Five thoughts from the NCU weekend
Johnny Morton (www.jmsport.co.uk)
North Down, Cregagh and Waringstown Women were all big winners at the weekend as all three picked up their respective league titles.
We cover all of that and more in the final ‘five thoughts from the weekend’.
1 – North Down end their wait for silverware
North Down were in ruthless form over the weekend as they beat Instonians and Waringstown to win the Robinson Services Cup title, which was their first competition victory since a T20 Cup triumph back in 2013.
For a club like North Down that totally dominated the local club scene between 2000-2010, where they won seven Challenge Cup’s and seven Premier League crowns, that is a very long time but this team could be one that goes on to challenge on a consistent basis over the coming seasons.
They have put together a squad that covers all bases and literally every player is able to contribute at a high level, whether that’s the top order of Paul Stirling, Ruhan Pretorius and Alistair Shields, the pace of Craig Young, leg-spin of Carl Robinson who came into his own this season or Jamie Magowan, who is one of the best wicketkeepers in the league, as he proved on Sunday.
That’s without mentioning the likes of Peter Eakin, Peter Davison, Aditya Adey, Stuart Nelson and Ryan Haire, with everyone coming together to create a squad that could challenge on all fronts from 2021 onwards.
Having the potential is one thing but it’s something different turning that into trophies like CIYMS and Waringstown have done in recent times, but it’s going to be exciting watching them all battle it out.
2 – Rollercoaster semi-final
The first semi-final between Waringstown and CIYMS was always going to be close but the drama that this encounter brought was on another level.
Waringstown were absolutely cruising at 92-2 chasing 125 for a place in the final before a massive collapse of 22-7 in just under eight overs meant that CIYMS were favourites at one point to progress.
Number 11 batsman Matthew Purse stood strong for five deliveries while captain Lee Nelson took the responsibility of dragging his side over the line, taking eight of the required nine runs to win in the final over as the Villagers progressed on fewer wickets lost with the scores tied.
It follows the trend of previous meetings between the pair with last year’s T20 Cup decided by one run and Irish Senior Cup semi-final in the last over, which is testament to just how good and competitive both teams are.
3 – Cregagh crowned Trophy champions on dramatic final day
The drama wasn’t just limited to the Robinson Services Cup as Cregagh were able to capitalise on Derriaghy’s final ball four-wicket defeat to Cliftonville Academy at Shaws Bridge to go from third to Trophy champions after beating Muckamore by six runs.
Derriaghy knew four points would be enough to win the league but an inspired performance from Matthew McCord (44 and 3-10) helped Cliftonville to victory and that threw it over to Moylena, where the winners of a second vs third showdown between Muckamore and Cregagh would be crowned champions.
It was Cregagh that prevailed, with Jay Hunter (53) leading the way before three wickets from Craig Irvine meant Muckamore fell six runs short of their D/L target.
That secured the league and cup double for a very exciting Cregagh side who, depending on winter transfer movement, will likely be favourites to win the very competitive and unpredictable Section One next season.
4 – Domination for Waringstown Women
Waringstown women were also at the double as they followed their Challenge Cup success up by winning the league after an eight-wicket triumph over Muckamore on Sunday.
It has been quite the season and improvement for Waringstown, who were put out in the first round in 2019 and also lost four of their eight league games, so massive credit must go to the whole squad for putting in the work required to go unbeaten during this campaign.
Captain Charlotte Lyons has led from the front, putting in another big contribution of 38* at the weekend to help guide her side to the title.
With six players who were selected for a recent NCU Women series against Jersey in their side, they possess the talent to go again next season and try to back up their success of 2020.
5 – And so that’s the end of a bizarre, brilliant season
The curtain has been drawn on the Robinson Services Cup and Trophy seasons with the only top-flight side still in action being CIYMS, who will travel to Bready on Saturday for an All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup semi-final against Donemana.
It has been a different season with T20 competitions, social distancing, elbow bumps and very little of what we have been used to in more normal times, but credit must go to everyone involved for getting the season on after it looked for quite a while earlier this year that nothing would be possible.
I’ve really enjoyed the format and was a huge fan of the two semi-finals on one day, so I think there could be some positive innovation that comes out of this season, which will potentially have more of an impact down the leagues rather at the top of the pyramid in terms of overs etc.
Cricket’s return helped to bring a bit of normality back to a lot of people this summer and it was yet another enjoyable season.