After suffering relegation from the Robinson Services Premier League, it will be a case of going back to the drawing board for Muckamore as they look to bounce back at the first attempt.
The Moylena side were relegated to Section One on net run-rate after picking up three wins from 14 matches.
It brings an end to their three year stay in the top-flight and in the most brutal of ways after losing by just one run to Waringstown on the penultimate day of their campaign when even a draw would have been enough to stay in the Premier League.
They also lost to the Villagers by three runs at the start of the season before a one wicket loss to Lisburn.
“It just killed me with the way it happened,” said captain Neil Gill.
“I said at the start of the season in this league you need to win your close games and we started off with a three run defeat at Waringstown, which I still can’t believe we lost. We followed that up with a one wicket defeat to Lisburn.
“So when you talk about winning close games, there is two from two to start off. We went to Comber and had them on the ropes but we threw that one away.
“The Waringstown game sort of summed the season up for me and the writing was on the wall after that. We went to Carrick and with no (Jacques) Snyman and them not playing for anything we thought there was a good chance, but of course the rain comes. In my mind it just wasn’t meant to be.
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying from our boys. Everyone turned up to training and they worked so hard even before the season getting fit. The big problem there is lack of experience and cricketing nouse.
“When you’re in those winnable positions it’s just about having the nous and know how to get over the line, and that’s where we struggled.”
With the Premier League now perhaps better than ever and teams only improving on a yearly basis, the task of competing is becoming harder. Picking up defeats on a regular basis can be damaging to a side, but Gill was full of praise for how his men dealt with the tough situation.
“It does get tougher and in fairness to our guys they kept their heads up,” he added.
“It’s hard to keep the team spirit up and you’re turning up knowing it’s going to be tough. You’re playing against semi-professional and professional cricketers every week and it’s a tough league. There are no easy games in it.
“It’s where you want to be as a player but it’s tough when you’re coming up against those teams.
“I can’t knock our guys because the craic remained good and we knew a couple of wins would have saved us, but we just couldn’t get over the line.”
The prospect of bouncing back from relegation isn’t a new one for Muckamore, who were promoted back to the Premier League for the 2017 campaign after dropping down in 2014.
Perhaps the hardest part about suffering the drop is keeping a group of players together, and there will be a few clubs sniffing around for talent in the Muckamore squad.
“It’s nothing new for Muckamore,” said Gill. “I think that’s the longest we have been in the Premier League – we were up three years and we were trying to build year on year. Unfortunately that just didn’t happen and the league is just getting tougher.
“Fair play to Lisburn coming up and staying up. They have a top professional that was able to help them win a couple of games and that’s what it takes.”
Away from league cricket, Muckamore reached the Gallagher Challenge Cup semi-finals, beating Bangor and Templepatrick before losing out to Instonians.
They were eliminated in the group stages of the Twenty20 Cup after finishing third in Group B behind North Down and Instonians, while they were knocked out of the Irish Senior Cup by Malahide in the first round.