We won't be carried away in history bid, says Donemana skipper Dougherty
Donemana skipper Ricky-Lee Dougherty has confirmed there will be no chance of complacency when the Bank of Ireland Senior Cup holders take on rank outsiders Ballyspallen in this year's two-day final at Beechgrove, beginning today (noon start).
A Donemana victory against the surprise Championship finalists will equal Clooney's 106-year-old record of six successive Cup successes and that, according to Dougherty, is incentive enough to ensure no hiccups from the red-hot favourites.
"We're going for six in a row and over the years we've played virtually every team so we'll be up for it. It will be a proud moment for me captaining the team and I don't want to be the one who loses a final," he said.
So what has been the secret of Donemana's Cup success?
"It's almost that we feel untouchable when we play Cup matches. We have had a lot of tough games but we have always come through and go into the games feeling no one can beat us. Whenever we have been in trouble, there's always been someone who steps up," said Dougherty.
True to form, a Donemana batsman has scored a century in each of their two wins to reach the final - they beat Eglinton in the first round in a bowl-out - with William McClintock's 125 the difference in their 50-run victory over Coleraine and Imran Butt hit 105 in the 133-run semi-final win against Bready.
The one notable absentee from the Donemana side today is North West Warriors captain Andy McBrine, who is with the Ireland Wolves in England, and unless the first day is washed out he will miss the chance of a sixth Cup winners' medal.
Opening batsman Thomas Riddles, however, will be in everyone's thoughts over the next two days. Two weeks ago, he was also looking forward to playing in the final but a heart attack has forced him to quit the sport.
The underdogs may have got past Brigade in their first-round bowl-out but there was no fluke about their victories over Strabane in the quarter-final by 33 runs and Premiership side Fox Lodge in the semis, whom they bowled out for 77 for a massive 141-run victory margin.
The huge downside for Ballyspallen, however, is the absence of Graeme Kennedy, currently starring for the Ireland Under-19s in Jersey at the World Cup qualifying tournament. He scored 82 and took two wickets against Strabane and was second top scorer behind Craig Averill's 93 in the semi-final.
"Graeme is a big loss as he has been scoring runs and taking wickets all season," said his captain, Lee Ritchie. "He has a presence in the dressing room. He has been distancing himself from the final since we got there but it gives another player the chance to play and we know we have nothing to lose.
"Our aim at the start of the season was to finish in the top half of the Championship but now we are pushing for a play-off place and this Cup run has been a bonus."
TEAMS: Ballyspallen: L Ritchie, Stev Kennedy, I Crown, C Averill, M Averill, D McCallum, I Hill-Nicholl, S McCloskey, J Thompson, J Martin, M McCann, Stu Kennedy.
Donemana: R-L Dougherty (capt), I Butt, J Huey, G McClintock, W M McClintock, A Riddles, D McGerrigle, K Dougherty, W McBrine, J McGonigle, Jun McBrine, L Dougherty.
WEEKEND NCU FIXURES
Tomorrow: AJG Challenge Cup Final (11.00): CIYMS v Instonians (Comber)
Gardiner Bros Premier League (12.00): Carrickfergus v North Down, Civil Service North v Waringstown, Muckamore v Lisburn. Sunday: Lisburn v Waringstown.
Section One: Armagh v Cliftonville, Derriaghy v Bangor, Donaghcloney Mill v Lurgan, Downpatrick v Holywood, Woodvale v Academy. Sunday: Armagh v Downpatrick, Cliftonville v Woodvale.
Section Two: Donaghadee v Cooke Collegians, Dundrum v Cregagh, Larne v Laurelvale, Saintfield v Ballymena, Templepatrick v BISC. Sunday: Cregagh v Saintfield.
Section Three: Drumaness v Monaghan, Newforge v Ards, Victoria v Dunmurry