We're at that stage of the season now where it is pretty much all hands to the pump. Once again it looks like a race against time to get all the senior fixtures in (I'd happily wager we have no chance of completing all the Qualifying fixtures even if the season was extended until October) and then we have the small matter of at least one play-off after that. This (and the Derry Journal) are the only cricket pages where I'm allowed to mention the “R” word without Barry having a canary so if there does happen to be any RRRRain between now and mid-September then heaven knows what we're meant to do.

Titles could be decided by who can best dodge the showers but there is no doubting that there is a lot of frustration among the players at the moment. If anyone has read Johnny Thompson's previews of this weekend's league games it is hard to get away from the fact that neither Brigade nor Strabane have played a league match in the past month. Now both teams are faced with six matches in little more than three weeks. It is nobody's fault- weather and cups are all that is to blame, however it is clearly not right.


Another issue that has been bubbling below the surface of late is the promotion/relegation between Qualifying 1 and the Championship. Last season Newbuildings weren't allowed to come up into the senior ranks as there was no sign of work starting on their ground and they were “sharing” with Brigade. The club asked for clarity from the North West as to what they would have to do to be allowed to compete in the next league up and they were given a directive by the Union. First, they had to have a ground of their own, be that in Newbuildings or on a lease somewhere else. Secondly they had to ensure that the ground was fit for senior cricket (ie passed by the Grounds Inspection Committee) and thirdly, they had to win Qualifying 1.

While no-one has (as yet anyway) denied Newbuildings their chance for promotion there does seem to be some confusion around. Firstly, the club is not “sharing” Foyle College with any other club and they have provided a documented minimum term lease to the North West. Secondly, they are four points clear at the top of the league. Should they go on and clinch the title AND then pass the grounds inspection they will be promoted- it's as simple as that, just as it is the same for any 1st XI in any division. If you finish bottom of the league you are almost definitely going to be relegated and if you finish top of the one below, and your house is in order then you'll come up.

Both of these matters are likely to get an airing over the next few weeks as the North West starts work on meeting all of its clubs. Chairman Andrew Fleming's invites have already gone out for the first of these meetings when the Board of Control will sit down with two senior reps from all eight Premiership clubs. That meeting will take place at Beechgrove on Thursday 4 September and it will be followed soon after by a meeting with the Championship clubs and finally the Qualifying clubs. The idea is to generate discussion about the current season- what has worked and what hasn't- and then onto how best to take matters forward over the next few seasons.

It is absolutely vital to have all clubs represented at these meetings because the members need to be completely familiar with the Unions vision. I have seen at first hand the amount of effort that Andrew, Peter McCartney and Davd Bradley have put in over the past 12 months and they are more than happy to work with all parties for the betterment of North West cricket.

Obviously we won't agree on everything (I would openly admit that I've had one or fifteen differences of opinion with the Chairman at various times this year- I think he's leading 9-6 in the right or wrong stakes) but it is the ideal forum for getting those views out there.


And finally for now just a couple of bits n bobs that have been on my mind since the last column. The first is to congratulate Bready CC on their Ulster Cup win. I got a bit of tap over the past weeks/months for suggesting that North West cricket wasn't as bad as some people were making out and while I fully accept that Leinster is well ahead of both of us at the moment, local accent for local accent there is nothing between us and the NCU. Nothing I've seen in the past month has remotely changed my mind on that, albeit the amount of catching up we have to do on the southeners is only now starting to sink in.

Congratulations also to Killyclooney on reaching the National Cup final and to Bondgs Glen and Strabane who will contest an all-North West Ulster Plate decider. A shout out too for Donemana on winning the Fleming-Agri Faughan Valley Cup albeit the dreaded bowl-out was required. It looked like being a game befitting the beautiful old trophy before the weather intervened but hopefully sponsor George Fleming will be back next season to continue his support of this fantastic day.

And last but by no means least to Glendermott, the inaugural winners of the Eric Cooke Memorial trophy. The big man was obviously on umbrella duty to ensure that enough playing time was available to enjoy an enthralling game between the Championship's top two. Great too that Valerie, Wendy, Dan, Tracey and the grandchildren were all there to see the esteem Eric is held in within Irish cricket circles. A fitting way to launch the new cup for sure.