Decisive weekend in NW as season ends
PROMOTION/RELEGATION BATTLE BRINGS SEASON CURTAIN DOWN
After much deliberation the local cricket season will after all have its final day in the sun for 2014 as Glendermott announced on Monday night that they would be taking their place in the promotion/relegation play-off.
The Rectory side quite correctly took their time to weigh up the pros and cons of participation as we reported earlier this week but finally came down on the side of coming to Bready for Sunday's shoot-out.
Obviously the Championship runners-up won't know their opponents until hours before the game as Ardmore and Eglinton have finished level on points and on head-to-heads in the Premier Division. That means those two will have to play-off on Saturday with the winners able to put their gear away and look forward to another season in the top flight while the defeated side will be back in Magheramason the following day for the winner-takes-all joust.
It looks a tough call to separate the Premiership pair once again this weekend although Stuart Thompson's availability for the villagers and Andrew Riddles' return for Ardmore at least means that both ought to be at full strength. Riddles missed Ardmore's oh-so-narrow defeat at home to new champions Strabane on Sunday and they will be glad to have him back especially now that skipper Adrian Murphy has returned as well.
The Bleachgreen side proved in that one that they have other players who can step up to the plate as Paul, Conor and Ryan Brolly as well as Sean Gormley pushed the Red Caps all the way after Decker Curry and skipper Murphy had failed with the bat. Curry of course remains the one person that the villagers fear most and they know that Ardmore are very dangerous while he's in the game.
The North West's leading run-scorer has had an amazing season so far and you sense he still has his hand to play whether he is needed for one game or both. Ryan and Lee Brolly could also be big influences with the ball on a track that may very well respond to spin.
Eglinton are nobody's mugs either however and Christopher Pierce's side cannot be taken lightly with the quality of Thompson and Stephen Smyth in their corner. They're not short on potential match-winners themselves and if the pitch is turning, Ross Allen, Craig Averill and Richard Wylie will be every bit as dangerous for them.
Where they may be slightly vulnerable is a batting order that hasn't always fired although Andy Pierce and his brother along with both Craig and Mark Averill can provide the back up to Thompson and Smyth. Jamie Millar is another player that Ardmore will want to keep a close eye on as well and the more you look at the two teams the harder it is to choose between them.
If Saturday is an edgy afternoon however things will no doubt be even more intesnse ahead of Sunday's decider. To be brutally honest about it, much will depend on Glendermott's approach. Gordon Montgomery isn't the type of player just to turn up for anything so you can bet your bottom dollar the skipper will be demanding a high standard from his players. The worry has to be however that it seems very clear from events this week that the Bonds Street boys are perfectly happy where they are. There doesn't seem to be an unquenchable desire to get back to the Premiership straight away and you could see from the fact that they wanted to take their time about it that at least some of the players have their doubts. They will give it their all for sure- that isn't in question- but if they do pull off a stunning result on Sunday it is going to give them a bit of a headache over the winter as to how they build a side capable of competing next year. The majority of their players have been to the top division and know how hard it is just to stay up but no doubt they'll give it a crack first and then see where that takes them.
Of more immediate concern for the Glens is the fact that Roy Silva has long since departed these shores and they go into the one-off game without the man who has been responsible for the majority of their runs. Silva is as enigmatic as they come and while he is never like to get you a 50 full of cover drives and late cuts he is one dangerous cutomer with a bat in his hand. Him apart only Simon Killen and Alan Johnson have shown their potential in the order and “Goofer” will need much, much more than that on Sunday if it isn't to be one-sided contest no matter who the opposition is.
That's not to say there aren't players who are capable of getting him runs- Bob Robinson, Charlie Elder and the skipper himself can all do that on their day but they will find this level of opposition a lot more taxing than anything they've dealt with this season. Last year's play-off was something of an anti-climax as Bready were miles too strong for St Johnston and the North West probably needs a more competitive match-up this time if this isn't to start looking like a non-event.
All in all it looks like being a tense finale to a long campaign and for the record the North West has announced that both matches will start at 11am to ensure a maximum chance of a full day's play. Umpires for Saturday's game between Ardmore and Eglinton are Roly Black and Alfie Dunn while John Thompson and Noel Dunn will take charge of Sunday's decider. As always there will be no cover charge for entrance.
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