Dennison with opportunity to push for place in Ireland side
Adam Dennison could be the batsman to watch this week as the Hanley Energy inter-provincials take a major step forward.
The three-day Championship game, starting tomorrow in Eglinton between the North West Warriors and the Northern Knights, will be the first domestic first-class game to be played in Ireland with every run and wicket henceforth going into the record books.
And Waringstown opening batsman Dennison is in prime form to mark his first-class debut with a big score - and runs which could force his way into the frame for selection on the Ireland team.
The 20-year-old - whose dad David played 24 internationals between 1983 and 1987 - has form in the three-day Championship. In his last game, at Comber last August, also against the Warriors, he scored 206 and he heads to the North West this week with 146 runs in his last two one-day innings for Waringstown.
Indeed, his lowest score in 50-over cricket this season is 39 and his 95 on Saturday against CIYMS took his average to almost 57.
And proving he can adapt to every format, Dennison also top scored for the Knights in their opening Twenty20 game of the season on Friday night, with 33 against the Munster Reds in Cork.
The jury, however, remains out because in five innings for the Ireland Wolves this season his best score is 24 although that was from No 7, against the full-strength Bangladesh team which defeated Ireland a week later - and it was obvious to everyone present at Rathmines that this was a classy player who was not a regular No 7.
The Wolves will play a hat-trick of three-day games in successive weeks from the end of June and they are more likely to determine Dennison's readiness to make it to the top level, but runs this week will do him no harm and also boost Knights' hopes of making a winning start.
They have been on the up in recent seasons, albeit without a victory in the Championship since 2014, but in skipper James Shannon - he trumped Dennison on Saturday by scoring a century - Chris Dougherty, Gary Kidd, Greg Thompson and Graeme McCarter they have players who have made it to the very top and none will admit to not wanting a chance to have another go at the start of a new era in Irish cricket.
The Warriors have only two current Ireland squad members, with skipper Andy McBrine dropped from the 14-man squad for this month's Tri-series and Stuart Thompson played only the first game, against Bangladesh and Craig Young the last, against New Zealand. So all three have plenty to prove this week which begins with the 50-over Cup match between the teams today at Strabane Park (10.45am).
The Warriors have played two games already this season against Leinster Lightning, losing by 106 runs in the 50-over game at The Hills and last Friday by 56 runs at Bready when only Johnny Thompson - the closest of the rest to Ireland selection - stayed for any length of time, hitting 38 not out.
Warriors are the only team to have chosen to go down the 'professional route' by selecting two of the North West's overseas professionals in what coach Ian McGregor describes as their strongest available selection.
"The nucleus of the squad may be fairly youthful but with the two overseas players and a trio of Ireland internationals I believe we will be very competitive this week," he said.
"Lack of talent has never been our issue but we have to build on the experience we have been gaining both at this higher level and in the different formats. It's more about the application required than skills now and I believe we can make a real mark over this summer.
"We really felt this season that the 50-over game was where we needed to focus more, given recent results. I don't believe we've come close to doing ourselves justice in this format and it's something we have to work on."
Meanwhile, the Emerging Knights lost in the last over to the Leinster Bolts by four wickets in Oakhill yesterday.
An undefeated 64 by Rory Anders saw the young Leinster side home with five balls to spare after a classy 48 from international Lorcan Tucker was ended by Waringstown's Morgan Topping and James Metcalfe, one of two catches and a stumping by the Instonians wicket keeper.
Derriaghy's Curtis Moorehead took two wickets in two balls, the highlight of an impressive nine overs.
CIYMS' John Matchett had given the young Knights the ideal start with 69 but when he was fourth out at the start of the 29th over, the NCU side managed only 69 runs from the last 17 overs.
Scores: Emerging Knights 183-9 (45 overs, J Matchett 69, A Haggan 36, J McCollum, J Holmes 20; F Tucker 3-23, G Delaney 2-27, T Stanton 2-35, T Anders 2-36) Leinster Bolts 184-6 (44.1 overs; R Anders 64 not out, L Tucker 48, G Delaney 22, H Tector 21; M Berry 2-26, C Moorhead 2-31, M Topping 2-32). Leinster Bolts won by 4 wickets.