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CSN to open Cup defence with a tough trip to Carrick

By Ian Callender

Civil Service North will start their defence of the AJG Challenge Cup with an away game against Carrickfergus, last year's beaten semi-finalists and runners-up in the NCU Premier League.

The match of the first round was second out of the hat at last night's draw but the man of the match in last year's showpiece will be playing for the beaten finalists next year.

Jason van der Merwe, who finished 98 not out in CSN's five-wicket win, has moved the short distance from Stormont to Belmont and his first NCU Cup tie for CIYMS will be away to Donacloney Mills, the newly named amalgamation of Donacloney and Drumaness Mills who have joined forces for 2017.

Premier League champions Instonians, knocked out by Muckamore in the first round last year, were given a home draw against Derriaghy, relegated after just one season in the top flight.

Muckamore, who replace Derriaghy in the Premier League next year, have been handed the chance of causing another upset with a home tie against Waringstown who have not won the Cup since 2013.

The games at Carrick and Moylena are the only all-Premier League ties, while there are certain to be two Section One teams in the last eight with the winners of the two Preliminary Round ties facing Downpatrick and Woodvale in the first round.

North Down will be aiming to end a seven-year itch without the Challenge Cup and they start with the short trip to Bangor while Lisburn, who last got their hands on the trophy when they tied the 1994 final against North Down, have been drawn at home to Armagh.

In other transfer news in what has already been a busy close season, Muckamore have signed Coleraine opening bowler Jarred Barnes and Lisburn have announced South African opening batsman and slow bowler Gionne Koopman as their overseas professional, in succession to Cody Chetty.

Van der Merwe is CI's third signing for 2017 after announcing young South African Aidan Markham as their professional and Ryan Hunter has joined from Brigade.

Preliminary Round: Holywood v Cliftonville, Lurgan v Academy

First round: Downpatrick v Lurgan or Academy; Carrickfergus v Civil Service North, Muckamore v Waringstown, Bangor v North Down, Lisburn v Armagh, Instonians v Derriaghy, Holywood or Cliftonville v Woodvale, Donacloney Mills v CIYMS

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