O'Doherty upbeat about Eglinton chances
The only club yet to taste competitive action this season is Eglinton but the Villagers go into the summer with expectation fairly high that they will be able challenge for honours on all fronts. Skipper Karl O'Doherry wasn't overly happy that his charges weren't in action during the first fortnight but he was confident when we spoke at the weekend that the players were ready for the road ahead. “We were supposed to play The Nedd in our first game and then had a bye in the first round of the senior cup so we're a bit frustrated not to have got started yet. That said we're now champing at the bit for this weekend and I would like to think it will be a competitive season for us”.
Having been relegated at the end of 2011 many feel that Eglinton are well equipped to top the second division this season, an achievement that would then see them play off against the eight placed team in the tier above for a place in the new 8-team elite league but O'Doherty refused to be drawn on that. “Quite simply we want to win every game we play. It doesn't matter whether it is league or cup the intensity has to be the same because winning becomes a habit. We lost several really close games last year that took the wind out of our sails but we will use the experience that comes with that and move on. Obviously Eglinton as a club wants to be in the top flight of North West cricket but we know we have to earn that and there are other sides with the same ambition. St Johnston are an experienced team with a couple of quality youngsters starting to emerge and they will be a threat. Despite losing their opening match Ardmore are one of those sides who will give you a real scrap, especially if Adrian Murphy gets among the runs and Gordon Cooke is doing a good job of building a team at Drummond. Squad-wise we're as good as any and although we have lost a few players; Mark Averill and Stephen McCloskey moving on with Richard Stewart suggesting that he may retire, we have brought in Stephen Smyth. Stephen has been taking indoor nets since February and I would have to say that we're happy with the form of Neal Stewart, Richard Wylie, Chris Pierce, Johnny Gardiner and Simon Olphert among others as we head into the new season. The club has also rejuvenated the under-14 and under-16 structure and a new primary school initiative has also really taken off so all in all we're looking to put a solid infrastructure in place on and off the field.”
Eglinton's first competitive match this Saturday sees them head south to County Wicklow in the new “National Cup”; an all-Ireland tournament for second tier teams in each of the regions, and the skipper was well pleased with their draw. “This is a welcome addition to the schedule for second division clubs as it is an ideal opportunity for those who haven't played in the All-Ireland competition for some time, or maybe even at all, to test themselves against teams from up and down the country. We've been drawn to play Oakhill from the Leinster league, a club with an interesting background to say the least! Their ground is owned by Peter Saville, a renowned publisher and racehorse breeder who also just happens to be a multi-millionaire. Mr Saville has modelled the pavillion on his Tudor-style school equivalent and has had the pitch laid by a Test groundsman. I'm reliably informed it is a beautiful setting for cricket and while we are looking forward to the occasion, we are going there looking to win a cricket match. It would be great to get an extended run in the competition but that will be our aim in all the events we play in and if that is enough to get us a crack at a play-off at the end of the season then we will deal with that challenge when it comes along”.
Staying on the theme of the new National Cup, North West President and the Chair of CricketIreland Cricket Committee, Joe Doherty was another to express his delight that the new competition was taking off. "The RSA National Cup is the most exciting innovation in Irish domestic cricket in 30 years. It came about after a discussion at the Cricket Committee in September last at Rathmines when we were reviewing the format of the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup. The Committee felt that, rather than add more teams to the BKISC, thus diluting the elite status of the competition, it would be better to give the next tier of teams a competition that a) they would have a realistic chance of winning and b) would enable an additional 32 indigenous clubs to sample the heady atmosphere of all-Ireland competition and the attendant publicity that is guaranteed, with the welcome announcement of generous sponsorship by RSA. Added to that, the fact that the matches will be played in coloured clothing with white ball, etc., will give all teams a taste of the razzmatazz of modern global cup cricket. We are greatly looking forward to supporting this new competition and are confident it will be a major success because it presses all the right buttons for our new wave of ambitious clubs".
One team sure to echo that sentiment is the newly-formed Newbuildings side who have been invited, and agreed to take the place of The Nedd in the competition. Despite starting life in Intermediate 1 this year Chris Cooper and his boys will entertain Malahide no less, the Dublin side of course having won the All-Ireland senior trophy within the last decade. The game will be played at Donemana this coming Saturday which ought to mean a bumper crowd and a noisy afternoon for the Leinster team who count prolific batsman Marc Ellison among their number.