The Premier League battle goes to the final weekend and Instonians get the opportunity to force league leaders CIYMS to win their last game to claim the title.
The Shaw’s Bridge side are the first into action today with a home game against Civil Service North and although they are without Andrew White, their top scorer in Monday’s 20 overs success against Ballymena, international team-mate James Shannon returns from Ireland A duty.
Crucially, CSN are without their skipper Nigel Jones who is with White in Sri Lanka preparing for Ireland’s World Twenty20 campaign.
His absence should ensure Instonians’ sixth successive victory, bring them level with CI and pile the pressure back on the Belmont side who host outgoing champions North Down on Sunday in a game now confirmed as a 20 overs match, starting at 1pm.
Jeremy Bray will be a significant absentee for the league leaders although Peter Connell is due back and if he can make early inroads into the North Down line-up then CI’s batsmen will back themselves to finish the job, especially as the Comber side will have three fewer slow bowlers than Instonians who won the top of the table clash last Sunday to set up this weekend’s finale.
The NCU has confirmed that if the two teams finish tied on 40 points there will not be a play-off and for the first time since 2005 the trophy and league title will be shared.
Carrickfergus were relegated long before they finally won their first match of the season last Saturday and they still seem set to be replaced in the top flight next year by Lurgan.
Unless Downpatrick suffered a shock defeat to Dundrum last night — which would hand the Pollock Park side the Section One title — Lurgan will finally win promotion to the Premier League tomorrow with victory over Donacloney.
At the bottom Bangor, the Premier League champions just eight years ago, are already condemned to life in the third tier next season although up to five teams are still in the mix to join them, if Cliftonville win back-to-back games this weekend, against Holywood and Dundrum.
In Section Two, there are just two points between the top two, Cooke Collegians and Laurelvale, but both have still four games to play and Templepatrick and Armagh are not far behind.
fixtures: Ulster Bank Premier League (tomorrow, 11.30am): Instonians v Civil Service North, Waringstown v North Down. Sunday (1pm): CIYMS v North Down
Section One: Tonight: Donacloney v Holywood (5pm). Tomorrow: Derriaghy v Downpatrick, Dundrum v Bangor, Woodvale v Holywood, Lurgan v Donacloney, Muckamore v Cliftonville, Woodvale v Holywood. Sunday: Cliftonville v Dundrum, Downpatrick v Derriaghy.
Section Two: Tomorrow: Drumaness v Armagh, Laurelvale v Cooke Collegians, Millpark v Academy, Sainitfield v BISC, Templepatrick v Portadown. Sunday: Cooke Collegians v Templepatrick, Drumaness v Academy, Millpark v Saintfield.