League and cup action as Aussies arrive in Belfast
The recent spell of poor weather means that there's a familiar look to the domestic cricket timetable over the coming weekend, the four quarter final ties in the Northern Bank senior cup postponed last time will now take preference over the forthcoming scheduled programme. Burndennett will entertain holders Bready on Saturday at the same time as Glendermott travel to Donemana however the other two ties, St Johnston v Brigade and Coleraine v Limavady are held back to Sunday.
The Saints had asked for Saturday off earlier in the season once it became known that Australia would be coming to Belfast for a fully fledged One Day International and the request was granted by the Union. Such is Ireland's growing reputation on the world stage that William Porterfield's team is now widely regarded as being among the game's elite in this format and this is a welcome opportunity to show that against the world's top ODI side.
Not only is a big crowd expected at Stormont for the occasion but the match is also being covered “live” on Sky Sports so this is an excellent opportunity to showcase how far the sport has progressed here in the past decade. Unfortunately for North West supporters injury rules former Bready bowler Boyd Rankin out of the side but with plenty of familiar faces in the green corner, none more so of course than Donemana-born skipper Porterfield, interest is sure to be keen.
The fact that the cup games are split over the weekend allows some of the scheduled league fixtures in Division 1 to go ahead on Saturday, weather permitting of course. Matters are getting ever tighter at both ends of the table and with rain affecting many of the ongoing midweek matches this could well prove to be a crucial phase of the season. Joint leaders Coleraine will look to take advantage of Donemana's inactivity when they travel to Bonds Glen to take on the only side in the top flight yet to claim a league point.
It has been a very difficult season for the Bee Gees so far, skipper Richard Hepburn acknowledging here recently that his side simply isn't batting well enough to give themselves a chance. They failed to get to 100 again on Sunday in their T20 defeat at home to Limavady and the fact of the matter is that they need to get a win on the board very quickly or they will become one of the two automatic relegations come September. Hepburn's assessment is spot on if truth be told, the Bee Gees are totally reliant on their professional Gihan Dilruk at present and if he fails there is rarely a Plan B.
No such worries for Coleraine of course - five straight league wins for Ian McGregor's side since their opening day defeat at Bready sees them bang in contention at the top of the table and they will be looking to claim the high ground here before tangling with Limavady in the cup on Sunday. The Bannsiders and Roesiders were due to finish their rain affected league match last night but at the time of going to press a positive outcome was very much in the balance. One slight concern for Coleraine will be the manner in which Donemana exposed their middle and lower order again in the Irish Senior Cup but the Bee Gees are certainly not of the Holm side's calibre and it's difficult to see them get anything from this.
Brigade are another side who will hope to capitalise on Saturday when they entertain Creevedonnell ahead of their cup tie in Donegal. The Beechgrove men lost three of their first five league games as they began the defence of their title and despite recovering of late there is still the suspicion that the batting remains light. Their win against Waringstown will surely have boosted the confidence levels in the camp but they will know that they were on the rack for most of the afternoon against the All-Ireland champions and managed to pull off an amazing victory courtesy of a late late show. With Mattie Moran out of the side on holiday Brigade just need to be a lot more compact with the bat but Mark Simpson's side should still have enough about them to get past the new boys. Credit Creevedonnell mind you for the fact that they already have four points in the bag which is about four more than most pundits thought they would earn all summer. With an assortment of former Brigade players in the ranks they will lack little in motivation but it is just so difficult to see how they can fend off the Brigade attack.
The final league game on Saturday should be a decent contest as Fox Lodge welcome Limavady to Ballymagorry. The home side have struggled badly for points but have put up some very useful performances in defeat, however the bowling attack still looks very vulnerable at this level. Andy Britton will again be a key player on his return to his old stomping ground but if there is one crumb of comfort for the Foxies it is that the Roesiders haven't really come off as a unit this season. Obviously there is no doubting their individual talents but to date we haven't really seen Andrew Riddles' side in totally commanding form and if they are to fulfil many people's prediction of title winners you would think that there would need to be more to come.
Despite just one league win so far Jonny Robinson's side is capable of causing an upset here although no doubt either that the visitors start hot favourites.
Northern Bank Senior Cup
Burndennett v Bready
Donemana v Glendermott
Long's SuperValu Division 1
Fox Lodge v Limavady
Brigade v Creevedonnell
Bonds Glen v Coleraine
Sammy Jeffrey Shield
Ardmore v Drummond
Northern Bank Senior Cup
Coleraine v Limavady
St Johnston v Brigade