Can North Down end barren spell?
David Holmes (News Letter)
With the notable exception of 2011 the Irish Senior Cup has resided in the hands of the Leinster Cricket Union for the last 10 years. The competition for whatever reason has pretty much been a graveyard for NCU clubs.
This season has been no exception with only two sides surviving the first round and then Waringstown losing to Railway Union via a bowl out in the second round, leaving North Down as the only flag bearers in Sunday's quarter-final tie away to Coleraine.
For the Comber side that has endured a golden era since 1999 winning countless NCU Premier League titles and Challenge Cups the one thing that has eluded them is the Holy Grail of the Irish Senior Cup.
For players such as Peter Shields, Marty Moreland and current skipper Ryan Haire it is the one title that would complete the CV a fact not lost on Haire:
"Absolutely for me as an individual it would be huge; we have never made a final let alone won it. The stronger sides in recent years have been from Leinster and it would be tremendous for us as a team to get there, but there is still a long way to go.
On form we are certainly not the best team around at the minute, we are hanging in there, but perhaps when no one expects, we can be the dark horses of the competition, but yes personally I would love to win the Irish Cup.
As a unit we are not playing great and the guys know that. We have beaten Coleraine once this season in the Ulster Cup, but it will be a different game up there on their own patch. Last weekend we had a bad game at Bready, Davy Rankin was just back from injury and he batted well.
For us we need two things, we need to improve with the ball and when we are batting we need to start developing partnerships. It's not that we don't have the players, we need someone like Nick Larkin to come good, he has the quality, but is just not on it at the moment, but that can all change even in a couple of shots."
So who are the dangers for Coleraine?
"I have been impressed by Scott Campbell with both bat and ball, Niall McDonnell and Kyllin Vardhin. Jared Barnes and Gareth Burns form a useful opening attack. I think in many ways they are similar to us, no real superstars just a useful unit.
The key will to ensure they don't make inroads early and to have wickets in hand going into the last 20 overs. On the bowling front we need Timur Khan and CJ Muir to get the early breakthroughs; we should have enough in the middle to keep the scoring rate under control."
St. Johnston completes the northern representation and are very much this year's surprise package. You cannot take away from the fact that they have convincingly beaten CSNI and Strabane at home, but the away trip to Clontarf may just be a bridge too far.