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Merrion U13s bowled over

By Ian Callender

North Down Under 13s are All Ireland champions for the first time following a comprehensive victory against Merrion at Anglesea Road.

The Dubliners, who went into the game as favourites owing to an incredible record as an under-age side of never having been defeated, were outplayed on home soil by a brilliant team performance after North Down won the toss and elected to bowl first.

Conditions favoured seam bowling throughout the day as the pitch and outfield played slowly and, as such, the North Down pressure told early on as Alex Malcolm-Bourne struck in the sixth over with two wickets in two balls.

Fellow opening bowler Scott Irvine worked well in tandem with Malcolm-Bourne and both were to finish with two wickets, Irvine conceding just nine runs in his five overs and Malcolm-Bourne 12 from six.

Scoring was slow for the home side with a run out also restricting progress. Good pressure in the field enabled Peter Eakin to complete the run out and leave Merrion 17 for three from eight overs.

Extras, which by the end of the innings totalled 36, allowed some breathing space for Merrion however the introduction of change bowlers Alistair Shields and Eakin continued to stifle their progress.

Wickets kept tumbling with Patrick Knaggs getting in on the act, taking a wicket in his first over enabling Ryan Irwin to bowl in a containing role. O'Driscoll, batting at seven, was to prove decisive in Merion's tally of 85. He finished 24 not out with his side bowled out in the 29th of the allotted 30 overs.

In response, the vocal home side got off to a dream start with the wicket of opener Irvine, who pushed out at a ball that stopped and he was caught and bowled.

Malcolm-Bourne and Shields consolidated as pressure mounted and the scoring rate struggled with North Down reaching only 10 from seven overs.

Kane, the Merrion opening bowler, was leading the charge for Merrion, his added pace causing the major threat. Shields and a cameo from Malcolm-Bourne of 13 rebuilt the run chase, moving the scoring rate back to the safety of three runs per over.

The introduction of spin at both ends could have been the telling factor yet a patient nine runs by Eakin, which unfortunately ended in a run-out quelled the pressure and brought the finish line in sight for the North Down team.

Shields continued to play the captain's role and batted sensibly, resisting the temptation to leave his ground and as such cashed in on the bad balls. He eventually scoring a superb 31 not out which included five boundaries on the huge outfield.

Lewis Dugan rounded things off in fine style with three boundaries in a quick-fire 18 to give North Down their first ever All Ireland under-age competition title.

In what has been one of the most successful years for the club, their promising young stars have shown that a bright future awaits and with progress continuing there will surely be an Irish international or two in the not too distant future emerging from the North Down youth set-up.

Belfast Telegraph

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