Ian Callender (Sunday Life)
NOTHING beats experience in a cup final and when North Down meet CIYMS in the Challenge Cup showdown on Friday, no-one will boast more final appearances than Ryan Haire.
It was still a two-innings cup final when then 19-year-old Haire played in his first – he top scored in the second innings.
It was the start of a sensational run of victories by the Comber side in the Noughties as Haire picked up six winner’s medals.
His seventh and last, so far, was in 2010 so he can’t wait to get back into the big-game atmosphere and on his home ground this week, although Haire does not expect it to be much of an advantage.
“A lot of their guys like playing at The Green so home advantage is not a big thing,” says Haire.
“It will probably be high scoring, which favours the batting side, but the bowling line ups are strong so it’s a case of getting a start.
“Whoever bats first and can grab hold of the game with the bat or get early wickets will set the tone. The first hour is what i’ll be looking at to tell me how things are going to pan out.”
And there is wealth of riches on both sides.
No-one has scored more runs in the last month than North Down opener Ani Chore but this time he is up against Mark Adair, Allen Coulter, Nigel Jones, Jacob Mulder, Trevor Britton and Graham Kennedy.
CI have skipper Jones and Chris Dougherty to name but two batsmen against Craig Young, Tom Mayes, Peter Davison, Carl Robinson and Haire himself, still chipping in with wickets.
It is why Haire, playing his 10th fiinal, considers North Down “slight underdogs against a team stacked with quality” – as befits the reigning league and cup holders – “but our guys are positive and feel in good form. Hopefully we can match anything CI can throw at us”.