CATCHES win matches is one of the oldest sayings in cricket and the missed chances at the end of Downpatrick's innings in the quarter final of the Royal Liver Irish Cup returned to haunt Muckamore on Saturday. Downpatrick fumbled their way to 150 for eight with Gavin Ringland dropped twice in his undefeated 34. As the visitors had been 111 for seven with 10 overs left, they were invaluable runs on a slow pitch.
In reply, to end a week of exciting finishes in the NCU, which had started in the European Championships, Muckamore lost their final three wickets for 11 runs to lose by just two runs, the last falling to the fourth ball of the final over. Dale Mullan was the Downpatrick hero, rewarded for an accurate line and length and finishing with a five-for from his 15 overs on a day when Downpatrick were beneficiaries of this year's competition rule change.
No team can ever have been so grateful to have needed only three and a half bowlers to get them through a game. They had only four fit front-line bowlers in the team and when Rodney Hazzard's fifth over went for seven, Paul Linehan was commited to giving his remaining bowlers their maximum quota.
At that stage, the 30th over of the Muckamore innings, those seven runs accounted for exactly an eighth of the total as the home side were, apparently, bogged down. Yet in the next 16 overs, Muckamore scored 81 to, seemingly, make their place in the semi final for the first time a formality.
But, much like Steve Foster's ECB England had done, not once but twice, last week, Downpatrick refused to give up and they took wickets, the easiest way to win a game. First Mullan had Gary Hunter caught behind and, four balls later Geoffrey Ferguson bowled Brian Dunlop with a full toss as the first hint of panic set in. But Downpatrick were feeling the pressure as well and of the next nine runs, there were three byes and a couple of wides.
Mullan started the last over with Muckamore needing just three, with two wickets left but Charlie Henderson, captain for the day, was caught behind to the first ball and it was now three from five with one wicket in hand. It was hardly fair to expect two 15 year olds to get the winning runs and indeed Philip Mitchell, in the team to bowl leg spin rather than hit winning runs, was bowled to leave his fifth form team-mate Neil Gill stranded at the other end. Throughout the game there was the feeling that Downpatrick, even without five first choice players, were more 'up for the game'. Muckamore's big win came the previous day, the victory over Lurgan which lifted them off the bottom of the table.
Paul Linehan has already said his first choice this year would be to win the Irish Cup and while his shot in the sixth over of the day hardly backed it up, a rearguard 38 from Neil Gelston and then Mullan, with 24, and Ringland cashed in on the Muckamore errors to set a total which Downpatrick must have felt confident of defending. Especially as they took three wickets for 19 in 15 overs and at the 25 overs drinks break there had been only 24 scoring strokes, Chris Nutt facing 79 balls for 12. Probably the worst thing Downpatrick did all day was to appeal for a leg before against Nutt. Contact appeared to be very high but Beattie Arlow raised the finger and set up the best finish of the day.