ANDERSON CENTURY LEADS MERRION TO CUP GLORY
JOHN ANDERSON'S superb century led Merrion to their second Irish Senior Cup title as they beat holders Waringstown by 56 runs at a sun-drenched Castle Avenue.
Anderson - the competition's leading run scorer - top scored with 109 as Merrion posted 252 for 9 after being asked to bat first on a green-tinged pitch.
The 33 year-old shared a pivotal second wicket stand of 108 in 137 balls with skipper Dom Joyce (67), whose half century was his fourth in five final appearances - clearly a player for the big occasion.
Joyce and Anderson safely negotiated probing opening spells from former Irish international Phil Eaglestone (3-57) and South African professional Cobus Pienaar (2-39), to build the platform for what would be a match-winning total.
Anderson stroked 15 boundaries in a chanceless innings, exhibiting perfect timing and placement to negate Waringstown's experienced spin trio of Kyle McCallan, Gary Kidd and Lee Nelson.
"We were a bit slow at the start but I just knew I had to bat for 50 overs and we'd have a decent score as I would be able to accelerate as the innings went on," said Man-of-the-Match Anderson afterwards.
"The margin of the win was more comfortable than I expected but the bowlers did a super job and were backed up by the fielding throughout. As a club and a team we take a lot of pride in the competition. We look to the Irish Senior Cup as a benchmark as to where we are in Ireland," added Anderson.
Waringstown's run chase never really got going, getting bogged down for long periods by a Merrion attack which never relinquished their stranglehold on the game.
Skipper Lee Nelson (48) and Greg Thompson (20) threatened briefly with a stand of 52, but with the required run rate steadily increasing, Merrion always held the upper hand.
It was two bowlers at the opposite ends of the career spectrum which exemplifed Merrion's spirit. 15 year-old Max Neville set the tone with a magnificent opening spell, conceding just 12 runs in his seven over spell - as well as taking the crucial wicket of Pienaar, while Dave Langford-Smith, who turns 40 this year was equally as impressive.
'Lanky' (2-28) rolled back the years as he claimed the key wickets of Nelson and Thompson, even unveiling the 'Ferret Dance' to evoke memories of the 2007 World Cup campaign. He's shed two stones in what he claims will be his swan-song season, but on the evidence of this display, he clearly has a lot still to offer.
Will von Behr (3-38), Tyrone Kane (2-25), John Anderson (1-33) and Tom Stanton (1-46) hardly bowled a bad ball all innings, and backed by an athletic fielding display meant an ultimately comfortable 56 run win.
Merrion skipper Dom Joyce paid tribute to the pair and indeed his entire bowling unit after picking up the trophy: "I thought Max Neville was particularly outstanding opening the bowling and getting the vital wicket of their professional. I wasn't going to bowl 'Lanky' for such a long spell to be honest, but he just kept bowling so well and getting those wickets.
"It's an amazing feeling to win the cup again. It really was an outstanding bowling and fielding performance. I couldn't have asked for any more from any one of the bowlers really. I felt we controlled the game throughout after the loss of the early wicket.
"Myself and John had that sizeable partnership, and although we perhaps could have come on a bit stronger at the end but 250 was a good score to defend. It was a great cricket pitch, something in it for all the bowlers and if you were good enough, there was runs in it too. John (Anderson) averages 80 which is outrageous, ridiculous really when you think about it. He's the leading run scorer in the competition and has pulled further away from me - I think I'm fourth.
"I'd like to pay tribute to the team and the supporters who have been excellent throughout the campaign and it's a great feeling to get our hands on the trophy after losing three times in recent seasons."
Merrion's celebrations were low-key as they currently embroiled in a relegation battle which seems them needing to win today (SUN) against The Hills and against fellow strugglers Railway Union on Tuesday if they are to have any chance of escaping the drop.
Waringstown exited Clontarf offering no excuses, simply outplayed by the better team on the day. They now switch their focus to the NCU title and a clash with rivals Instonians on Tuesday - one they must win if they are to deny the Shaw's Bridge the Premier crown.
There's further action at Clontarf today (SUN) when holders Rush take on Laois in the National Cup final - action at Castle Avenue gets under way at 11:30am.
IRISH SENIOR CUP FINAL
At Castle Avenue, Merrion beat Waringstown by 56 runs
MERRION 252/9 (50 overs; J Anderson 109, D Joyce 67, P Eaglestone 3-57, C Pienaar 2-39)
WARINGSTOWN 196 all out (47.1 overs; L Nelson 48, J Hall 37, D Dawson 28, G Thompson 20, W von Behr 3-38, T Kane 2-25, D Langford-Smith 2-28)
Man of the Match: John Anderson