Leinster Review 2004

James Fitzgerald - Irish Times
16 September 2004

So another season of Leinster cricket draws to a close and it has been one dominated by a relatively small number of individuals.

With Andre Botha, Conor Armstrong and Nathan Palmer, North County controlled the leagues this year with a relentless consistency that made both the Lewis Hohn Williams League and Section A of the Whitney Moore Keller League pretty unexciting for your average neutral observer. With nearly 2,000 runs between them, Botha (with an average of almost 70) and Armstrong (over 55) have surely been the subject of nightmares for many of Leinster's bowlers.

Section B of the WMK League offered the only interesting battle this year with four teams (Rush, CYM, Merrion and YMCA) still very much in contention for promotion up to the last two rounds of matches. In the end, the triumvirate of Pakistan-born Rush all-rounders Sadat Gull, Naseer Shoukat and Shahid Iqbal, did enough to secure top spot for the sea-siders with CYM sneaking the second promotion spot with an impressive late charge.

Clontarf can look back on a satisfying season of cup runs. They won the Conqueror Senior Cup thanks mainly to Trent Johnston's century in the final against Rush. They got to the semi-final of the Royal Liver Irish Senior Cup before falling away to Strabane and they made it to the final of the Alan Murray Cup, losing in bizarre in a tense final over to Railway Union.

As always, it is interesting (although entirely pointless) to pick a dream team of Leinster-based players even though several are not available for the province in the Regional Challenge due to the fact that they are from overseas. I have based my selection purely on this season's performances, not on previous reputation.

Normally, Jason Molins and Jeremy Bray would be automatic inclusions but Armstrong's wonderful year with the bat means he cannot be overlooked to open the innings. It seems that Ireland selectors have spotted flaws in his technique that convinces them he would never be consistent at the higher levels but be that as it may, he must still be very close to getting a place in the squad for next year's ICC Trophy. Botha and Gull pick themselves at three and four and I have included Bryn Thomas, who had a great season despite The Hills being relegated from Section A.

I defy anyone to argue with my hard-hitting middle order of Johnston and Phoenix all-rounder David Langford-Smith while I have opted for Kade Beasley to take the gloves and bat at seven. It was a close call between Beasley and YMCA's Wayne Murray but I felt the Merrion player has been more consistent with the bat while still managing to top the wicket-keepers' league for most dismissals in the season.

I have picked Shoukat at nine. He would open the bowling with Johnston, with Botha and Langford-Smith coming on as first and second change. At ten, I have opted for Eric Godward, who is averaging around 13 with the ball for Phoenix. Finally, the province's leading wicket-taker with 47, Nathan Palmer, completes the eleven.

It is a team of all-rounders with six or seven players who are front-line batters and bowlers for their clubs and there would be no shortage of options if the main strike bowlers failed to perform.

Other guys were close. Left-arm spinner Shay O'Gorman has had his best season yet for YMCA, Damian Poder has been doing the business with bat and ball for Merrion and Dominic Rigby's batting form was so good that it earned him a recall to the Scotland side for the European Championships back in July. Greg Molins (Clontarf), Angus Dunlop (YMCA), Warwick Hinkel (CYM) and Fintan McAllister (Rush) can also be proud of their seasons.

So that is the year that was. Let's hope they winter well and come out where they left off in April 2005, the start of a hugely important year for Irish cricket.

James Fitzgerald's Leinster XI 2004

  • Jason Molins (Phoenix)
  • Conor Armstrong (North County)
  • Andre Botha (North County)
  • Sadat Gull (Rush)
  • Bryn Thomas (The Hills)
  • Trent Johnston (Clontarf)
  • David Langford-Smith (Phoenix)
  • Kade Beasley (Merrion, WK)
  • Naseer Shoukat (Rush)
  • Eric Godward (Phoenix)
  • Nathan Palmer (North County)