The last time North Down were not in the TCH Challenge Cup final, North of Ireland won the NCU’s two-day showpiece. The year was 1999.
Nine years on, North of Ireland no longer exists and the decider is, like the rest of the competition, a one-innings game. North, via Belfast Harlequins, have become Civil Service North and they will be hoping history repeats itself when they face Waringstown, playing in their third successive final, at Downpatrick tomorrow (11am).
The form is with them and, according to captain Nigel Jones, confidence is high.
“We have had a core of eight players available all season and that hasn’t happened for many years at this club. The last five games have all been won very comfortably, a couple by seven wickets, two by 180 runs and the other by 150 so we’re in a good spell and we aim to continue it on Friday.
“We haven’t got (professional) Ewen Thompson but Allan Coulter is bowling very well, John Costain is not going for too many, I’m chipping in with a few wickets and I can then call on Regan West, Colin Andrews and Wayne Horwood so that is the bowling well covered.
“In the batting, we had Gary (Wilson) back for the semi-final and he scored a classy century, West also played a special innings and Wayne and myself will be looking for big runs,” said Jones.
The rest of the batting has, in the main, not been needed and they have lost only one domestic match this season although the skipper gives a special mention to young Michael Heaney.
“He has a great future and although he has had a 30 and a 20 not out in recent matches, he has been unlucky he has not had the opportunity to show his potential,” added Jones.
Although Stephen Dyer was the last North captain to lift the trophy and Horwood, Andrews. Wilson and Coulter all played alongside him in the club’s last cup final in 2004, Waringstown skipper Simon Harrison is hoping his players’ more recent big match experience will stand them in good stead. But he is not convinced.
“We know what to expect but I’m not sure how valuable it will be. There’s plenty of experience in the CSN team and they are coming into the game on a good run and we’ve no form at all.
“Because of the weather we’ve had an enforced break after losing to North Down and Bangor in a double weekend. Hopefully the break will have freshened us up.”
A full-strength Waringstown side includes Ireland’s most capped player, Kyle McCallan and fellow international Gary Kidd and their absence, undoubtedly, goes some way to explaining the Villagers poor league season.”
Following this week’s flooding in south Down, there is a ground inspection this morning.
Civil Service North: N Jones (Capt), W Horwood, G Wilson, N Jones, R West, S Dyer, R Arthur, A Coulter, M Heaney, C Beverland, J Costain, C Andrews. 12th man: C Goodall.
Waringstown: S Harrison (Capt), J Hall, L Nelson, K McCallan, J Bushe, S Harrison, P Hanna, A Cousins, G Kidd, D Cheater, S Kidd, S Stokes. 12th man: K Morrison.
Umpires: M Hawthorne, I Reid.