Saintfield may be shocked to find themselves in Section Three next season but they have been given the perfect incentive to win their first round game in next year’s TCH Challenge Cup.
Victory against Cliftonville, back in Section Two next season, will earn them the Saints, relegated on nett run rate, a home tie against the holders, Civil Service North, in the second round in May. If Cliftonville win, they may have to give up home advantage.
Cliftonville have lost their bid to stay at Greenisland and have registered Mallsuk, their previous home more than 20 years ago, for their league cricket next season. At the moment, however, Mallusk is graded three and not even acceptable for Section Three cricket.
Professionals will be allowed to play in at least two of the second round games. Clubs agreed that their overseas stars can play in cup games between teams from the same league section and so they will be free to take part in Bangor’s game against North Down and the clash between the two promoted teams from Section Two, Ballymena and Woodvale at Eaton Park.
The clash at Upritchard Park is the pick of the second round games - the Premier League teams get a bye through the first round - as the league champions have lost league games there twice in the last few years.
Waringstown, last year’s beaten finalists, will be away to the winners of the Derriaghy-Downpatrick game.
Meanwhile, North Down, finally, were presented with the Ulster Bank Premier League trophy last night. The champions were forced to wait for the official presentation because of CSN’s appeal against their one point deduction for a slow over-rate in the first league game against North Down.
While all the other league winners received their championship trophy at the NCU’s annual dinner last month, the appeal process was not exhausted until the week after the dinner.
CSN duly lost the appeal and were denied a share of the title by one point giving North Down their sixth championship in 10 years.
The wait was worth it for North Down because skipper Peter Shields received the trophy from Ulster Bank’s Stephen Cruise, at a special ceremony in their own clubhouse in Comber.
TCH Challenge Cup second round draw: Derriaghy or Downpatrick v Waringstown, Saintfield or Cliftonville v Civil Service North, Bangor v North Down, Laurelvale or Holywood v Carrickfergus, Muckamore or Armagh v Lisburn, Instonians v Dundrum or Dunmurry, Ballymena v Woodvale, CIYMS v Lurgan or Cooke Collegians.