As Lisburn captain David Simpson said after his side’s latest defeat on Wednesday night: “Whoever compiled the fixture list had it in for us.”
It is hard to disagree with him. Lisburn’s first three league games were against North Down, Waringstown and Instonians and to get into the second round of the Ulster Bank Challenge Cup today they must get past CIYMS, the other member of the NCU’s Top Four.
Of the league games, only the Waringstown game has beaten the weather so far — the second attempt to play the champions, North Down, is on Sunday — with Instonians on Saturday week.
Leinster, one of the top teams in Dublin, knocked the Wallace Park side out of the Bob Kerr Irish Cup last weekend and Ballymena made it three defeats out of three, in the Twenty20 Cup on Wednesday — and Lisburn have yet to play away.
“There is no doubt we under-performed last season, to finish only sixth in the league; so it is a realistic target to get into the top four this season,” said Simpson, who captains the team for the first time this year.
That target is especially true when you look at their new signings. South African professional Darryl Brown has travelled south after three years with Fox Lodge where his all-round record was second to none, but while his bowling talent has already been on display, he would admit his batting has still to fire in the NCU. It is surely only a matter of time.
Nathan Waller is a Zimbabwean with an Irish passport and, according to Simpson, he has already made his mark.
“On a quick deck he will be difficult to play. He is strong and gets a lot of bounce and with Darryl already surprising people, bowling a lot quicker than they expect, it is a good combination,” said the captain, who welcomed back Greg Thompson in midweek.
“Greg is always a big miss but with his hockey commitments finished he is back on board and was immediately into his stride with 49 off 45 balls against Ballymena and he is also right up there as the best fielder in the NCU.”
But Simpson knows he will need all his big players firing if they are to get past CIYMS.
“They look a strong outfit, with Jeremy Bray making a great start, with bat and ball, but they have quality all the way down so it will be difficult, but at least for us the only way is up,” he added.
Elsewhere, hopes of an upset look slim with only Derriaghy, against last year’s beaten finalists Civil Service North, having home advantage against a Premier League team.
On Thursday night, Instonians beat Civil Service 2-0 in a bowl-out to decide their Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup tie at Shaw’s Bridge.
Today's fixtures, Ulster Bank Challenge Cup first round (noon): Bangor v Downpatrick (11am), Cliftonville v Muckamore (11am), Derriaghy v Civil Service North, Lisburn v CIYMS (11.30am), Lurgan v Holywood, North Down v Ballymena, Waringstown v Carrickfergus, Woodvale v Instonians (Osborne Park)
Junior Cup first round (1pm): Larne v Lisburn II, Ballymena II v Armagh (11am), Saintfield v PSNI, Dunmurry v Portadown (Ards), Instonians II v CIYMS II, Dungannon v Donaghadee, Laurelvale v Drumaness, Woodvale II v North Down II (Castle Grounds), Millpark v Victoria, Cooke Collegians v Academy.
Sunday: Ulster Bank Premier League (noon): Lisburn v North Down
Section One (1pm): Derriaghy v Lurgan, Dundrum v Cliftonville (11am). Section Two: Millpark v Saintfield. Under 17 inter-pro (noon): NCU v Southern XI