Saints march to top of table
SAINTS MARCH ON IN PROMOTION RACE
For much of the summer Glendermott have dictated the pace at the top of the Championship table however in the past couple of weeks things have certainly become much more competitive at the business end. Both St Johnston and Burndennett have now moved into a challenging position, the Donegal men going joint top of the table on Saturday with a win at home to Drummond while Gordon Montgomery's side's game away at Sion the following day was washed out by the weather. Conversely, patience paid off at the Boathole on Sunday as St Johnston then went two points clear at the top with a win over Creevedonnell in a game reduced to 20 overs per side.
The Saints have continued to give their younger players the chance to express themselves at senior level this year and that is bringing its own rewards with the performances of Ryan Macbeth, Michael Rankin and David Lapsley in particular. Macbeth was once again the man of the moment at the Boathole in the first of those games as he picked up a couple of valuable wickets and then top scored in the reply as the hosts narrowly saw off Stevie Moore's team. Kyle Morrow made 43 and Chris Moore 36 while Craig Hartin's 33 not out and 27 from Ricky McDaid all helped Drummond to a respectable 179 for 9 in their 50 overs.
Rammohan Goud claimed three wickets for St Johnston while young Macbeth and another in-form player, Jassi Wallia, shared four more. The Donegal men made quite heavy weather of the reply if truth be told and it needed Ryan's 36 and an unbeaten 8th wicket partnership of 60 between Ian Macbeth and Kushpal Singh to finally seal the points. The defeat summed up Drummond's own season, they conceded no fewer than 45 extras again, and a team that had been expected to push Glendermott all the way in the title race have failed to really fire this summer.
While St Johnston had to dig deep to win that one they made really heavy weather of Sunday's task at home to Creevedonnell. Rain played havoc with this one- reduced first to 30 overs and then subsequently 20 after more bad weather. The visitors made 65 for 9 in their allotted time with skipper Stephen Scroggie faring best making 15. Ryan Macbeth was at it again claiming 2-6 while Wallia (2-8) and Nathan Cole (2-15) also bowled well in the conditions.
Strangely the D/L calculation actually reduced the target score to 63, no doubt influenced by the visitors losing so many wickets in their shortened innings. That said, an early burst from Leighton McGarrigle (3-9 from 4 overs) threatened to turn the game on its head before an unbeaten stand between Andrew Fleming (16*) and Ian Macbeth (11*) eased the hosts to a 5-wicket win. That result sent St Johnston two points clear at the top albeit Glendermott now have two matches in hand.
Elsewhere Burndennett made it six wins from seven matches as they easily accounted for an out-of-sorts Creevedonnell who could only field ten players. The visitors were all out for just 73 with Andy Barr making half of those- John McGettigan claiming four wickets and Stephen McCay three in a disappointing effort with the bat from Stephen Scroggie's men. Mark Doherty's 37 not out and 29 from Ross McCay wrapped up the points in an hour for Burndennett who wil now be thinking they have a real shot of that play-off spot at least.
Killyclooney were the one team to keep the Rectory men company in the first half of the summer although three straight defeats have now taken the wind out of Mark Gordon's team's sails, in the league at least. That said, with a National Cup semi-final at home to Woodvale looming it has still been a fantastic season for 'Clooney. They got their game at home to Bonds Glen out of the way earlier in the week but it was to be another Championship defeat for them.
The Bee Gees racked up a very competitive 202 all out as they batted first with Ash Buchanan, Colin Hall and Graeme Boyd all among the runs. Former skipper Richard McMorris with three wickets and Jordan Curry with two were the pick of the bowling for the hosts. Despite 36 from Alan Colhoun at the top of the order, and cameos from Jordan Connor and Mark Gordon, Killyclooney were never really up with the rate at any point in reply. Three wickets for Kyle Moore and a couple each for Buchanan and Leslie Curry kept them at arms length allowing the visitors to post a comfortable enough 60-run win.
NEXT ON THE LIST
Come what may Killyclooney's all-Ireland semi-final tie with Woodvale will be decided this Sunday with a bowl-out used if necessary to dictate the winner. On early season form Mark Gordon's team would have every chance of progressing although the all-rounder hardly needs us to remind him of a pretty poor run of results in recent weeks. There is every chance of course that they have had one eye firmly fixed on this game during that time and if Gordon, the two Colhouns, McMorris and company put it all in there could well be an ever bigger match ahead of them this season.
Also this weekend we have the semi-finals of this year's Sammy Jeffrey Shield with St Johnston taking on Glendermott on Saturday and Bonds Glen hosting Drummond 24 hours later. The match in Donegal has all the makings of a cracking contest with the joint table-toppers looking for a psychological advantage heading into the last lap of the title race as well of course as securing a final spot at Eglinton at the end of the month. Drummond have been beaten in the final of this competition in each of the last two seasons so they will be hoping to make it third time lucky in 2014. Before that however they have to overcome the 2009 Shield winners in a match not all that easy to unravel either.
Sunday then sees the T20 finals day at Ardmore where Glendermott and St Johnston will go head to head for the second time in as many days as they contest the inaugural Eric Cooke Memorial Cup final. That one starts at 12 noon and will be followed straight after by the Fleming-Agri Faughan Valley final between Coleraine and Donemana.