Cricket: North Down celebrate league and Challenge Cup double
In the end there was never any doubt. What looked on paper to be a potentially difficult final hurdle proved no more than a stepping stone to a 20th championship title for North Down.
The team of the season — they completed the league and Challenge Cup double for the fifth time in 10 years — had their destiny in their own hands at Belmont and CIYMS, including former New Zealand Test star Craig McMillan, had no answer.
McMillan was, yet again, top scorer, in what was his last match and finished as the second highest run-scorer in the NCU with 1,042 runs (average 65). Either side of him were Ryan Haire (1,216 runs) and Andrew Sutherland, who ended just 12 runs short of 1,000.
Uniquely, North Down had four batsmen with more than 700 runs — Taimur Khan’s 80 against CI taking him through that particular landmark — and with three of the top four wicket-takers the only surprise was that the Comber side had to wait until the 15th last over of the season to claim the title.
Marty Moreland took five of the last six wickets to fall at Belmont to end up with 38 for the season and only Aussie team-mate Daniel Harding, with 42, could better than.
Waringstown were waiting for the slip up which never came but captain Johnny Bushe can be satisfied with a top two finish for the sixth time in seven years. Their final day victory was the formality most expected against a Civil Service North team missing five of their best players and their total of 45 was the lowest of the season.
Lisburn enjoyed their highest placed finish for four years with professional Yasas Tillakaratne compiling his eighth half century of the season in the defeat of Lurgan who had the unenviable record of finishing the season without a single league or cup victory.
Downpatrick, Ballymena and Carrick are all battling to avoid joining Lurgan in dropping down to Senior Two.