GILLESPIE STARS AGAIN AS STRABANE WIN RELEGATION BATTLE

It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Strabane but things have improved in recent weeks with back-to-back wins against fellow relegation strugglers Glendermott and Coleraine, which has seen them move off the foot of the table and given them a real chance of survival.

Pivotal to their revival has been Ireland A international Aaron Gillespie, whose successive half centuries has shorn up a previous struggling batting unit. Aftre the batting highs of recent years, it has been a somewhat lean campaign for Aaron, who has passed fifty just those two times, on his way to 397 runs at 28. However, he has his confidence back and is looking for the Red Caps to end the season on a high note,

“On a personal side of thing the scores were not there which I would’ve hoped they would been but always felt good at the crease,” said Gillespie.

“I feel I can kick on and keep scoring the runs which I know I can and finish strong. It’s going to be a tough finish to the season with still a lot to play for a much looking forward to what it holds.

“It was two good wins for us as it showed what we are capable of,” added Gillespie. “We felt it was just a matter of time before we put in a few good performances.

“There have been a few games where we’ve been on top but just haven’t managed to get over the line. We’ve stared to become more consistent in our batting and bowling as of late so it’s giving us the momentum to finish the season strongly and a challenge we are much looking forward to.”

Strabane’s last three matches see them face a must-win game at Ballyspallen, before two really tough games against Donemana and champions elect Brigade. It promises to be a real dog-fight for Strabane, but at least they have their own fate in their hands in the final month.

DONEMANA REACH FAUGHAN VALLEY T20 FINALS DAY

It’s been a tough season too for Donemana by their own high standards, and they lost again at the weekend, going down by two runs to Eglinton at The Holm. They have struggled with injuries and availability problems all season and failed to get any momentum.

However Andrew Riddles’ men have the chance to end the season on a positive note as they have qualified for finals day of the T20 competition.

They will meet arch rivals Brigade at Strabane Park on Sunday August 11th as part of a double-header which also features the Championship T20. Ardmore and Fox Lodge are the two sides who will contest that, and it promises to be a great day’s entertainment. More details on the timings and events planned at the event next week.

Before then the NW Senior Cup takes place tomorrow (FRI) at Eglinton, but alas there is no Tyrone involvement, with Brigade the strongest of favourites as they take on neighbours Glendermott in the Waterside derby. Play on both Friday and Saturday gets underway at 12 o’clock.

BREADY WIN THRILLER AT GLENDERMOTT

Brigade came out the right side of another thriller at the weekend as veteran spinner Trevor Hamilton held his nerve to secure the win with eight needed off the final over. Sri Lankan professional Irosh Samarasooriya passed the 1000 run milestone for the season during a superb innings of 164 not out, which means he has now made 1049 at an average of just over 78. On top of that he has 28 wickets in what has been a superb campaign for him personally and helped keep Bready in the top 3 despite they too having availability and injury concerns.

One player who has flown under the radar, but was in superb form in Saturday’s win was opening bowler Conor Olphert. The University of Ulster student bowled with great pace and hostility in an impressive spell and his three wickets were instrumental in the victory. If he continues to develop it will go a long way to off-set the departure of Irish international Craig Young.

TESTING TIMES FOR IRELAND

Last week saw one of the great days in Irish cricket, with England skittled for just 85 at Lord’s. Unfortunately it ended in defeat, but what a great occasion for the five NW players in the squad – four of whom played. Boyd Rankin, Andy McBrine, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young and William Porterfield will be rightly proud of their efforts.

BREADY BOYS IN U19 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Also on international duty this week have been the Bready duo of Marcus Poskitt and Gregory McFaul who are in the ongoing Under 19 World Cup Qualifiers in The Netherlands. The tournament looks like being an unsuccessful one as after beating the hosts on Monday, they lost to arch rivals Scotland the following day, dismissed for 199 chasing 246. Their fate is now out of their own hands, and need Denmark to cause a major shock against Scotland, while they need to defeat France by a large enough margin to improve their Nett Run Rate.

All is not lost though for the young Irish team, as the suspension by ICC of Zimbabwe could mean that they get a reprieve and would replace the African side in the World Cup which is being held in South Africa next January.

FOXIES LOOKING TO FIRE AS SEASON ENTERS CRUCIAL PHASE

Fox Lodge go into the final month with still a lot to play for, as although they trail leaders Burndennett and Ardmore in the promotion race, they have both still to play, as well as a T20 final.

They beat Bonds Glen by 25 runs at the weekend in an exciting game and skipper Aaron Heywood is pleased with the campaign to date, despite a little inconsistency.

“We had another close game against Bonds Glen on where we managed to get over the line and get the win. Last week’s defeat at St Johnston put a real dent in our promotion hopes and leaves us looking for other teams to do us a favour.

“We have a T20 finals day to look forward to at Strabane in a couple of weeks and that should be a great occasion.

“Our next league game could well be four weeks away so we can put that on the shelf that for a little while and see how things play out.

“In some aspects we have let ourselves down and the group are honest in saying that we have improvements to make but that's cricket. We have the chance to put them right and that's what we will focus on from now until the end of the season. This is a pretty youthful senior side that will have a lot of time together to grow, develop and improve.”