NW title race nearing end
TITLE RACE NEARING END AS TYRONE SIDES SLIP UP
The Division 1 championship wasn’t won on Saturday but defeats for both Strabane and Bready mean that the chances of either of those forcing Limavady to a play-off for the title now hang by the smallest of threads.
The Roesiders didn’t keep struggling Glendermott too long; the threat of late afternoon rain ensuring some good entertainment for the unusually sparse Rectory crowd as father and son Decker and Dean Curry posted their second 100 plus partnership in a week.
Glendermott were forced into a patchwork side for this match, several first team players unavailable and Johnny Thompson suspended and the “extras” column with 19 was the biggest contributor to their 134 all out.
Andrew Riddles claimed 4 for 25 and Ricky McDaid 2 for 13 in what was by and large a fairly comfortable afternoon in the field for the visitors. Gordon Montgomery gave the hosts something to cheer about as he picked up the wicket of Ian McGregor but that was to be the sum total of damage.
Curry senior was clearly intent on tying up the loose ends before any rain caused a break in play blasting 5 sixes and 9 fours in a 46- ball unbeaten 72, the Roesiders needing less than 20 overs to wrap up the points.
That win meant that Strabane had to collect the points at home to Eglinton to set up a mouth-watering clash at the Park next weekend, but having wrecked Bready’s title challenge last week, Andy Christie’s side was at it again here.
It had all begun sweetly for the home side as they reduced the Villagers to 15 for 2 before professional Simon Jackson took centre stage. The West Indian has hardly been in the prolific bracket during his time here but he showed his liking for the decent track with an unbeaten 111 that helped his team to 230 for 7 in their 45 overs.
Bobby Rao was also in good form on his return to Strabane, the former Test player adding a handy 35 near the end.
For the first time in a while Strabane’s openers Niall McDonnell and Kevin Martin weren’t in command although the former made 31, and when professional Beukes went early too, the writing was on the wall.
Mark Gillespie gave his side a glimmer of hope in the middle order before the wily Rao claimed his wicket having made 46 and from then on, Strabane’s title hopes were on the slide. The Red Caps finished 48 runs adrift, three wickets apiece for Nigel Thompson, Jason Browne and Rao and the body language as the players left the field clearly suggested that they knew the blow was fatal.
Bready’s title hopes had probably been damaged irreparably last week but the doubt was all but fully removed on Saturday when they too fell on their sword, comfortably beaten by a resurgent Fox Lodge.
Having been thrashed by Strabane last weekend, Gary Neely’s side were equally emphatic against the third placed team, albeit their hosts were forced to field without 5 regular first team members. Steven Clarke’s 56 was by miles the highlight of Bready’s 147 all out, with three wickets each here for Gareth Heywood, Darryl Brown and Stephen Magee.
Richard McCorkell and Jason Milligan both made half centuries in a 100-run opening stand and from there on it was cruise control for the Ballymagorry side as they coasted home with 8 wickets and plenty of time to spare.
It’s as you were at the bottom with defeats for Coleraine and Killymallaght added to Glendermott’s loss at home to Limavady. The Bannsiders would probably have been eyeing up the Beechgrove side after their dismal showing at the Rectory last week but there was to be no repeat here.
Coleraine could manage just 99 all out, Stephen Campbell making 31 and Mohammed Salman 20 as Gordon Cooke claimed 3 wickets and Mark Simpson, Iftikhar Hussein and Thomas Thompson helping themselves to two each.
Rory Knox then continued his excellent form for the visitors claiming 3 early wickets to reduce Brigade to 29 for 3 before Alan Duddy with an unbeaten 30 and Thomas Thompson (39) ensured there was to be no happy ending for Coleraine.
Killymallaght, whose losing run has now stretched into double figures were swatted by Irish Senior Cup finalists Donemana in double quick time. Peter Allen made a face saving 39 for ‘Mallaght to help them recover from a very uncomfortable 2 for 4 although their 83 all out was a long way short of a challenging total.
Stephen Dunn was the main wicket taker, returning figures of 5 for 30 whilst Jordan McGonagle took 3 wickets and James McBrine 2 in what was something of a rout.
Donemana’s reply lasted little more than 10 overs; skipper Azhar Shaffique ensuring an early end to proceedings with an unbeaten 50 that included 7 fours and 3 sixes. Graeme Boyd did the needful at the other end as the reigning champions posted a 10-wicket win.
The Sammy Jeffrey final at Eglinton went the way of Bonds Glen as Martin Mehaffey’s side claimed their first ever senior trophy with a thumping win over champions-elect St Johnston.
Roy Robinson got the Bee Gees off to a flier with a man-of-the-match winning 73 at the top of the order and skipper Mehaffey added 45 and Willie Jackson 43 in their 255 for 9. In truth the Saints didn’t help themselves as they dropped a bagful of catches (14 in total!) and the big score was to prove a bridge too far in the end. Ian MacBeth’s 27 was as good as it got for the Donegal side as Richard Hepburn and Colin Hall picked up three wickets each to allow the Bee Gees to stroll to a 110-run win.
A big day for Bonds Glen but the Saints have a marvelous chance to pick themselves up next Saturday when they host Drummond knowing that a win will send them into the top flight of North West cricket for the first time in 15 years.