The new season gets underway this weekend with a busy programme of games both in the league and the T20 Cup. There have been a few changes around the region, but one club who have more stability than most is Strabane, although they do have a new skipper in opening batsman Kevin Gallagher. Peter and Michael Gillespie are helping with the coaching set-up, and Michael is excited by the Red Caps’ prospects.

“We are all looking forward to this year, and hopefully the better weather this week will allow the games to get the green light,” said Gillespie. “We are giving Kevin a go as captain, and it’s an exciting time for him personally, and I’m really hoping it works out for him as I’m sure it will. He had a fantastic season in 2023 with the bat and hopefully he carries that into this season.

“Even at this stage we are still finalising the composition of our first XI, although we are delighted to have Pakistan professional Nasir Nawaz back. He has the quality and ability to do what Blayde Capell, Killyclooney’s pro did last year with 1700 runs. He could have a magic season like that and score in excess of 1500 runs for us easily if he gets going. He can also lead the attack with the ball and bowl off-spin so he’s a real all-rounder that presents us with plenty of options.

“Also returning is our opening bowler Usman Azhar who joined us from North County last year, and we have a new signing from Dundalk , Muddi Rajput, so it will be exciting to see how he goes. We are trying to put a lot of things in place on and off the field that will help the team progress and develop. We won’t have Vadivel Moorthy for most of the year as he’s due to have an ACL operation in May and we wish him all the best for that.

“We are also very much looking to the future with the structure of the club and our youth programmes having reset those, and that’s gone well so far. We also have two Ladies teams in the league so everything’s progressing really well.

“As to our Championship chances this year, I’m a great believer in that you find your level, and that’s where we deserve to be this year. It does present opportunities to be competitive and we hope to be one of the most competitive sides in the division. Our number one aim will be to get back to the Premiership. We have plans in place and it’s a case now of just trying to implement those.”