McBrine ready for last hurrah
Donemana aim to go one better than last year when they play in their fifth Irish Cup final against Leinster at Milverton tomorrow (noon start).
The teams have appeared in six previous deciders between them but they are hardly the masters of finishing the job.
Donemana’s victory over Limavady in 2000 is the only time today’s finalists have won the cup.
While the defending North West league champions go into the game as favourites, Leinster will now fancy going all the way, with no-one more surprised than themselves to be in Cricket Ireland’s showpiece club occasion.
Their opening victory, at home to Fox Lodge, set the tone for an impressive campaign, winning by 151 runs but it was their success in the next round against provincial champions Clontarf which made them believe.
They dismissed their Castle Avenue hosts for just 155 and knocked off the runs for the loss of just two wickets, Carlos Braithwaite hitting an unbeaten half century.
They arrived in Wallace Park at the start of July against a, then, in-form Lisburn side, Braithwaite scored 65 and Lisburn could not defend 159.
The semi-final was a repeat of the 1997 final and Leinster got their revenge in a rain-affected match, with Braithwaite, starTing with the ball this time, took four for 28 as Limavady came up eight runs short of their modest target of 151 in 36 overs.
They will surely be asking themselves why not perform when it matters and, they are also closer to home than Donemana who lost their first two finals, back in the 1980s, in Dublin.
At least the Tyrone side have already won twice in Dublin this year, including at tomorrow’s venue when they dismissed The Hills for 133 and won the game in the 25th over by nine wickets, thanks to an undefeated 70 by Azhar Shafiq.
The Pakistani, who also scored 62 in the previous round against Malahide, needs just five runs to become the leading run scorer in this year’s competition, one of only two batsmen to have scored 200 runs in the four games.
Shafiq is also the joint third leading wicket-taker with eight, still two behind Braithwaite, but with slow left armers Junior McBrine and Jordan McGonigle also claiming seven apiece, Donemana have plenty of wicket-taking options.
Leinster, impressively, held Limavady at bay in the semi-final, losing only seven wickets in their 50 overs and, indeed, have yet to be bowled out in the competition, so Shafiq, who has taken over the captaincy from Dwayne McGerrigle, may need all his bowlers.
The biggest advantage Donemana have, however, could be the absence of George Dockrell in the Leinster attack.
The talented left arm spinner is with the Ireland Under 19s in Canada and although he has taken just four wickets in the four games, they have cost only 20 runs apiece.
The Dubliners could find it hard to replace him and on such fine lines are finals decided.
The huge Donemana following heading south will certainly hope so.