Brigade widen gap at top of Premiership
We may be only just into the first week of July, however it already appears as though this season's Premier Division title has been decided following Brigade's huge win at Magheramason on Saturday.
That result means it will not take an almighty collapse from here to prevent the Beechgrove boys being crowned champions for 2019.
It was obviously a vital win for Andy Britton's team, however the manner in which they did so sent a clear signal that this is Brigade's year.
The hosts posted a mammoth 298 all out as they batted first, and most observers felt that was a big ask of the visitors. The Waterside men had other ideas however and set about timing their response perfectly, and to maximum effect.
Irosh Samarasooriya hit 9 fours and a six in his 77 whilst Ross Dougherty added a composed 73 as Bready racked up the runs- those two sharing an 80-stand after Irosh and David Rankin (50) had put on 74 earlier on.
Marcus Poskitt made 34 at the top of the order and Andy Lucas 28 at the other end as he shared a late half-century partnership with Dougherty, all of which allowed Davy Scanlon's side to set their imposing target.
Johnny Thompson (2-40) and Ross Allen (2-64) were best with the ball for Brigade on a difficult day to defend.
The Champions-elect lost Gareth McKeegan early in their reply however a 237-run stand for the second wicket between David Barr and Iftikhar Hussain turned the game on his head.
Former Bready player Barr hit 12 fours and a six in his 122 whilst Hussain hit 10 fours and two sixes in his 113. The latter has been playing as well as at any time in his career this season, and this was his second successive century for his club.
The winners had very little change out of their 50 overs however it mattered little as Brigade cantered to a 7-wicket verdict that all but sealed this year's title race.
Donemana stay second after a narrow 19-run success at the Rectory. The former champions have been out of sorts in recent weeks however this was more like them as they made 252-8 in ideal conditions.
William McClintock hit 4 fours and 8 sixes in his quick-fire 87 while Bilawal Iqbal added 54, Jamie Huey 31 and Kyle Doherty an unbeaten 30- the latter retiring hurt.
Keshan Wiherathne fared best with the ball for the Rectory outfit as he picked up 3-36 whilst Reece Laird and Steve Moore claimed two wickets apiece.
Wijerathne top scored in the reply with an unbeaten 58, supported by David Cooke who chipped in with 39 and Ryan Barr (32). It wasn't to be enough however- Iqbal with 4-64 and Gary McClintock (3-34) helping the visitors just do enough to claim the points.
At the other end both Ballyspallen and Eglinton lifted themselves further away from trouble as they posted wins over Coleraine and Strabane respectively.
The Red Caps look to be most vulnerable now after they were beaten by 138 runs and the village; a result that sees them left adrift at the bottom.
Stuart Thompson hit 5 fours and 3 sixes as he top scored with 68, whilst Mike Erlank added 49 and Scott Adair an unbeaten 34 as Eglinton batted first.
Andy Millar added 28 and Tommy Orr 26 whilst Aaron Gillespie was the pick of the visitors' bowling with 2-43 in a first innings total of 246 or 6.
Strabane's batting has been way off the pace so far this summer and it was more of the same here- Aaron Gillespie top scoring with 30 and Peter Gillespie adding 26 as they were dismissed for 108.
Simon Dunn (3-21), Stuart Thompson (3-24) and Steven Dunn (2-14) did the bulk of the damage as Eglinton gave themselves real breathing space from the lower end of the table.
Strabane may be in trouble, however Coleraine are far from out of it either as they succumbed to a 5-wicket defeat at 'Spallen.
The Bannsiders took first use in this one and struggled to a total of 148 all out in the best part of 47 overs. Dominic Madden and Matthew Hutchinson produced a first wicket stand worth 54 whilst late runs from Stephen Hutchinson (31) and Varun Chopra (21) got them to something like a competitive total.
Graham Kennedy was the pick of the home bowlers with 4 for 14 with Jamie Miller (2-30) and Stuart Kennedy (2-32) also chipped in.
The former starred with the bat in the reply as well- Kennedy making an unbeaten 59 with Curtis McElwee adding 30 and Jamie Miller 25, that allowed the Roe Valley side to pick up vital points.
Graham Hume (3-23) was easily the best of the visitors' bowling but even the talented South African could do nothing to stop the defeat.
It looks like being a battle to the end for Coleraine and Strabane, ironically two recent North West champions themselves, however it now appears that that is the only unresolved issue in this season's league race.
In the Championship, Decker Curry came agonisingly close to that elusive 100th 100- the former Ireland international was out for 86 as Ardmore beat St Johnson by 7 wickets.
Jack Macbeth made 50 for the home side with Ryan Brolly replying in kind for the visitors as they kept close tabs on the league leaders.
Burndennett continue to set the pace however as they beat Killyclooney by 115 runs to make it 8 league wins on the bounce. Salman Ahmed top scored with 80 whilst Andy Barr and Mark Mooney both hit 56 in the home side's mammoth 313 all out.
Andre Henry hit 54 for Clooney in their reply however that was as close as they got.
Fox Lodge get back on the winning trail; Brian Allen top scoring for them with 45 as they made 170 against Newbuildings. Darnell McCallum's 58 wasn't enough to get the visitors any closer than a 60-run defeat.