Red letter day for Tyrone
What a difference a year can make in sport and there were two shining examples of that in the North West on Sunday afternoon. Exactly 12 months ago, Bready Cricket Cricket Club were staring the very real possibility of automatic relegation square in the face.
A huge weekend in which they beat the Premier Division's top two, Coleraine and Brigade, in consecutive days turned their fortunes around just in the nick of time, however they still had to navigate a play-off with St Johnston before they could finally breathe easily. Fast forward to Sunday past then and skipper David Scanlon cut a very proud figure as he cradled the O'Neill's Ulster Cup courtesy of a thumping win over NCU Premier Division leaders, Waringstown.
Yet while he savoured the taste of success, the Bready bowler conceded that his post-match talk with the team was about demanding more. “I told them that if we used this performance as a gauge then there would be more trophies and I fully believe there is a North West title in this team. We had just beaten one of the best club sides in Ireland and did so in some style, so that is where the barrier is set now”.
Of the match itself the Bready captain felt that it had been won in the second half of his side's innings. “The ball was turning square early on and they are very dangerous in those conditions. That made David Barr's knock all the more impressive but after 10 or 12 overs you could see the pitch changing and becoming more placid. McCollum and Mitchell bowled very well late on in the innings but Waringstown will probably feel they missed a trick by not bringing them on earlier.
It was seaming by that point so we were happy enough to play the spinners and take what runs we could after a slow enough start. Momentum is a big thing in cricket and we definitely felt that it was with us at the half way point as we had probably got quite a few more runs on the board than they would have counted on. Hindsight is a wonderful thing I know but that's where I feel we won the game. We were certainly pleased with what we had in the bank and I fancied our attack to defend them in those seam-friendly conditions”.
“They have so many quality players though that you have to keep the squeeze on and that's exactly what we did. Although they were losing wickets I still expected someone to come in and calm things down- take the ones and twos- rotate the strike, but nobody did. Mind you I was still glad to see the back of Gary Kidd and Greg Thompson as those two could easily have taken the match away from us if we had let them. I was stunned at how easily we wrapped things up if I'm honest but I'm absolutely delighted that we got our disciplines spot on. The key thing for us now is to build on this and to make sure that it isn't one isolated success. This team should be competing for trophies every year and hopefully we can use this win to go on to many more ”.
Killyclooney also had a day to remember when they accounted for Woodvale in the semi-final of the National Cup sending Mark Gordon's men into a first All-Ireland decider against Carrickfergus at Downpatrick this Sunday. This exact week last year 'Clooney were recording their first league victory in two years when they beat St Johnston by 4 wickets at the Boathole.
They finished the 2013 season with just those two points- albeit that was two more than they got in 2012. Things have been a lot different this season however with Gordon's men winning six of their first eight league matches to sit second in the table behind Glendermott. Their form has been less impressive of late but former skipper and club stalwart James Colhoun says that they are simply enjoying the fact that they are competitive in all competitions once more.
“It had been a difficult few seasons at the club before this but it just shows how little things can turn it around. We have been losing players just about every season for the past six or seven years and we never really managed to find any rythym early on. Once you're on a run it is difficult to get out of it and confidence is affected, but we've showed this time that winning is a habit as well.
We've been on a bit of a dry run in the past weeks up until the win on Sunday but again, there's a pattern there too. We breat Drummond at the end of June to go second in the table but we took a couple of real hammerings in the T20 league from Strabane and Bready, and then came up against Glendermott a couple of times in fairly quick succession. It was as if we struggled to get our edge back after that and Roy Silva did little to help our confidence levels” he smiled.
“A lot of the credit has to go to Mark Gordon who has made a big difference as skipper. He practices hard and plays hard and he sets a great example. Him and Alan (Colhoun) would be our impact players and they have both come off regularly this season so I suspect that has been a major help too. Bringing in Chris Neely has been another factor and at the start of the season we had Ellis McGarrigle which meant that we had two very useful slow bowlers.
We don't have an attack that will run through teams but we have guys who are very good at containing sides. John McCreanor was promoted from the seconds this season and has done brilliantly since stepping up and our younger players- Neely, Jordan Connor and Timmy Dougherty are all a year wiser at this level and will only get better. Richard McMorris and myself have been around this division for a while and we have an idea of what is needed but it's fantastic to be going into the last few weeks of the season looking forward to one of the biggest cup finals in the cuntry rather than worrying about the bottom of the league”.
And did he feel they had a chance of lifting the trophy this weekend- “Of course we have a chance. Carrick are clear favourites and beat us in the Ulster Shield earlier this season but conditions suited their strong batting style that day. With things likely to be damper at the weekend it might make the game a lot more interesting”.
Killyclooney then are just a game away from being crowned National champions. Now there's a thought.
And finally for now there was another cup in the Donemana cabinet at the weekend as well after Richard Kee's men got the better of Coleraine in the Fleming-Agri T20 trophy. It may not have been the end that the Danske Bank cup holders would have wanted- this one decided on the dreaded bowl-out but strikes from Junior McBrine and Dwayne McGerrigle gave the Tyrone side a 2-0 win after rain put paid to any chance of a result on the field. Ironically, the north coast men had taken the trophy off Donemana in exactly the same circumstances at Eglinton last year so it was certainly a merited success.