Inside Edge (Belfast Telegraph)
Preparations for the new domestic cricket season are well underway and this week we're switching our attention to the goings on at Limavady as the joint champions plan their 2010 assault on the major trophies in the North West and beyond.
A few weeks ago we looked at the strides made by Brigade as the Waterside club duly completed the signings of five new players who they hope will refresh their quest for honours after a couple of barren seasons, however the first piece of business completed at the Hunter Grounds this year has been equally eye-catching.
After an absence of two years, former Chairman Ivan Lapsley has agreed to re-take the Roesider's hot seat vacated by Johnnie Hunter and the straight talking supremo has seemingly lost none of his appetite for a scrap during his absence.
It's a well known fact that Ivan had encountered some health problems when he originally stepped down as chairman but the trademark fiery spirit certainly hasn't been dampened in any way and he was as forthright as ever when we spoke at the weekend, starting with developments on the team front at the club.
“There has been plenty of talk about people leaving for this club or that but as far as I am aware only Ian McGregor has decided to move on. Ian has been a fantastic servant for Limavady over the past decade but he has been offered a player/ coach role at Coleraine and he has agreed to take on the challenge.
"We won't be bringing a professional this season again either but the rest of last year's squad will be staying put with the exception of a couple of our younger players who have been targeted by Drummond. I would have preferred that they had stayed but all's fair in love and war and Drummond know that if one of their players were to fit our bill in times to come we won't be shy about coming knocking and I've told them that.
"Decker Curry is back as captain and despite all the trophies and individual awards he has won there is hunger in his eyes and everybody knows how good of a leader he is. Decker enjoyed a phenomenal season last time but he gives the club so much more as skipper and has a real winning attitude”.
The returning chairman obviously didn't have a direct input into the saga that dogged last season's title race but it was quite clear that he has his sights firmly set on the main trophies once again in 2010. “I would dearly love to win another All Ireland and have never made any secret about that but it's obviously getting much tougher now. The other cups, the Northern Bank and Club Turf are obviously very prestigious as well but I would be very keen to defend the Division 1 title.
"Strabane had a brilliant season last time and you can't take that away from them but the loss of Niall McDonnell is a sore blow to them. Bready have been weakened a bit as well apparently but those two and Donemana will still prove tough nuts to crack. Most pundits seem to have already awarded the title to Brigade on the back of their new signings but I think they have a long way to go to prove themselves after two very indifferent seasons.
"Genuine match-winners, and by that I mean players who can get you 600 runs and 30 wickets a season like the McBrines, Decker Curry, Andrew Riddles and Chris Moore are few and far between and although Johnny Thompson certainly fits the bill I would expect the usual suspects to battle it out this season again. We are certainly looking forward to keeping the big spenders honest if they are to stake a claim for the major honours.”
The loss of McGregor's 900 plus runs for the season will take a bit of re-claiming but if any team is equipped to do it, it is this one. The Roesiders used a host of opening combinations last year, probably as much to allow everyone a bat as anything else but it looks a case of Curry and one other this time around, certainly for the big games. David Cooke and Chris Moore are two obvious candidates, both opening batsmen in their own right in the past, and Adam McDaid has also served a short apprenticeship in the role. Throw in Mark and Richard McDaid, Dean Curry and Andrew Riddles and it is obvious that there are plenty of runs in their line up.
There is a solid enough look to the bowling attack although the bare truth is that at times they can be a little vulnerable in that department. Johnny Martin has the best part of two seasons under his belt now and despite improving at a rate of knots finished last season searching for that little bit of consistency.
Richard McDaid was superb at times last year and much more like the bowler of five years ago so Limavady will be hoping that he can carry that through to 2010. Andrew Riddles was another to revel under the additional work, indeed he was probably the pick of the seamers, whilst Chris Moore gives a really potent option with the new ball, but is believed to have struggled all winter with a knee problem. Curry and Simon Dunn provide the spin options and once again these two will be expected to get through a lot of work.
The skipper will always get his haul of wickets and can be a very effective containing bowler when the run flow needs to be stemmed but it never ceases to amaze me how little credit Simon Dunn seems to attract for his efforts. Only a handful of bowlers throughout the region break the 40 wicket barrier for the season and yet every year without fail, Dunn is among them. I have no doubt that Limavady will be more than happy if Simon continues to lead the stats in 2010, even if no-one notices.
In many ways it's fair to say that whilst every club has their chairmen, and each has their own way of carrying out the duties, there are those that are continually trying to up the ante. Over the past few years you think of the likes of Bertie Faulkner, Billy Henderson and of course Ivan Lapsley; guys who take a direct involvement in every single aspect of club and team affairs. It doesn't always sit well with everyone but I know from a spectator's point of view the game here would be a lot less enthralling without their input.
There may well be little more than prestige at stake but it's not difficult to envisage the glint in their collective eyes this year at the prospect of locking horns again. Bertie has certainly stated his intention quite clearly ahead of the new campaign and we all know that he doesn't mind a ruck, so we can expect a new improved Brigade over the coming summer.
It's not just about those two sides of course, there are eight other teams who will take great delight in meeting the title favourites but games between the top sides could be something special this time. And if anyone has expected the Limavady chairman to have learned his lesson from that health scare a couple of years ago they are to be disappointed.
Ivan Lapsley is back and has teamed up with his commander in the trenches again with their sights set on some big reputations. This could be well worth watching.
Next time we will be featuring Coleraine's preparations for the new season as the Bannsiders aim not just for survival but to compete in the top flight following their unexpected return to Division 1.