Long's Supervalu North West Cricket
The curtain fell on another North West cricket season at the weekend yet while Brigade finally got their hands on the Long’s SuperValu Premier Division trophy, the real story was unfolding at the other end of the table.
Going into Sunday’s final couple of games, Strabane were bottom of the heap and nobody gave them a chance against new champions Brigade. The only issue to be resolved then would be whether Ballyspallen or Glendermott would finish seventh and go into the play-off against the runners up in the Championship. ‘Spallen had a one-point advantage heading into that one so any result other than a loss would have kept them out of trouble.
The umpires inspected the ground at Bridge Park and decided it was fit for play, however the sides would have to play on the mat. Whatever happened over the first few minutes of the game, the officials have now stated that Ballyspallen were given a couple of chances to continue the game but refused to do so and they awarded the win to Glendermott.
Worse still, over the remainder of Sunday afternoon, Strabane were setting about tearing up the form book as a magnificent century from their overseas man, Chathura Peiris, helped them beat Brigade by 68-runs.
All of a sudden, from being in sixth place, Ballyspallen were now bottom and automatically relegated, an absolutely bizarre few hours to end what had been up until now a reasonably low-key summer.
The scrap to avoid the drop from the top flight has actually provided the bulk of the entertainment in the Premier Division this season. Four teams - Strabane, Glendermott, ‘Spallen and Coleraine - have all taken turns at occupying bottom place and few would have predicted a month ago that the Bannsiders would have not only avoided automatic relegation, but managed to swerve the play-off as well.
Stephen Hutchinson’s team was cut adrift at the bottom after 11 of their 14 games before managing to win their last three, picking up 13 bonus points on the way. They confirmed their safety on Saturday with a five wicket win at Eglinton in a turgid, low-scoring affair.
Hutchinson picked up four wickets while the visitors’ overseas man, Graham Hume, again proved his worth by adding three, as the home team managed just 51 runs all out. It has been a fantastic effort from Stuart Thompson’s men this season with second place in the table already assured, but they haven’t been at the races in their final two games.
Coleraine didn’t get things all their own way in reply, losing five wickets themselves, however the pitiful target meant they could never lose.
And so the scene was set for a nervy Sunday afternoon at Bridge Park before that unbelievable end to the season.
Ardmore’s wins over Fox Lodge and Killyclooney over the two days means it is they who claim the Championship title while Burndennett have to settle for the play-off.
The Bleachgreen side have bounced back after just one season in the second tier following a dogged race between the top two.
Ardmore hammered a poor Fox Lodge team by nine wickets on Saturday, Gary Neely with 5-21 for his side as the Foxies were bowled out for 63.
Decker Curry and Peet Pienaar took quick care of that leaving them knowing any win over ‘Clooney would be enough.
Killyclooney put up more of a scrap on Sunday but Curry and Pienaar were again among the runs as the hosts posted another nine wicket victory.
Burndennett kept up their part of the bargain as they won at Ballymagorry on Sunday. Another Salman Ahmed half century helped ‘Dennett to a similar margin win but it wasn’t enough to secure the one automatic spot.
Fair play to Burndennett who lose out only on bonus points, both teams beaten just once in the league all season, ironically by each other.
‘Dennett will certainly be no pushover in next week’s promotion/relegation play-off that closes the season.
And that, as they say, was that. Brigade winning the league and cup double for the first time since 1973, Donemana the North West T20 champions and Ardmore promoted at the first time of asking from the Chapionship.
The North West Warriors produced some excellent displays over the course of the season however it was to be an Interprovincial campaign ravaged by the weather.
It was just that kind of summer.