champions themselves will be happy to draw a line under- they simply never got going and will look to re-group over the winter. That's not to say that the trophy cabinet at the Holm will be empty mind- the second XI having completed a remarkable treble of league, cup and Ulster Plate in the last few weeks.

Strabane enjoyed an excellent season as they competed in the top half of the table throughout and made it to the last four in the Irish senior cup.

Tommy Barr will be well aware that he has to work hard to consolidate those efforts next year, and keeping Rachit Gaur and maybe even Chathura Peiris should be his first piece of business.

Those two combined very well this season with both bat and ball allowing Peter Gillespie, Ryan Gallagher, Aaron Gillespie and Khuahpal Purewal Singh to work around them.

Coleraine were solid too- Graham Hume again providing the nous while Scott Campbell's excellent leadership meant the Bannsiders were a threat throughout.

The three Chopras were happy to pick up the mantle after several experienced players left Sandel Lodge last season while Marcus Poskitt and the Hutchinson brothers also chipped in to their success.

As with Strabane, keeping the nucleus of his side together over a long winter has to be high on Campbell's agenda.

At the bottom, Eglinton, Ardmore and Fox Lodge were all looking over their shoulders as the campaign drew to a close.

Seven defeats in a row were to finally undo Brian Allen's team who were in and around the top four at the mid-way point in the season.

Eglinton were the surprise inclusion in the relegation scrap despite reaching the senior cup final. Ross Allen missed quite a few games for them while Ireland duty accounted for almost half of skipper Stuart Thompson's summer and that certainly hurt the villagers in the grander scheme of things.

All's well that ends well but there is clearly work required over the winter.

After their play-off defeat at the weekend it is back to the drawing board for Ardmore.

Decker Curry had a solid season and there were cameos from skipper Neely, and Steve Lazars but in truth, little else.

Time for clear heads and clear minds at the Green now.

Next season, Glendermott will also make a welcome return to the Premiership after a 6-year absence and a great addition they will be too.

Congratulations to them on an excellent season on Bonds Street and indeed to all who contributed to a thrilling summer.

SCORECARD
At Magheramason, Ballyspallen beat Ardmore by 90 runs

Ballyspallen
Stephen Kennedy lbw b Neely 1
D McCallum c Harrigan b Brolly 93
C Averill c Harrigan b Dunn 9
G Kennedy c Neely b Curry 92
M Averill c King b Brolly 20
J Martin lbw b Neely 0
Stuart Kennedy b Neely 0
A Scott b Neely 0
J Thompson not out 27
G Burns not out 8
Extras 13
Total (8 wkts, 50 overs) 263
Fall: 1-6 2-19 3-142 4-174 5-175 6-175 7-175 8-244
Bowling: S Dunn 7.3-01-42-1; G Neely 10-2-24-4; S Lazars 6-0-35-0;
D Curry 9-0-50-1; D Anthony 4-0-33-0; C Brolly 10-1-59-2; S Gormley 3-0-14-0; C Curley 0.3-0-3-0

ARDMORE
P McDowell c McCallum b M Averill 16
C Curley b Burns 2
D Curry st McCallum b Ste Kennedy 46
P Harrigan c McCallum b M Averill 0
S Lazars b Ste Kennedy 35
G Neely c M Averill b C Averill 38
C Brolly c and b Ste Kennedy 1
D Anthony not out 16
C King b Stu Kennedy 4
S Dunn b C Averill 1
Extras 11
Total (42.2 overs) 173
Fall: 1-17 2-42 3-42 4-107 5-112 6-128
7-143 8-158 9-166
Bowling: M Averill 8-3-17-2, G Burns 10-0-51-1, G Kennedy 6-0-19-0, Ste
Kennedy 9-0-48-3, C Averill 7.2-0-18-3, Stu Kennedy 2-0-13-1