Clontarf and The Hills clash in Irish Cup final
Holders Clontarf and 2012 winners The Hills clash in the final of the RSA Irish Senior Cup at Castle Avenue on Saturday (11am).
Both sides overcame tough opposition in the semi-finals with both contests being decided in the final over. The Hills beat North Down by just three runs at Comber, while Bill Coghlan's century was crucial as Clontarf beat Pembroke by three wickets.
"The most important thing for me on Saturday is enjoyment," said Clontarf captain Eoghan Delany who lifted the trophy at Malahide last year. "The hard work is done in getting to the final, especially being the holders of the trophy, and it's important now that win or lose, we remember that these days may never come around again so live every second of it."
Delany realises just how tough it will be against their Leinster neighbours, who like themselves have earned a reputation as cup specialists.
"There are no straightforward games against The Hills. It's the kind of challenge we want if we're to retain this title. They seem to relish the 50/50 situations where momentum can swing. You can't really put a price on a quality like that but all that said, it then becomes easier to identify those pivotal moments and make sure we're ready to tough it out.
"We did just that against Pembroke in our semi-final and so our squad keeps faith with the guys who've brought us this far. The experiences of last year's final will undoubtedly stand us in good stead this time round."
There's certain to be a huge crowd at the game and Delany is hoping that home advantage could prove crucial.
"It's only been a few days but there is an atmosphere building around the club beyond anything I can recall. The Hills are certain to match our support with their typical enthusiasm and come Saturday it will make for one of the more privileged environments to play cricket in.
"On the pitch, we're not overly concerning ourselves with set game plans. The day is long, such a tightly-contested fixture will ebb and flow and so it's a matter of honing our skills to deal with the situations we find ourselves in. The time we put into thoroughly preparing then means the efforts to control nerves or anxiety can be put into something else - trying to win."
For The Hills, manager Willie Dwyer is also looking forward to the occasion, and believes the competition brings out the best in his club, who as he is the first to admit, have been inconsistent in the league this season.
"The Irish Senior Cup has a magical effect on the club. I don't know what it is. We believe we can win it each year. The team has pulled together and dragged wins out of tough situations by never-say-die beliefs.
"We are a team of few stars but a lot of solid cricketers. Of course Max Sorensen and Naz Shaukat along with with Cormac McLoughlin and Mike Baumgart are known to people as top players who could win you a game but the rest of the boys are equally able to take a game away from opponents.
"Luke Clinton and Tomas Murphy are great mid-innings bowlers giving nothing away and Manu Kumar and Mark Dwyer have put the brakes on strong mid-order batsmen and got us into their tails also. We believe we are as good a bowling outfit as there is in the country and in Nic Pretorius we have the best keeper in the country.
While there's no questioning the strength of The Hills bowling unit, there are concerns over their batting, which has collapsed on occasions, needing the tail enders to get them out of precarious situations.
"Our batting can be indifferent at times but we bat to 11 and belief in posting scores that ask questions of teams. So look out for all 11 but a special eye on Nic Pretorius and his explosive batting, while everything Max Sorensen does is match winning."
Dwyer finished by paying tribute to Hills coach John Wills, so highly regarded in Irish cricketing circles.
"A special word of praise to our coach John Wills - a coach of few words but able to sum up games and the half way stage like no other. Clontarf are a good side with many match winners and playing them in their own back garden will test us but God willing, with a slice of luck, and a big Hills support travelling we can bring the 'Bob Kerr trophy' back home I can assure you it won't be for the lack of effort.
Ticket Prices remain the same as last year, €10 adults, €8 OAP/Student, U16 Free. There is also free entry for all Cricket Ireland members. Gates open at 09:30am, and there is no parking available at the ground.
The Hills (from): Nazeer Shaukat (captain), Jonathan Andrews, Patrick Byrne, Nicolaas Pretorius, Max Sorensen, Michael Baumgart, Cormac McLoughin, Luke Clinton, Mark Dwyer, Manu Kumar, Declan Moore, Tomas Murphy. Coach John Wills.
Clontarf (from): Eoghan Delany (captain), Bill Coghlan (vice-captain), Colin Currie (wk), Andrew Poynter, Mark Collier, Connor D'Arcy, Paul Ryan, Joe Morrissey, Asim Nazir, Zander van der Merwe, Adrian D'Arcy, Shariful Islam.