Ian Callender
Irish Cup Previews

Ian Callender, 19 May 2001

News Letter THE weather, for a change, appears set fair for the busiest day of the season with 32 teams from Limavady to Cork and Dublin to Londonderry in action similtaneously in the same competition. Down the years, this Saturday has coincided with rain and, before the introduction of reserve dates, bowl-outs, but there seems no reason why there will not be 16 winners by tonight. Of course, that means 16 losers and after their titanic clash at Castle Avenue today either Clontarf, the league and cup winners in Dublin last season, or the North West double winners, Limavady, will be out of this year's Royal Liver Irish Cup.

While Limavady try to persuade opening bowler Roger Kerr back onto the field after the birth of his child, the one encouragement from last Sunday's defeat by Donemana was the continuing good form of their captain, Decker Curry. After an unbeaten 81 against Strabane, which got the champions off the mark in the league at the third attempt, he scored 110 against Donemana on Sunday and another big innings today is, as ever, the key to a Limavady victory. Without Kerr, though, the bowling is not nearly as strong in depth or experience and although Clontarf will be without two of their championship winning side - both, overseas players, are ineligible - it is just one more than Limavady who must replace Iftikhar Hussain. The Leinster side have been joined this season by former international slow left armer Greg Molins.

This time last year, Limavady, on their way to a third Irish Cup final in four seasons, were in north Dublin to face The Hills and while they won that game with some comfort, Kerr was man of the match and Curry, although top scorer, made only 43. On a drier surface, something better may be needed today.

Limavady are one of four North West teams travelling to the South today - the other six are all at home - but it should be much more straightforward for the others, even allowing for Ardmore's relegation to Senior Two. They face Railway Union who were also demoted last year while Brigade and Strabane have drawn probably the two weakest sides in Leinster, Old Belvedere and Rush respectively. Of those at home, Bready will welcome Malahide, notoriously bad travellers and who haven't won a match in the competition since 1994 when Alf Masood was playing for them. Since then Brigade, Glendermott, Strabane and Fox Lodge have all claimed Malahide's scalp.

Fox Lodge have Cork County, the minnows from Munster - only two of six eligible teams actually take part - and the 1999 semi-finalists should launch another cup run but NCU opposition should make it much more difficult for the other three North West sides. Not just any NCU visitors, but last year's top three in the league. Champions Waringstown, who have lost their last four games in the cup, meet Glendermott, runners-up Cliftonville are at Sion Mills, who have not won a match since 1997 and North Down will see the impressive new complex at Drummond for the first time.

The other five NCU teams left in the competition - after North's withdrawal and Lurgan's first round exit - are all at home. Lurgan's conquerors, Leinster, visit Downpatrick while Ballymena, beaten finalists in 1998, meet Phoenix, still the only Dublin winners of the cup, although that is now 15 years ago. Lisburn should make progress against CYM, who are rarely the same force away from their matting wicket in Dublin but Instonians and Woodvale face stiff examinations against their Leinster visitors. North County, who hammered Waringstown in the first round last year, travel to struggling Woodvale and Instonians host Merrion who may be without Ed Joyce but should have another international on board, his almost as talented younger brother, Dominic.