Johnny Morton (jmsport.co.uk)
Carrickfergus again finished inside the top four in the Premier League in 2018, ending the season behind CIYMS and Waringstown in third.
Their record of seven wins, six losses and one no result seen them collect 28 points from 14 matches Ė finishing ahead of Instonians due to having a healthier run-rate.
A first round Challenge Cup exit to eventual finalists CSNI and a second round defeat to Leinster in the Irish Senior Cup meant they didnít get much of a run going in either competition.
From a player perspective, captain Michael Gilmour top scored with 573 runs in 21 innings, while new signing Matthew McCord took 27 wickets.
Here, Gilmour reflects on the seasons thatís been and looks forward to 2019.
How do you reflect on the 2018 season?
Overall, I think we have to be happy. The main part of that is the finish in the league. We didnít compete in any of the cups this year, which is something we would definitely love to improve on. We want to have a couple of cup runs each year while also focusing on the league, but this year it was only the league that was very positive. Next year, we will try and focus on being more consistent throughout all competitions.
You have had a couple of top four finishes now in the league, so it seems you have established yourself as one of the top teams in red ball cricket?
I think finishing in the top four in the league has been the aim of ours in the last few years, and you want to make sure you keep that going. The fact we didnít slip away was very promising. At the same time, I donít think we looked like challengers at any stage of the season. We want to really push on and compete for the title. Itís not very interesting just finishing in the top three or four each season. At some stage we have to be ruthless and really push on to be competing for the league title.
You beat Waringstown twice this year. Does that show you have the potential to compete for the title?
When you look at how good Waringstown have been this year in all formats, to beat them twice and show that it wasnít just a one-off gives us great confidence to see thatís the team we have the potential to be. As I say, I donít think we are consistent or clinical enough throughout the whole league season to push on at the minute. We definitely have confidence seeing where we are in terms of the standard. We need to make sure we have a bit more self-belief and push on.
Matthew McCord signed from Cliftonville ahead of the 2018 season. Iím sure youíre happy with how he performed in his first season in the Premier League?
Yes, absolutely. I think he was pretty nervous at the start of the season to see how he would go, but that was quickly put in place. He started off very well against Waringstown and has just grown in confidence the entire year. He has been one of the main players this season. His bowling average and his contribution in the overall statistics this year speaks for itself, and I think he has really enjoyed it and he is now challenging for more. When you get a player like him who isnít only producing but is striving to get better as well, itís outstanding for me as a captain to have someone like him in the team.
You scored over 500 runs yourself and got a great century against Armagh. Are you happy with the season you had?
Personally, I am pretty happy with my own performance. Maybe it was the pressure of having the captaincy as well made me knuckle down and focus more on my own personal game. When you are captain, you try and lead from the front, so as long as I am able to contribute, itís the least I can do. Hopefully itís something I can build on to go even bigger next season or at least keep it consistent.
You captain quite a young side, with the likes of Max Burton, Jack Burton and Harry Warke all there. Are you happy with the season all the young guys had?
In terms of kicking on next season, when you look down the list and see youíve such a young and exciting squad, it fills you with great confidence that we are building something. When we talk about going on and trying to achieve something, it is a lot more realistic when you have the likes of Max, Jack and Harry coming through, as well as Matty McCord and other young players. Itís the start of something exciting ahead of us hopefully.
Looking to 2019, what are you looking to achieve?
In terms of improvement from this year, we have to be more consistent throughout all the competitions. As a young team, we always enjoy playing white ball cricket, and to not go on a cup run in that this year was disappointing. Hopefully that is something that we can build on for next year.