Connell forced to wait on CI return
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
PETER Connell's first appearance of the season for CIYMS has been delayed by at least 24 hours after The Hills yesterday called off their Bob Kerr Irish Cup second round game, due to take place tomorrow.
The Milverton ground was declared unplayable during yesterday's rain — there are reports the square was uncovered — forcing them to give up home advantage for the rearranged game, which will now take place on Sunday June 24 at Belmont.
Connell has one more chance of playing this weekend, as CI are due to play Lisburn on Sunday in the Ulster Bank Premier League at Wallace Park.
The Ireland international is still keen to add to his 56 caps, the last of which was against Australia on their last visit to these shores in 2010.
Connell, who has had to make do with club cricket in London this summer, was due to replace Ross Boultwood who could be out for up six weeks and was set to go head to head with Max Sorensen, in effect the bowler who is holding down the Ireland place he is desperately keen to win back.
"If he is not playing in Ireland then he has no chance of getting that Ireland place again," says his club captain, Stephen Hughes. "But speaking to him, I know he wants to first get back into the Ireland A side and then move a step closer to the international side."
Also back in the team for the Lisburn match is Jeremy Bray, another former Ireland international, in his debut season for CI and who missed last week's Ulster Cup victory against Coleraine with a hamstring niggle.
Hughes is hoping that the convincing eight wickets win is a sign of things to come for CIYMS.
"We lost three matches in a row last month and I'm just hoping it was a blip," adds Hughes.
"I have every confidence in our bowlers who as a unit will create pressure but with 150 on the board it is a lot harder to implement. Connell will be a big help in that department and he is also a useful lower batsmen."
Chris Dougherty and Barry Cooper put on 125 for the first wicket against Coleraine and with the return of leading scorer Bray and the ability of Taimur Khan and Ryan Butterworth to follow, CI should be regularly posting scores well in excess of 200 on good pitches.
They may not need that many at Wallace Park but Hughes accepts it a game they must win if they are to lay down a marker for a championship bid.
"On our day, if our batsmen click, I believe we can beat anyone if Plan A comes off," says Hughes.
"We have proven match winners and we will continue to be positive.
Lisburn have beaten us well in the cup already this season, so the boys have something to prove but, with no disrespect to them, we should be beating Lisburn and if we play to our potential we can show a lot better of ourselves than we showed in the cup game."
The other seven Irish Cup games were still on last night but all clubs were hoping for improved weather in the next 24 hours.
The one consolation is that only two of the away teams have to travel outside their area, the holders Waringstown to Brigade and North Down to North County, in what is now the match of the day.
The NCU champions have reached the quarter finals only twice since the last of their three Irish Cup successes in 1995 so, once again, Peter Shields' side will have much to prove against the five-times winners of the cup.