DONEMANA, the last team to beat North County in the Royal Liver Irish Cup, ended the holders reign on Saturday with a performance which surprised even themselves. A 101 runs victory in Dublin is as good as it gets and Paul Mooney, the losing skipper, admitted afterwards that his side were 'well beaten', outplayed on the day. More controversially, he then called on the powers that be to restore the limitations on bowlers to 'the way it should be'. He explained: 'In every other competition, at international, provincial and club level, bowlers can bowl only 10 overs.
Yet a decision was made to allow them 15 overs in this competition.' If Mooney had made the call after winning the game, he could not have been accused of 'sour grapes' but, undoubtedly, the international genuinely believes that the way forward for Irish cricket is for a standardisation of the playing conditions. The fact that Junior McBrine took five wickets from 11 overs after Donemana's opening bowlers, Johnny Thompson and James McBrine, had bowled unchanged for 19 overs was neither here nor there. After all, he had decided to bowl first and needed six bowlers to dismiss Donemana in the last over for 234. Dwayne Harper and John Mooney bowled five overs between them at a cost of 33 so if they had to share 10 overs, the visitors total would probably have been even greater.
Donemana secretary George Walker, who opens the batting in the Irish Cup in place of ineligible professional Azhar Shaffique, admitted that it would be a 'better competition when you have to bowl five', (although the weaker teams may not agree). But that was said from a postion of strength and Junior McBrine's biggest problem each week is which bowler to use next. The captain is enjoying a purple patch. Last week he was the dominant player in their league victory against Glendermott; on Saturday he won the sponsor's man of the match without a serious rival. North County were well set at 50 for one and 85 for two to launch a serious challenge but then the spin twins took over.
It was current international Jordan McGonigle who dismissed the dangerous Dara Armstrong, North County's main run scorer in the preliminary round game against Glendermott, and next over Junior, still, without too much argument, the best slow left armer in Ireland, bowled his opposite number. The Donemana skipper proceeded to take four wickets in successive overs and finished with five for 31 to add to his vital innings of 36 from 38 balls. He came to the wicket with his side in a very strong position, 130 for three with 20 overs to go but he maintained the momentum while wickets fell around him and when he was seventh out the total was 211. The innings subsided badly afterwards but the hard work had been done.
The reason for Donemana's excellent start was a familiar story - William Porterfield and Andrew Riddles. The latter survived two dropped catches early on to give a remarkable imitation of his innings for North West in last Sunday's inter-regional challenge. He may not have reached 50 this time but the strokes and perfect placement were again there for all to see, and he had to survive a much more testing bowling examination first up. Showing no respect to his elders, Andrew welcomed Joe Murphy with a six over long-off and he brought up the century partnership between the youngsters with another lovely straight drive. Porterfield, at the moment much more at home in club cricket than on the senior representative stage, outscored his partner to reach 50 off 83 balls with four fours all round the wicket and a six, off Harper, but he then lost his way and after taking another 16 balls over his next six runs was bowled by Murphy.
Although Joe has played his last game in this year's competition, he could still finish as the leading wicket-taker. His four-wicket haul took his tally to 11 from three games in just 19 overs. The omens, though, are good for Donemana, now just two matches away from another Irish Cup final. They beat North County at the same stage of the Irish Cup two years ago and followed up with wins over Instonians and Brigade before the cup final victory over Limavady. All three teams are still in this year's competition.