Huge weekend for North Down
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
NORTH Down are the only NCU team left in the RSA Irish Cup - and it's been nine years since that has been written.
But although the Comber side are just one match away from the last four, for captain Ryan Haire it is not the number one priority this weekend.
Before they head north west to face league champions Coleraine on Sunday in the all-Ireland competition, they are at home to CIYMS in the Premier League and that is the more important – and not just because it comes first.
"It would be nice to get through to the semi final of the Irish Cup – which we haven't done for a long time – or even the final, but the league is still No 1 for us," said Haire.
"We have still gears to go up but we're hanging in there (just one defeat), without playing at our best.
"The league winners could lose up to four games but (unbeaten) Waringstown are setting the pace, look strong and all the other teams will have to get past them.
"A few of the boys have still to hit their straps, especially with bat. We have had only two century partnerships so far when to be still involved in all competitions you would need four, five or even six by this stage of the season."
Having already been knocked out of the Challenge Cup this year by CIYMS, Haire knows North Down will have to be at their best tomorrow to gain revenge.
"The game is a bit daunting to tell you the truth," he admits. "We beat them in a T20 but their big players came off the in the Challenge Cup and ours failed. But if we can up our game we have individuals who can take the game away from them."
One of those is Taimur Khan who has still to find the form he was in when he left Comber for Belmont in 2012. But, back to his first love, Haire is expectant.
"Taimur's bowling has picked up in last couple of games and we are just waiting for his batting to come off. It will happen and I wouldn't be surprised if it was this weekend, our two biggest games of the season so far. He is the player for the big occasion."
As for Sunday, Haire adds: "Coleraine are a quality side, particularly with the bat. We have already beaten them in the Ulster Cup with probably our best bowling performance of the season so hopefully we can get a few runs on the board or take a few early wickets to get us on top.