Cup run a priority for CI's skipper
CIYMS have enjoyed an unbeaten start to the Premier League season but it will count for nothing when they make the short trip to Comber for the match of the opening round in the Ulster Bank Challenge Cup tomorrow.
The Belmont side have an unblemished three out of three record in the NCU's top flight but their one setback was an away game in the Irish Cup and captain Chris Dougherty does not want an another early exit in a knock-out competition.
"We have good momentum from our league games and for many of the squad a good cup run is a high priority and the Challenge Cup is one we want to win," said Dougherty.
"The (Irish Cup) defeat at Coleraine was probably a case of us having the wrong mindset on the day. It had been raining most of the morning and no-one really expected to play and, in the end, it showed in our performance."
It is hardly coincidence that it was the only game so far when their top order failed to fire. So far Dougherty himself has been in great form and he is enjoying his new opening partnership with professional Rassie van der Dussen, who has impressed everyone, home and away.
"It's just great to be batting with such a class act," is how Dougherty puts it. "He has a strong mentality, is not too flashy and is used to building an innings because he is recognised as a multi-day player in South Africa with a good first class record (average 43).
"But he has really fitted in with the guys and it's a case of so far so good," as opening stands of 182 and 117 would suggest. "But we are just taking it one game at a time."
So this week Dougherty is happy to talk about the challenge of a cup tie at Comber.
"North Down had a big win against Civil Service North last week and, speaking to their Knights players at training this week, they confirmed that the pitch at The Green is back to its best this season, so I'm looking forward to batting on it.
"But of course that means we have to bowl at them as well and with Andrew Sutherland back and Tetley (Johnny Terrett) in good form they will be tough opposition, not forgetting Nick Larkin and Ryan Haire.
"We'll not mention last year's league game there (when they were bowled out for 52) but we beat them two years ago (en route to winning the title) and I like playing there. And hopefully if we can win on Saturday, we'll get an easier draw in the next round," said the CI skipper, who must return to Coleraine on Monday for the Northern Knights' opening inter-provincial Cup game, against the North West Warriors.
"Hopefully it will be a better day, weather-wise – and a better result," he adds.
"There is one other all-Premiership first game tomorrow with Civil Service North hosting Lisburn but such is the difference now between the top two sections in the NCU – Lurgan's yo-yo existence over the last few years is the perfect example – that it would be a major surprise if any of the other top eight lost, even with Muckamore (v Bangor), holders Waringstown (v Derriaghy) and last year's beaten finalists Instonians (v Holywood) all having to travel.
Waringstown will have home advantage after all on Sunday, in their rearranged Irish Cup tie against Terenure as the Dublin side have agreed to travel, unwilling to look for an alternative 'home' venue. Instonians are also at home on Sunday, to Railway Union in the match of the day but Muckamore must travel to Merrion, beaten finalists for the last two years.
FIxtures:Saturday: Ulster Bank Challenge Cup first round: Ballymena v Lurgan, Bangor v Muckamore, Cliftonville v Carrickfergus, Civil Service North v Lisburn, Derriaghy v Waringstown, Downpatrick v Woodvale, Holywood v Instonians, North Down v CIYMS
Long's SuperValu Premiership: Ardmore v Eglinton, Coleraine v Brigade, Donemana v Strabane, Fox Lodge v Bready
Sunday: RSA Irish Senior Cup first round: Instonians v Railway Union, Waringstown v Terenure, Ardmore v North County, St Johnston v Civil Service North, Strabane v Lurgan, Leinster v Fox Lodge, Merrion v Muckamore, Phoenix v Brigade.