Leinster Cricket review 2021.

The Leinster Senior League Cup, a 20 over competition, which has replaced the traditional Leinster Senior Cup competition, involved all of the clubs in both Premier League and the Championship, a total of 16 divided into 4 groups of four. The winners of each group advancing to the semi-finals.

Group A, comprising YMCA, Rush, Leinster, and Terenure, was, in the end, won quite comfortably by YM, despite a strong early showing by Rush. YMCA’s powerful squad triumphed in 5 of their 6 matches, while the Rush men faded towards the end, finishing with 3 wins from 6.

Group B was a more balanced affair involving Clontarf, Malahide, Railway Union and Cork County. Once again there was early pressure from Railway and Malahide, each achieving 3 wins while ‘tarf sneaked home with one more victory than their rivals.

Group C threw together Merrion, Pembroke, Balbriggan, and North Kildare. The Kilcock side, new to cricket at this level found themselves overwhelmed, losing all 6 matches. The other 3 managed 4 wins each from 6, meaning that the group would be decided on bonus points (calculated on batting and bowling figures and on margins of victory or defeat). This was tight too, as Merrion accumulated 21 BP, Pembroke, 18 and Balbriggan, 16. So the Anglesea Road club grabbed that one.

Group D featured North County, The Hills, Dublin University, and Phoenix. In the first couple of rounds it appeared that the University side would throw a spanner in the works, claiming victories over the other 3 but as things played out, the victory of North County over The Hills, proved to be the decisive tie in the group. County, by winning 5 of 6 advanced to the semis.

Semi-finals;

A tight, miserly bowling performance by North County, which included a terrific spell by Eddie Richardson of 4 overs taking 3 wickets for 14 runs, restricted Merrion to a total of 133/8, Michael Lewis (35) and Max Sorensen (31). However, County’s top guns fell for not many and it was left to the middle order to try to retrieve the situation but despite Richardson’s 34*and 17 from John Mooney the Balrothery men fell 10 short of the target 123/6 as Sorensen with 4-16 led the Merrion attack to victory.

In the other semi, YMCA’s 157/5 (Rory Anders (65) and Tim Tector (51) proved to be too big an ask for Clontarf, whose sole threat came from David Delany (68), and the Castle Avenue boys total of 139/7 was 18 short of their rivals’ tally.

The Final was a close-run thing. Merrion were well served by Jack Carty (59), Dominick Joyce (43), and John Anderson who were the only ones to get into double figures, the Merrion innings closing on 150/7. Rory Anders, 4-25 was best of the YM bowlers. In reply YMCA could thank Tim Tector (41), Curtis Campher (31), and Bobby Gamble (24) for getting them within striking distance of their opponents but a couple of superb run-outs by Dom Joyce and some mean bowling, especially by Carty 1-9 off 2 overs, saw YM come up short by 11 runs and Merrion claim the season’s first trophy.

**

The Premier League

July 17th saw the beginning of the Premier League and the rebirth of 50 over cricket after the ravages of Covid19.

A pattern started to emerge which appeared to suggest the destination of the honours, as well as which clubs could be in for some nail biting come the end of August. Malahide, Clontarf, Pembroke, and Merrion dishing out beatings to their first day opponents. However, a tie on matchday 2 between Clontarf and Pembroke broke the pattern somewhat. Then the weather began to play a strong hand; many matches were abandoned because of rain or bad light, necessitating a rash of 20 over evening matches to be played in mid-week. Having just gone through a 20 over series, most sides were less than pleased. Pembroke and Malahide were still looking strong and Merrion weren’t too far away. More rain spoiled the fun as August marched on and the refixes continued to throw a spanner in the works. All the while Phoenix and Leinster were struggling, without a win between them and it seemed certain that we would have to wait until the dying days of the season to see which would survive, there being only one relegation spot.

All the while, YMCA and The Hills were garnering wins against the sides around them in mid-table and below, while Malahide began to fall away and Clontarf were also feeling the pinch. A tie between Clontarf and Leinster gave the Rathmines side their first points and might just have been their saviour.

A four wicket win for The Hills over Pembroke edged the Skerries side into contention for a Grand Final spot against Merrion, who were beginning to look invincible. So, the last round arrived, Leinster travelled to the Park to settle the argument with Phoenix about who would survive . . . it was the Firebirds’ first win and it was enough to see them overcome Leinster by 8.5 points, condemning the Observatory Lane club to the Championship for next season.

A final week defeat of Merrion by Pembroke and a Monday evening win over YMCA saw the Sydney Parade team pip The Hills for second place in the table securing a Grand Final appearance in their home ground, against the almost unbeatable Merrion. As it turned out, Merrion put aside their glitch, remembered how to win,and handed Pembroke a 62-run defeat to claim the Leinster Premier Trophy to set beside The Leinster Senior Cup in their impressive trophy cabinet in the even more impressive Anglesea Road pavilion.

In the Championship, the Andre Botha coached Balbriggan won 5 of their 7 matches to land the top spot and a place in the Grand Final where they were joined by surprise package North Kildare who pipped Railway Union by dint of having accrued 22 bonus points against Railway’s 15.

Class proved to be the winner over endeavour as Balbriggan defeated the Kilcock side by 161 runs to seize the Championship trophy and advance to the Premier League next season. This will be a historic occasion for Balbriggan, who have never before in their long history attained top flight status.

I wish them well in the Premier where I believe they will cause problems for some of the more established sides.

The Outsider