Irish Senior Cup Previews
Ardmore v Strabane
Itís been a contrasting season for these two North West sides, with Ardmore languishing near the foot of the table, while Strabane are challenging on all fronts, and sit joint top of the Senior One table.
It seems like an eternity ago when these sides last crossed swords in this competition, way back in 1994 in the semi finals. There are just the two survivors in the Ardmore camp from that game, namely Gerard and Paul Brolly. They have been joined in the team by their 3 nephews, and all have contributed in recent weeks. Hasan Khan scored a half century in their last over reversal at home to Limavady, while Paul Mc Dowell hit a fast 43. Their confidence is obviously low, and wonít be helped by the absence of David Mc Allister, which leaves them without a recognised wicket keeper for the game.
By total contrast, Strabane are flying, and playing with a lot of confidence. They have a balanced and experienced side Ė 7 of their current team played in that 1994 game. They havenít been batting to their full potential, and have been rescued in recent weeks by Mark and John Gillespie, who followed up their record breaking partnership of 201 in the previous round at Carrickfergus, by combining to oust Donemana out of the Senior Cup, and hten put on 146 to defeat Glendermott in a crucial league game. They look to be a bowler short with the injury to Phil Eaglestone, but with Peter Gillespie taking 5 wickets in a rare bowl, that problem may well be rectified. It will be the shock of the season to date if Strabane fail to make the quarter finals.
Limavady v Clontarf
The tie of the round sees three times winners Limavady, entertain Clontarf at the John Hunter grounds. Limavady have recovered from a poor start to the season, and have been fairly consistent over the past month. Ian Mc Gregor has scored heavily and consistently all year, and his opening partnership with Stephen Smyth has been very effective. The pair added 191 last weekend against Ardmore, and something similar on Saturday would do very nicely for the Roesiders. They havenít been as impressive with the ball, but Andrew Riddles has been among the wickets, and last week took 3 wickets in 4 balls.
Clontarf accounted for Brigade in the previous round, thanks to an inspirational display with the bat from skipper Trent Johnston. The Irish captain can be a match winner on the day with both bat and ball. Alex Cusack played for Ireland A during the week against the MCC, and former Scottish international Dom Rigby is also a very useful performer. Whoever wins this could go all the way, and home advantage will make Limavady the slightest of favourites.
Bready v Railway Union
It was a weekend to forget for Bready, as they conceded over 600 runs in their two defeats at home to Brigade and Ballyspallen. Their bowling, so often their strength, has been found lacking, and the spinners have struggled on their much improved batting strip. The one bonus for them has been the surprise batting form of Trevor Britton who scored 128 runs in those two reversals. The opening pairing of David Rankin and Chris Dougherty has been a bonus for them, although it has been the team ethic, rather than individual brilliance which has served them so well. That was enough to see them through against a strong Merrion outfit in round one.
Last yearís beaten finalists, Railway Union are a good cup side, and have quality and talent throughout the side. Ireland A players, Roger Whelan and Kenny Carroll, are very much in form, with Carroll hitting a century against The Hills, and is currently averaging 51.87 in the Leinster averages. They also have in their ranks, Ireland player Kevin Oí Brien, and the big hitting Adrian Murphy. All in all, they are a formidable outfit, and it will take a special effort from the Magheramason side if they are to be stopped.
Phoenix v Eglinton
It has been quite a good season for an Eglinton team, who have flirted with relegation in previous years. They sit comfortably in mid table, and have ahome draw in the semi finals of the Senior Cup. Jeremy Bray and Richard Wylie both hit hundreds in their comprehensive win at Burndennett, and they have batsmen who can contribute the whole way down their order. The big plus for them has been the form with the ball of Bobby Rao, and the leg spinner has already taken over 30 wickets this campaign.
For Phoenix, their two main stars are former Ireland captain, Jason Molins, and all rounder dave Langford-Smith. Molins hasnít been as productive this season, but will be keen to score runs in the build up to the World Cup next season, as he attempts to force his way into Adrian Birrrellís plans by sheer weight of runs. A difficult task for Eglinton, but a big score from Bray against his former club, could be the difference.