Strabane edge North West Premiership title in six run nailbiter at Ardmore
Strabane got the fright of the season before being crowned North West Premiership champions after a thrilling six runs victory over Ardmore.
Ryan Patton was the last gasp hero as he took two wickets in the final over of the match to end the home side's brave resistance.
When Decker Curry was bowled by Ryan Gallagher for just nine, to leave Ardmore on 35 for three in reply to Strabane's 163, and with captain Andrew Riddles missing, it seemed a formality for the Red Caps to complete their decisive 12th win of the season.
But a stand of 37 for the fifth wicket between Paul and Ryan Brolly started the recovery and an eighth wicket stand of 40, between Conor Brolly and Sean Gormley, incredibly took Ardmore to within nine runs of victory with nine balls remaining.
Enter Patton. First he held a superb running catch on the mid-wicket boundary to dismiss Brolly and then bowled the last over, with Ardmore needing seven for the tie which would have avoided a possible relegation play-off.
He had Gormley stumped first ball and after No 11 Lee Brolly took a single off the second ball, Gerard Brolly refused a single off the fourth. Next ball he tried to hit the score-tieing six but was bowled and Strabane had won the Premiership for the second time in five years.
It made it a fitting farewell for Mark Gillespie who after 31 years, including one Senior 2 title-winning season at Ardmore, retired after the game. It was his 65 which dominated the Strabane innings and ensured they batted out their 50 overs. He had nothing but praise for his defeated opponents.
"How well those young (Ardmore) boys fought. It was too close for comfort, but it's great to bow out with another winner's medal. The first one was special and I had planned go out last year but Peter persuaded me to have one more season," he said.
Peter Gillespie, who played 122 times for Ireland, paid his own tribute to his older brother.
"It's a sad day that I'm never going to get the chance to play with Mark again. He has been one of the best players this club has ever produced and I wish him all the best in his retirement."
On the team he led to Premiership glory he said: "All season everyone has been chipping in, I can't pick out one outstanding player. Today, credit to Ryan.
"He normally bowls his 10 overs up front but I asked him to come back today. He did a fantastic job."
Scores: At The Bleachgreen: Strabane 163 (50 overs, M Gillespie 65, P Gillespie 26; R Brolly 4-29, D Curry 2-20, G Neely 2-28) Ardmore 157 (49.5 overs, C Brolly 38, P Brolly 31, R Brolly 20, S Gormley 20; R Patton 4-14, R Gallagher 3-22, M Snodgrass 2-33). Strabane won by 6 runs.