Who will win the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup?
A host of leading Irish cricket writers, players and personalities give their take on this Saturday's Irish Cup final between Merrion and The Hills.
Ger Siggins (Irish Daily Star/Today FM)
This is one of the hardest cup finals to call in recent memory, with both sides possessing most of what it usually takes to win a cup final.
The Hills have relied on their bowling to get them here, and up to second in the league –just the one hundred by Mike Baumgart (139*) and five 50s have been scored in all competitions (two each by Max Sorensen and Naseer Shaukat and one by Jonno Andrews), which is surprising when they play on one of the best tracks in the land every fortnight.
Merrion's batting line-up is definitely stronger, with Ben Ackland, John Anderson, Tim Lang and Dom Joyce all capable of big match-winning innings, while Rory Allwright played the knock of his life to win the semi in Donemana. But they may regret Tyrone Kane's decision to stay on for a holiday in Australia after he was the only Irish batsman to enhance his reputation at the Under 19 World Cup.
But the Hills have the supreme strike bowler in Sorensen , while Shaukat's fine season climaxed with his almost single-handed destruction of Waringstown in the semi-final. Merrion's attack lacks that edge, but they look to have the best five or six as a unit.
They also have the experience of winning cup finals, having won the Bob Kerr in 2010 (with seven of the team that played in this year's semi final) and last year's Leinster Senior Cup. In both those games they were underdogs – against Railway Union and North County.
Even though its only five years since The Hills were in the Irish Senior Cup final, only two men remain from that team, Luke Clinton and Mark Dwyer – although Naseer played for Rush in the 2006 final.
That could of course mean that the Hills have greater hunger! – but for what it's worth my lankan rupees are going on Merrion to bring the trophy back to Anglesea Road.
John Mooney (North County and Ireland)
It's a difficult one! Both sides batting will be key and of late Merrion's is struggling - add on they have been bowling lots of extras as well which is my worry for them.
In Max Sorensen I think The Hills have possibly the best seamer in the country at the moment and I think he will be the difference.
So I'm backing a Hills win for the BKISC and the trophy to sit proudly in North Fingal for another year. It will be a Fingal double as I'm banking on Balbriggan winning the RSA National Cup also.
Ed Joyce (Sussex and Ireland - ex Merrion)
I'm wishing the Merrion boys all the best in the Bob Kerr Irish Cup Final. Twice in 3 years would be an amazing effort! Make sure the man of the match is in our dressing room!
Andrew White (Instonians and Ireland)
Again the ISC should be a close contest with both teams capable of producing excellent cricket on any given day. The contest between Nasser and Max and the Merrion top order I feel will ultimately decide the destination of the cup.
John Anderson and Dom Joyce are capable of scoring heavily and with a longer batting line up they could post a score beyond The Hills reach. In saying this, I have to go for the new ball partnership of The Hills to make the biggest impact and see the cup move to North Dublin.
Trent Johnston (YMCA and Ireland)
This year's BKISC final will see the team that beat us (I mean tied with us!) meet a team that won the cup last in 2010. I anticipate that the game will be a battle of the ball (The Hills) versus the bat (Merrion).
If Max Sorensen and the veteran Naseer Shaukat can take early wickets the Hills will be in with a good shout.
However I'm going to take our D4 cousins and say Merrion will win. John Anderson and Tim Lang have been in superb form all season and I suspect that they will take that form into the final as they are both big match players.
Joe Curtis (Award winning photographer/CricketEurope)
Nailing my colours to the mast straight away, I go for The Hills to defeat Merrion in the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup Final.
Merrion will likely be somewhat distracted by their involvement in a dogfight with North County, the winner of which will probably remain in Division 1 of the LCU.
On May 19th The Hills were the victors over Merrion at Anglesea Road by 69 runs and Merrion failed to score 100 runs, making 97 from 40 over's. Tomás Murphy and Max Sorensen were The Hills stars that day with figures of 3 for 8 and 3 for 15 respectively.
Roll on to August 18th and The Hills were again winners, although the margin was far from comfortable this time; again Tomás Murphy played a starring role for The Hills with 4 for 27.
Some will argue that it would be fair to quote Meat Loaf and say ‘two out of three ain't bad' but I feel The Hills bowling will cause problems for Merrion in a tight and low scoring game. Merrion will remember that Leinster had them all at sea last weekend where they could only muster a total of 63 runs.
In a summer where rain ruined so many games I hope the weather holds fair for this weekend and a good day's entertainment is had by all.
Albert van der Merwe (YMCA and Ireland)
It will be decided between The Hills bowling versus Merrion's batting. Looking at the seasons statistics it looks like The Hills will put the opposition in if they get the chance and back their quartet of seamers (Sorensen, Shaukat, Clinton and Murphy) to do what they have done for most of the season and knock off a low total.
If Merrion can get 220 they can pull it off as The Hills batting has been suspect when under pressure. The Hills has won the majority of head to heads over the last few seasons, but Merrion have been been there before and held their nerve.
Gonna go with my heart on this one and say The Hills will be taking it back to the Vineyard.
Stella Downes (Clontarf and Ireland scorer)
I think it'll be a very close contest. Both teams have shown their fighting spirit and their frailty this season. To use a cliche whoever brings their A game on the day will win.
Too close to call.
Kevin O'Brien (Somerset/Railway Union and Ireland)
I must admit that I did tip Merrion when the competition started way back in May, and I think I'll have to stay with them. Having been in the final in 2010 and winning it, I think that will help them.
Also they have some big match players and the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup is the biggest game of the season.
Andre Botha (Terenure and Ireland)
The game will probably be played on the same wicket the Irish ladies played on during the week, so I think the pitch will be quite slow.
The Hills have a few bowlers that bowl very straight and wicket to wicket and Merrion have a few spinners, so the pitch will suit both attacks.
I think it will be a close enough game and the team that will hold their nerve under pressure will come out on top. A final is all about holding your nerves and staying calm.
If I was a betting man I will pick The Hills, but will only put some coins on the table. Too close to call.
Niall O'Brien (Northants and Ireland)
I would like The Hills to win the cup final but think Merrion start as favourites in my opinion. John Anderson will be key to Merrion's quest and the newly capped player will be keen to impress in the marquee fixture in Irish club cricket.
Reinhardt Strydom (YMCA and Ireland)
I think there is not much in it between the two teams. On current form you have to say that the Hills are slight favourites. Nazeer is the key to the Hills batting and will need to keep the innings together and bat through with his experience.
Max Sorensen will have to take wickets with the new ball and take early wickets. Merrion though will have a great chance of winning, but will need new international and Merrion captain John Anderson to play a similar innings as Naz.
Anders v Naz!!!
Clontarf is known to assist the spinners and if Merrion use their spinners right they will come out tops. The final I reckon will go down to the final overs and will be a great match.
Brian O'Rourke (Pembroke and Leinster Development Manager)
Recent league form along with their very impressive semi final win at Waringstown would suggest The Hills enter this year's final as slight favourites.
Merrion's Irish Senior Cup win two years ago will stand to them and with the quality of Joyce, Anderson, Ackland, Poder and Lang in their ranks they will be difficult to beat.
The Hills, with the in-form Max Sorensen, the vastly improved Tomas Murphy along with Mike Baumgart and Nazeer Shaukat possess their own match winners in what could prove to be a great final.
Prediction - A victory for The Hills and finally a winners medal for the great Naz Shoukat in this his third ISC final appearance.
Alan Lewis (YMCA and Cricket Ireland Chairman of Selectors)
This could be a fascinating match. The Hills probably have the better all round team and perhaps the best bowling attack in the league. Bolstered by Ireland's opening bowler Max Sorensen, the real threat however is the legend Naseer Shaukat.
He proved this in the semi-final, a class performer and role model and with conditions in September being bowler friendly he could be a real handful.
Merrion's Achilles heel really is their bowling as they have little or no penetration. If they are to win they will need real discipline but they have proven match winners in John Anderson Dom Joyce and their professional Tim Lang.
However I do feel the toss will be very important with the early start.
My tip is The Hills to win - mind you, I always ask Stu Daultrey to tip whoever we are playing against as we invariably win. Merrion might just feel the same way!!! Let's hope for a great game.