The Bank of Ireland Senior Cup Final, the blue riband event in the North West domestic cricket calendar, is set to return to its former spiritual home of Beechgrove this summer after an absence of 19 years.
The Limavady Road venue has hosted dozens of deciders in the competition’s 129-year history, but the last one was in 1998 when hosts Brigade bowled Ardmore out for just 17 in the second innings to lift the famous old trophy.
Improvements to other venues beginning with Eglinton and then latterly at both Bready and Strabane meant that those three clubs subsequentltly surpassed Beechgrove as the Union’s preferred option to host their showpiece.
Over the past 18 months however, and no doubt boosted by the return to Beechgrove of former Ireland manager Roy Torrens, a sea change has been very much in evidence at the ground.
New seating all around, and a complete facelift along the boundary coupled with some intense work on the playing surface has seen a real turnaround start to take shape.
A spokesman for the NWCU said that feedback in the wake of the announcement had been “extremely positive”, and that they were confident that the Waterside club would be well up to the task.
“It’s fair to say that as a location, there are few more central than Beechgrove, however the selection process took account of a lot more than that,” said the spokesman.
“Brigade have worked hard on and off the field during the past couple of seasons and they did an excellent job in hosting our T20 day last summer.
“The selection committee also acknowledged the club’s willingness to help the Union out with the use of their ground last season, often at very short notice, and feedback from visiting teams seemed very positive.
“A big part of our policy is to ensure that the cup final venue is rotated as much as possible and the Union has to look to encourage clubs that have put in the hard yards to improve their facilities.
“We have no doubt that Brigade CC will pull out all the stops this year to ensure that they are regularly back among those venues competing to host the senior final.”
A spokesman for Brigade said that first and foremost they wanted to thank the North West Union for showing confidence in the club.
“We have undertaken a huge amount of work since late summer 2015, both on and off the field, and it is pleasing to have that recognised by the North West.
“Grounds like Bready, Eglinton and Strabane have done an excellent job hosting finals in recent years and we will work very closely with the Union Executive to ensure that those traditions are maintained.
“The setting at Beechgrove has always loaned itself to creating a fantastic atmosphere when there’s a crowd in, and we will do everything in our power to make this a memorable occasion.”