Derek Heasley out to prove class is permanent at NCU Challenge Cup final
Some 22 years after playing in his first NCU Challenge Cup final, Derek Heasley is in the CIYMS team that faces Civil Service North in the decider at Comber today (11am).
The former Ireland international, now the coach at Belmont, has played only two games this season but the absence of Ulster Schools captain John Matchett, who is on holiday, opens up a place in the CI team and captain Nigel Jones had no hesitation in including the 44-year-old in his final XI.
"Derek still adds something to the squad and his experience will be invaluable," said Jones, who will have only three other players from last year's winning team alongside him today after another winter of change at Belmont.
And Jones admits that, despite the addition of Allen Coulter, a team-mate when Civil Service North won the cup in 2014, and Zach Rushe, a cup winner with Instonians two years earlier, CI will still be relying on the big four of Ireland international Chris Dougherty, former South Africa Test player Justin Kemp, Johnny Thompson, playing in his 13th North West or NCU final, and himself for runs.
Jones added: "We couldn't compare ourselves to last year's team. It's the nature of how our season has gone, we've blown hot and cold, but if the four of us can fire with the rest chipping in and somebody standing up that hasn't shown much so far this year - and that can happen in cup finals - we would be confident of getting a good win.
"Obviously I know CSN pretty well (after nine seasons at Stormont) and they probably have more depth than us, but in terms of strike power we have enough if we all manage to click."
And it is that strength in depth which opposite number Andrew Cowden is hoping will be the key to success today.
"Everyone has contributed this year and there is a great buzz about the changing room. Wayne Horwood, at 41, can still be a match winner, Paddy Beverland has scored big runs in recent weeks and John Costain is back bowling as well and as accurately as usual," said Cowden.
"We are known as a cup team and our best cricket has been in the Challenge Cup - this is our fourth final in the last nine years and we've been in three other semi-finals - so we will go into it in confident mood and enjoy the day. The team are hungry for success."
TEAMS: Civil Service North: A Cowden (capt), W Horwood, M Amjad, P Beverland, J van der Merwe, S Getkate, G McCarter, C Goodall, B Adair, A Blain, J Costain. 12th man: P Park.
CIYMS: N Jones, C Dougherty, K Rajavelu, J Kemp, J Thompson, D Heasley, S Chambers, Z Rushe, A Coulter, J Beattie, D Robinson. 12th man: J Moore.
Meanwhile, the two-day Bank of Ireland Senior Cup final also starts today at Strabane Park, with Donemana chasing a fifth successive victory against league champions Coleraine, who are appearing in only their second cup final (noon).
The Bannsiders, however, have no shortage of experience with David and Gordon Cooke's tally of cup finals well into double figures and although they have lost professional Roshen Silva to a call-up by Sri Lanka, his country-mate Surav Ranjiv, who played in the ODI series against England this summer, will make his Coleraine debut today.
Donemana may be playing in their sixth consecutive final and their seventh in the last eight years but Coleraine are defending a 100 per cent record in the club game of the season, having beaten Strabane at Beechgrove in 1986 by 39 runs.
One record is sure to go this weekend.