Senior Two round-up
VILLAGERS SEIZE TITLE INITIATIVE WITH 6-POINT LEAD
LONG'S SUPERVALU DIVISION 2
This could well have been a big weekend in the race for the divisional play-off spot after St Johnston's unbeaten league run was ended unceremoniously at Burndennett on Saturday while Eglinton capitalised with a crushing win at home to Ardmore and a not-so-convincing verdict at Sion Mills on Sunday.
The Saints went into the weekend with five wins from five matches but were never in control at any stage against Mark Doherty's vastly improved team. Ian MacBeth with 23 was the best the visitors had to offer in their disappointing 114 all out while the wickets were shared evenly between John McGettigan, Mark Porter, Colin McGettigan and Stephen McCay.
There were no such problems for the home team as McCay hit 3 fours and 3 sixes in his 46 while Gerard McAuley required little running in making 36. The latter hit 4 fours and 3 sixes leaving him to negotiate just a “two” as Burndennett won with any amount in hand. The win moved them into joint second place in the table but handed real initiative to Eglinton who were much too strong for out-of-sorts Ardmore.
Once again a solid batting display was behind the villagers' big win, Richard Wylie with 5 fours and a six in an unusually composed knock of 89 while Neal Stewart (73) and skipper Karl O'Doherty (66) were also among the runs. Martin Gormley and Paul Brolly each claimed two wickets for the Bleachgreen side but it wasn't enough to prevent the hosts posting a daunting 271 for 4.
Ardmore's batting was much less potent as has been the case for most of the season and they offered little by way of resistance finally being dismissed for just 75. Jamie Millar with 3 for 6 and Johnny Gardiner (3 for 15) did the bulk of the damage as the visitors poor run of form continued with this heavy defeat.
Drummond finally returned to winning ways after four losses on the bounce when they were again too strong for win-less Killyclooney. Richard McMorris's side was on the receiving end of Drummond's 425 the last time Gordon Cooke's team won in the league but while they kept the score down a bit more here the result was no less emphatic. Cooke posted another unbeaten half century and received good support from Michael Lynch and Philip Moon as the hosts made 278 for 6.
Ashley Buchanan fared best with the ball for Killyclooney but there was little resistance from the batsmen as Cooke was again in dominant form in the second innings. Alan Colhoun and Sammy McElhatton got starts but weren't able to push on as the former Irish International claimed four wickets and Stevie Moore and Graeme Anderson added three and two respectively. In the end the visitors were dismissed for 113 as their miserable season continued.
All of that meant that Eglinton went to Sion on Sunday looking to open a six-point gap albeit the Donegal side would then have two matches in hand. The villagers batted first but were always on edge on a brute of a pitch and it was clear from the start that patience was the key. Stephen Smyth needed all his experience to lead the visitors to a challenging total, his 29 not out a decent knock in the circumstances. Johnny Havern with 4 wickets and Johnny Friel with 3 meant that the league leaders had to be content with 110 all out.
Sion were soon in trouble in reply and after 4 overs went in for tea on 10 for 3. It hadn't got any easier when they returned either with skipper Karl O'Doherty and Richard Wylie both using conditions to their advantage. Andy Lucas played very well for his 34 but got no support whatsoever as the Tyrone side were dismissed for just 79- O'Doherty and Wylie with 4 wickets each.
This coming weekend's fixtures are spread over the two days with the big game on Sunday as Eglinton host Burndennett. The villagers are certainly in charge of the title race at present but they still have several difficult hurdles to negotiate not least of all the visit of Mark Doherty's men who burst St Johnston's bubble at the weekend. Burndennett will feel they have nothing to lose here and with their tails up they could be quite a handful for the pace-setters.
The previous day Sion Mills host St Johnston in a game that the visitors really cannot afford to lose if they are to retain their title ambitions. To be fair the Saints have never really had promotion at the top of their 2012 agenda but having pushed Eglinton so hard in the first half of the season they will want to stay in touch for as long as they can. Sion did really well to keep the leaders to just a 30-run margin last time and they are nobody's mugs so this could be quite a contest.
Ardmore entertain Drummond still not sure of avoiding the single relegation spot in what has been a really poor season by their standards. Lee Brolly's side is potentially far better than this but with the exception of one or two players it just hasn't happened for them. It is difficult to see Killyclooney posting three wins in their last 4 games to overtake the Beechgrove boys but even so it is fair to suggest that Ardmore will look to close out their own campaign on a high.
Drummond aren't mathematically out of the title race but those four straight defeats have surely ended any realistic chance for this season. Gordon Cooke, Steve Moore and one or two others have posted some decent stats but things look set to get more difficult next season with the two relegated teams to contend with and they probably need to strengthen again if they are to feature.