Greenlees to step back and give youth chance to shine
When David Greenlees left Instonians in 2000 he thought that would be the end of his cricketing career. He was 33 and had just enjoyed three years at the highest level in the NCU, with a ClubTurf Ulster Cup medal to show for his 'bit-part effort'.
Last Saturday, Greenlees was a member of the Academy team that won the Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup final – the biggest prize for cricketers playing outside the top two sections – for a fifth time in 10 seasons. Greenlees, along with captain Mark Shields, played in them all.
For the second time in his career, Greenlees is thinking of winding down and indeed "I'll probably play only one more match this season", as Academy chase the Section Two league and cup double.
"We will be disappointed if we do not get promoted from the position we are in (Academy lead the league and have three matches in hand of the second place team).
"But I am now taking a back seat, we have good quality youngsters coming through and doing well for the Seconds and hopefully they get a go before the end of the season," said the all-rounder who has fallen in love with the Junior Cup.
Looking back over his record in five finals, it is hardly surprising.
"When we reached the final in 2005, it was the first time we had any remote chance of winning it. Brian Kelso and No 11 Brian Boyd saw us home (but only after Greenlees had scored 56 of the 141 needed for victory).
"We were back in the final in 2008 against Templepatrick when I scored 39 not out and hit a six to win the match and in 2009 (with 28 not out this time) and 2010 (when he scored 80) we beat Waringstown II.
Lisburn II were their victims on Saturday, and this time Greenlees took as many wickets as he scored runs (3), to reduce the Wallace Park side to eight for four in reply to Academy's 244. And proving everything comes in threes, he even took a hat-trick of catches.
"The one thing I can do is catch a ball. Everything else now is bluff or bluster. Certainly these days it's hard to take my bowling seriously. It is a case of the batsman misses, I hit and every wicket I take amazes me. I would love to face my bowling.
"The first wicket on Saturday was a shocking ball, a bad shot and a great catch by Danny McFadden. The lbw was plumb, if I say so myself, and the caught behind was another bad shot. Because of my lack of fitness (and age) I am bowling off three paces and have to bowl 10 in a row because I can't stop and come back, as everything would seize up."
Although Greenlees may be right to say his best bowling days are well behind him, he is being modest about his wicket-taking ability. He has taken 621 for Academy, including nine for 15 against Newry and Mourne in the Junior Cup (of course) in 2004, to go with almost 11,000 runs, including eight centuries.
"My top score is 174 against CIYMS and I declared in that match when I got out in the 41st over because there was rain about. Don't think you can do that anymore."
Greenlees did have a life with Academy before he went to Instonians, indeed the promise was always for him to go back, but it was a case of having to prove to himself he could play at a higher level.
"People were saying I couldn't do it at the top. Academy had got promoted to Section One, Eugene Moleon had just come over to Instonians and I had the full support of the club. I was going to stay two seasons, but stayed three.
"I was always under pressure to perform at Academy but at Instonians I was a bit-part player able to do my own thing. And I enjoyed it, while it lasted," says Greenlees.
His greatest enjoyment, though, was the quintet of Junior Cup finals.
"The final margin of victory was 49 runs on Saturday so this time it wasn't an exciting finish and I was able to take things in," he admitted.
Greenlees almost certainly won't get a chance to play in another one and if Academy are finally too good for 'junior' cricket then it is fitting that one of the most successful Junior Cup players also takes his bow. But it's been quite a ride.