St Johnston, Drummond and Sion all win on opening day
TENSE TIMES AHEAD AS CLUBS BATTLE FOR SENIOR FUTURES
The Nedd's late withdrawal from Division 2 of the Long's Supermarket North West senior league may have reduced the programme to a mere three fixtures at a time this year however it is highly unlikely to diminish the relevance of such a key season. By the end of this summer, at least two sides will be relegated from the current top flight while one will give way at the bottom of this league to allow for two eight team leagues. The winners of the second tier will be rewarded with a one-off tie against the eighth placed team in Division 1 to decide on places in the 2013 structure therefore there should be plenty of life throughout the campaign.
Saturday's schedule tossed up three competitive looking contests, none more so than at the Bleachgreen where St Johnston were the visitors. These two sides have been in the thick of the promotion action over the past number of years and can reasonably expect to be thereabouts again however the hosts have lost a few players over the winter, most notably Ciaran McDermott who has joined Creevedonnell and Gerard McAuley who is back at Burndennett.
New skipper Lee Brolly watched his charges struggle with the bat in their opening game as Andrew Fleming and Ian MacBeth dominated for the Donegal men. Adrian Murphy made 37 and young Peter Harrigan showed plenty of promise with 33 but elsewhere there was little to raise the hosts' spirits as they finished with a well below par 133. The Saints' lost a couple of early wickets in reply before man-of-the-match Fleming was joined by David MacBeth and those two used all their experience to steer the visitors to a very comfortable 7-wicket win.
Down at Drummond last year's runners up also made a winning start against a Burndennett team expected to a lot better than their 2011 bottom placed finish. The visitors fielded without McAuley who had a previous engagement however Aidan Boyle and the McGettigan brothers John and Colin made a welcome return to the fold.
The match was inadvertently played over 45 overs and a superb partnership between Steve Moore and Gordon Cooke helped the home side to post a competitive 163 for 7 in that time. Cooke has been a model of consistency with both bat and ball for the Limavady club over the past couple of seasons and if both he and Moore can keep the same level of consistency this time, Drummond could well be a threat again.
Burndennett struggled with the bat last time and despite the addition of McGettigan and Boyle it was more of the same here. Adrian Moore hit an unbeaten 30 to give them a glimmer of hope but Michael Lynch bowled really well to finish with 5 for 28 as the home side had 45 runs to spare at the line.
The final game saw the meeting of two sides that could be vulnerable at the wrong end as Sion Mills entertained Killyclooney. The visitors batted first but were never comfortable at any stage against Nigel O'Neill and Ryan Harper and a steady fall of wickets meant that they could muster just 68 between them. Chasing such a small total, Sion didn't make things easy for themselves either but between them they were eventually able to carve out a valuable win. Killyclooney are already looking like a side that could struggle badly this year but Richard McMorris will be well aware that nothing is won or lost on the opening day.
League favourites Eglinton weren't in action on Saturday as they had been due to host The Nedd and the Villagers must sit on their hands again next weekend as they are not involved in the first round of the Northern Bank Senior Cup. Karl O'Doherty's men are scheduled to meet Donemana in Round 2 and The Nedd's situation also now means that Burndennett also have a bye into the second stage where they will play the winners of the one surviving first round game between Drummond and Ardmore.
Despite the reverse on Saturday, Ardmore's new captain Lee Brolly was upbeat about the club's chances for the rest of the season starting in the cup next weekend. “It was a difficult day for us as we lost Mark Chambers with a hamstring injury in the run up to the game and that affected the balance in the batting order. We had no pre-season because of the weather and in fact with several of our players working in Belfast and Dublin this was probably the first time everyone had been together.
"I have no intention of making excuses for the defeat; we played on the mat, the outfield was very slow and our batsmen just got very frustrated. I was really pleased with our bowling despite only taking three wickets but I felt that if we had got Andrew or David before they were in that we could have well have defended that 133.
"Despite the loss we will definitely be able to take plenty of positives from the contest, none more so than the performance of Peter Harrigan (junior). Peter is just 16 years old but he batted superbly and he definitely keeps his place in the team for the cup game at Drummond”.
Turning to this coming Saturday and the spinner felt that the game afforded his team the chance to get back on track after the opening day reverse. “If I am completely honest I would admit that the senior cup would not be top of our list of priorities. I want to win on Saturday simply because we have only 11 games left already so the mores games we play the better.
"Obviously we want to do well in the league also but again I won't lose any sleep if we don't get promoted. As a group we want to do well in the new National Cup and although the NCU and Leinster Unions will undoubtedly be stronger given the fact that they already play in an 8-team league it will give us an opportunity to test ourselves at a good level”.
Cup success this season obviously appeals to Lee and with his team involved in plenty of competitions he made it clear he wants to bring at least one of them back to the Bleachgreen, “I think its important that we find the trophy-winning mentality because we have players here who could have a big future in North West senior cricket and we want to keep them.
"Conor Brolly seems to have been around for ages but is still only 18 and his brother Ryan (14) will get his chance too and we've already spoken about Peter Harrigan. We will give it our best in every competition we're involved in but I am particularly hopeful of a good run in the Sammy Jeffrey and Sperrin Springs cups. Before that of course we have the game at Drummond this Saturday and I have no doubt that we will get better as the season progresses, therefore we go there looking to win”.
LONG'S SUPERVALU NORTH WEST DIVISION 2 SUMMARY
At The Bleachgreen, Ardmore 133 all out in 43 overs (A Murphy 44, P Harrigan 33, A Fleming 4-17) lost to
St Johnston 134-3 in 36 overs (D MacBeth 44 not out, A Fleming 28 not out) by 7 wickets.
At Drummond, Drummond 163 for 7 in 45 overs (S Moore 56, G Cooke 46 not out, M Porter 2-28) beat Burndennett 118 all out in 29.4 overs (A Moore 30 not out, S McCay 23, M Lynch 5-28, S Moore 2-29) by 45 runs.
At Sion Mills, Killyclooney 68 all out in 22 overs (N O’Neill 5-15, R Harper 3-53) lost to Sion Mills 70-5 in 23 overs (J Connor 3-20; D Riddles 2-34) by 5 wickets.