Donemana swith focus to league battle
ALL-IRELAND DREAM ENDS BUT FOCUS NOW SWITCHES TO TITLE RACE
Donemana's cup bubble finally burst on Saturday as the Tyrone side's pursuit of a second All-Ireland crown and indeed a fourth trophy of this prolific season ended in heartbreak at The Holm. The damage was done early in truth as Merrion bowlers Dominic Joyce and Alex Chetkovic never let the hosts settle, picking up the scalps of professional Kamran Sajid and Graeme Boyd both without scoring. Wickets continued to tumble and in the end it needed an aggressive half century from Dwayne McGerrigle and 33 from Junior McBrine to help their side to a modest 129 all out. The Leinster team were soon on top of that as Rory Allwright scored 74 not out to end Donemana's interest for another season with a 6-wicket win despite what has been a fantastic run from Richard Kee's side.
There was better news for the North West on Sunday when Brigade overcame Belfast side Civil Service to claim the Club Turf Ulster Cup at Eglinton while there was some excellent league action as well over the two days. Bready travelled to Coleraine on Sunday aiming to pull clear at the top of the table but despite the Bannsiders being without their professional Chinthaka Jayasinghe and Scott Campbell they found the Magheramason men on one of those off-days. David Cooke (45) and Craig Averill (35) both batted really well in what were admittedly bowler-friendly conditions as Coleraine made 188 for 6 in their 50 overs. Bready's batting completely collapsed in the reply and despite David Rankin gritting it out to make 35 they were dismissed for just 67 runs in their innings meaning it was Coleraine and not Bready who went top.
Strabane were back in action too as they visited a Bonds Glen side that is still without a league win and now clinging on for dear life to their Division 1 status. Peter Gillespie was again among the runs hitting 7 fours and 3 sixes in his 84 while Faisal Iqbal added 45 and Mark Gillespie 40 in Strabane's final total of 220 for 9. The Bee Gees batting has been behind their fall from grace this season and Phil Eaglestone showed little sympathy for their plight to help himself to figures of 7 for 24. An unbeaten 30 from Kyle Moore and 22 from Richard Rodgers was the best the home side had to offer in their 89 all out and a return to Division 2 next season now looks a formality for Richard Hepburn's team.
The race to replace the relegated clubs turned Eglinton's way at the weekend after the Co Derry side recorded wins against Ardmore and Sion Mills over the two days while St Johnston's unbeaten league run was ended by a battling Burndennett on Saturday. The Saints had won all five of their opening league games but if truth be told they finished well beaten here. Only Ian MacBeth with 23 offered much by way of resistance in their disappointing 114 all out as John McGettigan, Mark Porter, Colin McGettigan and Stephen McCay all picked up two wickets for Burndennett. McCay then sealed the Saints' fate with 46 and Gerard McAuley added a quick-fire 36 to allow the home team to coast to a comfortable 7-wicket win that moved them into joint second place in the table.
Earlier in the week Burndennett had added to their points tally with a thrilling 3-wicket win over Drummond thanks to knocks of 46 from Eddie McGettigan and 33 from Aidan Boyle.
Things aren't quite so smooth at the other end however and Killyclooney's goose looks cooked after they were well beaten by Gordon Cooke's Drummond. The former Ireland International played a major part in the win himself hitting an unbeaten half century while Michael Lynch and Philip Moon were also among the runs in their 278 for 6. 'Clooney's reply never really got going in all honesty with only token resistance from Alan Colhoun and Sammy McElhatton as Cooke claimed four wickets and Stevie Moore and Graeme Anderson three and two respectively in a rout for the Roe Valley team.
Eglinton then travelled to Sion on Sunday knowing a win would open up a six-point gap between themselves and the chasing pack and came away with a narrow enough win in a low-scoring contest. Stephen Smyth has scored big runs against many of the top sides around but the villagers will feel his 29 not out here was as good as anything in recent seasons given the treacherous track. . Johnny Havern picked up 4 wickets and Johnny Friel claimed 3 as the league leaders had to be content with 110 all out. Just how difficult batting was became obvious very quickly as Sion were soon in trouble and despite Andy Lucas playing very well for his 34 the home team could muster only 79 all out; Karl O'Doherty and Richard Wylie with 4 wickets each for Eglinton.
Finally however, despite all the disappointment of Saturday, few weeks at this time of the year end without a trophy making its way to the Holm and on Friday evening past Donemana proved too strong for St Johnston in the midweek cup final at Ballymagorry. The Donegal side batted first but seldom looked comfortable against the Tyrone men's attack. Ross Black with 3-20 was the pick of them, the youngster's return earning him the man-of-the-match award at St Johnston were dismissed for just 74. None of the Saints' batsmen could get a start of any sort and a team like Donemana weren't going to miss from there. The top order did what they had to led by Paul Britton who made 24 and the outcome was never in doubt after that as they sailed over the winning line with 6-wickets in hand.
It is back to league action this coming weekend as the big guns all battle for position in this most open title race in years. There will be a big crowd at Strabane Park as Donemana come to town with their sights firmly set on working through their outstanding games as they bid to regain the senior trophy. The Red Caps know a win in this one would really ignite their own challenge so it is all to play for, as is the case at Magheramason where two other contenders, Bready and Limavady lock horns. Weather permitting this could be a pivotal weekend in the championship battle and as always we will bring you news and reactions next time.