Ulster Cup final a close call
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
In theory at least, there should be a new name on the O’Neil’s Ulster Cup on Sunday night.
Neither of the finalists at Strabane, Bready or Waringstown, has ever won the 40-over competition before and the hope is that one of David Scanlon and Lee Nelson will be lifting the trophy.
We say hope because with yet another dreadful weekend forecast, there is every chance that the showpiece could yet fall victim to the weather.
This time last year a washout in the final would have resulted in a bowl-out but provided an alternative date can be found, there will be a replay if the worst happens.
If this game had taken place just a fortnight ago Waringstown would have been the strongest of favourites.
But with the villagers now without professional Shaheen Khan, who has returned home, Greg Thompson, who is on honeymoon, and with injury doubts about Phil Eaglestone and Kyle McCallan, this is a match virtually impossible to call.
Scanlon maintains his team remain underdogs and he is still wary of the challenge from last year’s beaten finalists.
“I’ve enjoyed playing against Waringstown, they’re a great bunch of lads, but I don’t think I’ve been on the winning side against them before. Hopefully that changes on Sunday,” he said.
“They’re one of the best sides in Ireland, never mind just the NCU, and we’ll be taking nothing for granted even if their pro has gone home.
“The fact that he’s not going to be there is good for us but they’ve still got a lot of top players.
“They have two of the best young cricketers in Ireland at the top of the order in James McCollum and Adam Dennison, so they will be a big test for us.”
The appreciation for his opponents extends to Lee Nelson, the Waringstown captain.
Nelson is a contemporary of Craig Young, the Ireland fast bowler, and has seen enough of both David Rankin, the opening batsman, and Ernest Kemm, the South African professional to know the threat they pose.
“David Rankin played well against the Knights in the T20, he’s a very dangerous batter. I’ve been playing with Craig Young since I was 12 or 13 years old, and he’s a real threat with the new ball and at the death,” he said.
“They also have Kemm and a couple of good young players but it is Rankin and Young who we’ll particularly look out for.”
Both teams aren’t without their selection headaches. Eaglestone has a suspected stress fracture of the back and would have to play through the pain barrier at his former home ground of Strabane Park.
James Mitchell and second eleven regular Alan Harrison will more likely share some of the seam bowling responsibilities with youngster Sam Wilson another option.
Scanlon meanwhile will assess performances in Saturday’s league game against Eglinton before naming his final 11.
The Bready skipper is expecting a fine pitch with Strabane having done an outstanding job of hosting the recent North West Senior Cup final.
He added; “I know that Paddy (Gillespie) and the rest of the guys there will be working very hard to get as good a pitch as possible.
“People said it would spin for the Senior Cup final but that didn’t really happen. It would be good for us if it didn’t spin with Waringstown having such a great spin attack.”