Donemana overwhelming favourites to defeat Brigade
ALL TO PLAY FOR AS NORTH WEST GIANTS CLASH IN CUP FINAL
For a while it looked as though we might struggle to play the 2012 Northern Bank senior cup final before Christmas but the rain relented just in the nick of time and Brigade and Donemana will now stride out at Magheramason on Friday to contest the region's Blue Riband competition decider.
Despite their respective successes this will surprisingly be the clubs' first senior cup final showdown for 27 years when the Tyrone side took the trophy back to the Holm. The teams have enjoyed slightly differing fortunes this summer; Brigade unable to find the league form that helped them to the title last year but performing very well in the cups while Donemana have been in stunning form since the traps opened at the end of April.
The Beechgrove side has reached the final of the Ulster Cup as well as this one while Richard Kee's men are bang in title contention (albeit with games in hand), in the last four of the Bob Kerr Irish Cup and already have the Faughan Valley and Derry Midweek Charity cups safely in the locker.
Most pundits will feel that the outcome could well depend on how the Holm side copes without Andy McBrine and Ryan Hunter who will be missing their second consecutive cup final courtesy of under-19 World Cup duty. The two lads have been in excellent form again this season and will hopefully be helping Ireland's cause in Australia but their loss may be offset by by the fact that the champions will be without their inspirational skipper Mark Simpson who is on holiday.
With Bready's picturesque ground likely to be conducive to good scoring it is hoped that a big crowd will turn out for the region's biggest weekend of cricket in the season. As for who is going to win the old trophy, well, while Donemana surely start favourites, maybe that is best left to the experts. We spoke to some key players at the other clubs for their views and here is what they had to say-
Gordon Montgomery (Glendermott CC)- This is a really difficult final to call, especially with several players missing. Obviously we've played them both this season and they are two good sides but I think that their spin options and greater experience could see Donemana lift the cup.
Richard Hepburn (Bonds Glen)- Donemana for me and I think the professional (Kamran Sajid) could be the difference between them. He's been scoring runs for fun this season and if he gets them off to a good start, they have the fire-power in the lower order to take it away from Brigade. Mark Simpson is a huge loss and although Johnny Thompson is having a fantastic season the skipper's absence puts more pressure on him, especially with the new ball.
Martin Deans (Strabane)- It could be a lot closer than most people are thinking as both sides have a fair sprinkling of quality who could change the game. Despite that you would have to say that Donemana have a bit more strength in depth and Richard Kee's side have proven winners in the ranks so they might just shade it.
David Scanlon (Bready)- The form of Donemana's professional Kamran Sajid is sure to be Brigade's biggest worry, particularly in a two-innings final. They have big game players themselves but I was very impressed by the way James and Junior bowled against us in Saturday's semi final. All that experience and ability could be too much for Brigade.
It was a pretty familiar picture as well among the general cricket fraternity with few giving Brigade much chance despite the presence of players like Iftikhar Hussain, Johnny Thompson, Harry Chappell, Mattie Moran and Trevor Britton in the side.
Strabane's Derek Lynch suggested “It is a very hard game to call. Both sides look evenly balanced but I think Donemana will just edge it, with their experience and know how. However Brigade look strong with Johnny Thompson in good form and Ifti coming into form at the right time so it could turn out to be a good match”.
The Nedd's Noel McMichael is also a fan of the Holm club and said “Brigade are a very strong team in their own right but Donemana just seem to be on a different plain this season. This is a side that doesn't know when it's beaten and I think the difference between them and most other sides is that when they lost to Bready after failing by 5 runs they were genuinely gutted. Most teams would give 347 up as a bad job but not this one. That for me will be the difference if it gets to a point where the chips are really down”.
Former International umpire Eric Cooke hasn't officiated this season, but still watches the local scene closely: “These are two very strong sides and they have been levelled up a bit in the fact that a couple of key players will be missing from the Tyrone team. Even so their experience could be enough to get them through with the McBrine twins to star again. If there is to be a sting in the tail Donemana will have to beware their former team-mate Johnny Thompson as he could quite easily spoil their party.
I would like to wish the three umpires- Nigel McElwee, Noel Ward and Graeme McCrae the very best for the weekend and will be available myself to umpire next season's senior cup and All-Ireland finals if required”!
So could this be the final that Brigade can't win? There is no doubting the sentiments of those who voiced an opinion but I wouldn't want to write of the league champions in a hurry. Personally speaking I too believe that Donemana's momentum this season has made them so compact and that will be crucial.
Brigade's top order needs to get runs which isn't something they have done all season. Mattie Moran has a massive role during the early power-play overs and Iftikhar Hussain is the vital cog in the order with Johnny Thompson. In the absence of Mark Simpson, the other Mark, Snodgrass is thrust into the biggest game of his career with a burden of responsibility. Donemana have done it all before although there is no doubt whatsoever that however you dress it up the loss of Hunter and McBrine is huge.
The fact that Ricky-Lee Dougherty is available and Dwayne McGarrigle is back from holiday compensates but the fact that a wealth of talent and experience is still available in the shape of Sajid, James, Junior, McGonigle and Kee plus the exuberance of the less experienced players gives them a solid look. There have been a lot of one-sided finals in recent years but it is difficult to imagine this being one of them. Lets just hope now that the rain stays away.
Action on both days gets under way at noon and patrons are as always reminded that refreshments will be available at the ground and alcohol carry-outs are not permitted. We will have all the details and photos from the two days in Monday's Derry News.