I just wanted to start this piece by congratulating Sion Mills on this, their 150th anniversary and inviting everyone to help them celebrate at their ground on Sunday. Joe Doherty is bringing an Irish President's Select to play a Sion Invitational XI, the players on view likely to include Andrew Poynter, John Mooney, Peter and Mark Gillespie, Junior and James McBrine, Johnny Thompson, Roy Silva, Matt Bentley and Ireland Head Coach, Phil Simmons. The club has worked really hard to get this day organised and the improvements they have carried out at the ground in preparation are fantastic. We have a reputation as a region of being a close-knit cricket community so it would be really nice to see a good crowd at the Holm field in Sion. Play gets under way at 1pm and not only is admission free but there is a free souvenir programme as well and plenty for all the family to do.


OK- I'm going to say it out loud- the lack of official explanation for the manner in which the recent under-13 Interprovincial tournament ended is really poor form. I wasn't there myself, I'm happy to admit that so the following is an account from several coaches and parents from both the North West and the NCU.

Going into the final match between the NCU and Leinster, the Dublin youngsters had won both of their earlier matches (against the North West and Munster). The North West had also won two- (versus the NCU and Munster) while the Belfast side had won once, against Munster, but were hoping to tie it up on the final day. In a rain affected match, the NCU posted around 240- no bad score. The home side were approximately 118 for 2 when more rain came and a delay ensued. Apparently the competition was using not D/L but some form of outdated run rate but when conditions dried up, Leinster needed around 30 runs from 2 overs to win the game. According to people who were there, the umpires and fielding side were taking the field when they were summoned back by members of the coaching staff. Some discussion followed and a few minutes later the news came out that the game was over. Although unconfirmed the message coming from the changing rooms was that Leinster had “conceded”, albeit they would still win the tournament on Net Run Rate. On closer scrutiny it appeared that the southerners were indeed ahead on NRR, however had they lost a wicket or two in the two remaining overs, that would no longer have been the case.

To be fair, I don't think anyone disagrees that the best team went home with the trophy, however it was the “explanation” that followed that has left many people scratching their heads. I won't name names here for obvious reasons but a member of the North West coaching staff, backed up by an NCU parent has said that one of the organisers told them that the short meeting had concluded that “there was no way such young lads would score 30 runs in two overs on a big ground”. Have you ever heard the like of it? Worse still, they were more concerned as to why the North West coaches weren't there for the presentation despite the fact that they had gone to help one of the parents whose car had broken down in Dublin.

The annoying thing is that on their return home the North West was promised that they would receive a formal explanation, however it appears that the issue has been swept under the carpet. In an era when we're busting a gut to try to bring new people into the sport we need to do better than this- kids and parents travelling round trips of hundreds of miles at their own expense deserve more. Like I said at the start, these are the accounts of a number of parents and staff who were there on the day. I don't pretend to know how everyone feels- but I know exactly what the North West folk think.


All eyes will be on Strabane Park this weekend as the third instalment of Brigade v Donemana takes centre stage and hopefully the weather will be kind all round. I'm as tired writing previews as you are reading them but I do have two predictions for the forthcoming couple of days. Firstly, the final will be won by whoever bats best. Brigade seem to have worked out their batting order in recent weeks and they look far more solid now with Gareth back opening. That could be vital because Donemana exposed those weaknesses last season and the Beechgrove side completely lost their way when Junior and company turned the screw. Four quality spinners in the McBrine family and Jordan McGonigle will pose some very testing questions again this weekend, particularly on a Day 2 track which is likely to give them a little help. The flip side of course is that Richard Kee's men are about to be put through their paces by the best seam attack in the league. Mark Simpson, Andy Britton, Johnny Thompson and Richard Hepburn could be hard to work with and the cup holders will need to be much better than they've been in the league so far or they could be blown away.

My second prediction is that Strabane will make this an occasion worthy of its stature. Paddy Gillespie, Joe Deans and a hard-working grounds team have worked their socks off over the past couple of months and will have a belter of a pitch ready for Friday. Terence Patton has been flat out ensuring that everything moves like clockwork off the field and you can bet your bottom dollar that their big weekend won't fail for any lack of effort from the club. The best of luck to all three clubs over the coming days.