SPARKLING PERFORMANCES FROM LOCAL SIDES IN BOB KERR CUP

Once again the benefits of earlier start times were hammered home on Saturday as the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup matches were completed just in time before the evening rain set in as North West sides came agonisingly close to pulling off a remarkable clean sweep of wins. Four clubs, Limavady, Fox Lodge, Coleraine and Glendermott had made it this far and despite all being given very difficult pairings, three made it through to the quarter finals with the Roesiders just coming up inches short against North County.

Des Curry's side had travelled south to lock horns with the competition's most successful team, the Balrothery outfit having won this trophy five times in the past decade and the visitors were soon in bother. Stuart Thompson, batting at number three, was fighting a losing battle early on as James Boyland and John Mooney swept away Limavady's top order and at 67 for 6 an early finish was looking on the cards.

The one man you would want in your corner in a time of crisis was waiting in the wings however; skipper Curry pulling his team up by their laces and helping them towards a decent total. The left hander shared a 7th wicket stand with Mark McDaid that was worth close to 100 runs, McDaid with 36 of those while Thompson's 37 was the only other tangible support forthcoming.

Decker was unbeaten on 86 at the end as the Roesiders recovered to make 220 all out.

The hosts' reply was none too convincing mind, a wicket apiece for Stuart Thompson and Andrew Riddles and a run out seeing the Dublin side reduced to 28 for 3 before a half century from Brian Shields restored some order. Ciaran Garry and Ritchie Lawrence chipped in with 25 each but wickets fell steadily as Limavady stayed well in the hunt.

The crucial partnership was to come at precisely the same time as the visitors; professional Boyland and Eddie Richardson adding 70 to lift their side to the verge of victory before Stuart Thompson breathed life back into things with 3 quick wickets. Crucially though Richardson was there at the death, unbeaten on 34 as County went through in the final over with 2 wickets to spare. Stuart Thompson added a 4 wicket haul to his runs but the visitors will know they lost this in the first hour.

There was another thriller at the Rectory where Glendermott just edged out CSNI in a 700 plus run contest in glorious sunshine. The visitors won the toss and asked their hosts to set a score and although they lost Craig Averill early, it was to be the Hanke von Rauenstein show thereafter.

The affable South African has been among the runs in recent weeks and the confidence oozed as he clubbed the Belfast side's bowling to all parts of Bonds Street. Hanke found a willing partner in David Barr; the teenager batting superbly with 57 in a 264 run partnership as Glendermott ran riot. After Barr departed, Stephen Smyth joined the party, the left hander adding 38 as the scoreboard rattled beyond 300.

Just as spectators were checking the competition's individual records however, von Rauenstein cut a ball from Nigel Jones straight to Coulter at gully and his brilliant innings was over. In all he smashed 15 fours and 13 sixes as he departed just 5 runs short of a double century and Glendermott's innings concluded on 365 for 6.

The visitors had every right to feel shell-shocked and it was little surprise when Gary Neely and Peter Gibson combined to send both openers back to the hutch with just 14 runs on the board. That brought skipper Nigel Jones and professional Kieran Noema- Barnett together and these two set about the hosts' attack with little respect.

Barnett indeed reached his half century off just 24 balls in a quickfire 15 minutes, and racked up three figures just 20 minutes later off just 51 balls. Jones was content to anchor but was furious with himself when he lobbed a poor shot to Glendermott's sub fielder to put the ball back in the North West side's court.

Noema-Barnett however remained unflustered as he took on all comers. The Belfast side looked well on course to pull off a superb chase before Gordon Montgomery's final throw of the dice turned the game on its head. The skipper threw the ball to Stephen Smyth and the former International lured Barnett into a mistimed sweep with his very first delivery to end a wonderful knock - his 189 containing 19 fours ans 12 sixes.

From 288 for 5 the visitors now looked in trouble, and despite cameos from Goodall and Adair late on they were to come up 24 runs short. Stephen Smyth was easily the pick of Glendermott's bowling with 5 for 23 as they set up a mouth watering, all- North West quarter final tie with Fox Lodge.

The Foxes staged a magnificent coup in knocking defending champions Leinster out of this year's competition as an excellent opening burst from Andy McGinnis and Gavin Heywood had the visitors on the back foot early on. Indeed the southerners were indebted to a knock of 66 from Craig Mellon in the middle order and contributions from Will Lennon (39) and David Lucas (32) as they recovered from 56 for 4 to post a total of 230 all out. Andy McGinnis was best with the ball returning figures of 5 for 49 whilst there were two wickets each for Heywood and Brown.

The Ballymagorry side sits proudly on top of the North West standings at the minute and they would have seen that sort of target as well within their compass. They lost both openers with just 38 on the board but professional Darryl Brown then shared in two partnerships that put the Foxes very firmly in control. Firstly the South African put on 63 with skipper Brian Allen, who although not scoring heavily himself, proved the perfect foil for Brown. When Allen departed he was replaced by Johnny Robinson, a player who has improved out of all recognition in the past 12 months. Those two then built a partnership worth 92; Brown eventually out for 85 with 14 fours and a six in that and Robinson hitting 5 fours and 3 sixes in his unbeaten 63 as they took the Foxes to the verge of victory. Despite a little wobble towards the end, Andy McGinnis was with Robinson when the winning runs were hit as Fox Lodge's season just keeps rolling on.

The final contest was at Coleraine where the Bannsiders were aiming to recover from a mini blip after losing three matches in various competitions after their whirlwind start. It didn't look too good either as a strong Instonians side got among their hosts' batting line up early on, reducing them to 34 for 4. Regular wickets were falling but professional Mohammed Salman was again standing tall. The Pakistani was simply different class as he hit 11 fours and 2 sixes to steer his team to 176 all out as he finished with a superb 108. Eugene Moleon and Davy Jacobs picked up three wickets each and testament to Salman's contribution was that Vischal Chopra with 16 was the only player to reach double figures.

Most spectators would have been expecting the NCU kingpins to pick those runs off easily but Stephen Dunn and the rest of Coleraine's attack had other ideas. Unbelievably the visitors never got going and Dunn and Rory Knox had them on their knees on 71 for 7 before McCurry's late 36 generated some resistance. Still, nothing was going to deny Coleraine from there and Wilson Torrens' side eventually dismissed their illustrious hosts for just 119.

Phil Simmons adjudicated on the man-of-the-match award and had no hesitation in calling Salman forward to receive it. The Bannsiders can now look forward to entertaining Railway Union in the last eight, the Leinster side set to be without Kevin O'Brien and Trent Johnston for that with both in the Ireland squad that will be in Holland at that time.