Fox Lodge hold their nerve to claim historic Senior Cup victory against Newbuildings
North West Senior Cup Final
One of the most keenly-contested North West Senior Cup finals ended on Saturday evening with Fox Lodge getting their name on the trophy for the first time in the club's history.
The Union has been crying out for a competitive final for more than a decade now after a string of fairly one-sided affairs but they got their wish in spades here as the first innings ended 233 plays 232, just one run between the combatants after 100 overs of cricket. It was the first time in the cup's 134-year history that the minimum margin had separated the teams after an innings each and it was testimony to how little there would be between the teams throughout the contest.
Newbuildings captain Jared Wilson won the toss on Friday morning and immediately elected to bat first. A 74-run stand for the second wicket between Gareth McKeegan and Ryan Hunter (both made 48) took the village side to 101-1 early on before a magnificent spell of bowling from stand-in overseas player, Geeth Kumara, saw the Foxes fight their way back in. The English-based Sri Lankan returned figures of 6-28 from his 10 overs as Newbuildings struggled to break the shackles. Skipper Wilson made a fine 57 (4 fours, 3 sixes) and Ross Hunter added a valuable 41 not out to allow the batting side post a fairly par total of 231-8.
The Foxes needed to start well but lost openers Jason Milligan and Travis Nicholl early in the piece. That soon became 83-5, including the key wicket of Kumara for just 11 as Johnny Thompson (4-27) and Trent McKeegan (3-54) put the Ballymagorry side under pressure. They desperately needed their experienced players to stand up and in Jonny Robinson and Brian Allen, Fox Lodge found their men.
Those two added 60 before ‘BA’ was caught behind off Thompson for 56, but ‘Bap’ was far from done. Robinson and skipper Aaron Heywood (17) added 60 more for the seventh wicket as well- the former finally making a priceless 85 (7 fours, 5 sixes) as their side finished the day a single run in front.
In truth, Day 2 began like a mirror image of Day 1, McKeegan making 58 and Ryan Hunter 37 in a 78-run second wicket partnership but this time Thompson (41), Ryan Hunter (37) and skipper Wilson (34) followed them in as Newbuildings reached 183-5. Back came the Foxies, Kumara (3-34) and Robinson (2-42) stalling Newbuildings, and while he wasn’t among the wickets, Adam Walker’s 0-23 from 7 was no less valuable.
The Sri Lankan teamed up with Brian Allen (46) for a third wicket partnership worth 112, but even after he lost his batting partner, Geeth was now firmly at the helm. He found another willing partner in Friday’s hero Robinson after Fox Lodge lost a couple more quick wickets, Kumara and ‘Bap’ settling in to reduce the target before accelerating away as Newbuildings couldn’t find a way through.
By the end, the Sri Lankan was picking his time, an unbeaten 90 containing 8 fours and two sixes. At the other end, Jonny Robinson, no stranger to picking up cup medals, was in his element- his 24-ball 40 (7 fours) seeing to it that the Foxes got over the line with no further concerns. In total, 124 runs and a couple of wickets over the two days saw ‘Bap’ deservedly claim the 'Player of the Match' award as a clearly emotional Aaron Heywood finally got his hands on the big prize.
It was a wonderful final that will be remembered for some time by the huge crowds (over 2,000 across the two days) that were there to see it. And probably never be forgotten for the Ballymagorry club and its supporters.