All Ireland T20 takes centre stage
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
WHILE the wait goes on for 50-over cricket in Ireland – following the abandonment of yesterday’s inter-provincial at Shaw’s Bridge, the four provincial winners of this season’s T20 Cup competitions meet in the All-Ireland T20 Cup semi-finals weekend.
As usual, it’s NCU v North West and Leinster v Munster with Bready tomorrow and Pembroke on Sunday this year’s venues.
Holders CIYMS face Donemana and in Dublin the winners of tomorrow's Leinster final between Railway Union and YMCA will face Cork County for a place in next Saturday’s final at Belmont.
CI opening bowler Allen Coulter, who was ruled out of the Robinson Services Cup semi-final against Waringstown last weekend with a knee injury is again missing so it will be an unchanged 11 with young Carson McCullough named as 12th man.
The NCU T20 Cup winners will start hot favourites at Bready to repeat their semi-final win over Donemana last year, if only because the North West Senior Cup winners were quite happy to end their season with a 23rd triumph in their favourite competition last week, when they defeated Bready in the 20-over final.
However, in the shortest format, anything can happen and it only needs one batsman to come off or a bowler to have an inspirational spell to win a match on his own.
The prime example of an outstanding batsman in T20 cricket is Ireland international Kevin O’Brien and he will be the main obstacle to YMCA progressing from the other semi-final when he opens the batting for Railway Union in tomorrow’s Leinster final.
However, YMCA have the strength in depth if one of their big names fails and, indeed, have a quarter of the 24 players who will be involved in today’s 40-over Leinster intra-squad game at Malahide as the Lightning squad prepare for next week’s inter-provincial Cup match against North West Warriors at Bready.
There are three other senior fixtures in the province tomorrow, with Bangor hosting Drumaness Superkings in the final of the Robinson Services Bowl, while in the North West the remaining two trophies will be decided.
There has been a change of venue for the Faughan Valley Cup final with Fox Lodge unable to stage the game so, despite being drawn first out of the hat, they have agreed to hand home advantage to their opponents, Newbuildings but the Eric Cooke Cup final goes ahead at The Rectory between Glendermott and Ardmore.
Meanwhile Paul Stirling, after receiving a negative result from his Covid-19 test, returns to county action with Northamptonshire this afternoon, the club having been given the green light to host their T20 Blast tie with Gloucestershire.
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie plays for Glamorgan against the Birmingham Bears and also this evening Gareth Delany is in action for Leicestershire against Yorkshire.
Tomorrow’s fixtures (1.00): All-Ireland T20 semi-final: Donemana v CIYMS (Bready)
Robinson Services Bowl final: Bangor v Drumaness Superkings
Faughan Valley Cup Final: Newbuildings v Fox Lodge (2.00)
Eric Cooke Cup Final: Glendermott v Ardmore (2.00)