If results go their way, Waringstown will end North Down’s dominance of the Ulster Bank Premier League this weekend.
The Villagers need two wins to ensure they cannot be overtaken at the top and if the defending champions slip up in one of their two games, the championship trophy will be on its way back to The Lawn for the first time in three years.
Waringstown’s task is hardly straightforward, though. They may expect to win tomorrow’s game against CIYMS at Belmont, the Belfast club still in the thick of the relegation battle, but on Sunday their closest rivals, Instonians, visit The Lawn.
Instonians start the weekend eight points behind with two games in hand but they know that back to back wins against Ballymena and Waringstown will not only delay the latter’s title celebrations but sometime later in the month could cancel them completely.
They have a major problem, however. Divan Van Wyk, their overseas player who is the NCU’s leading runs scorer with 715 in his first season, has returned to South Africa and Instonians continue to be without James Shannon, who is with the Ireland Under 19s in Canada.
The latter’s absence is cancelled out on Sunday by Waringstown’s Lee Nelson’s participation in the same trip but Instonians have still a formidable top three in Rory McCann, John Stevenson and Ireland international Andrew White, with the in-from Neil Hamilton the likely No 4. So there are runs at the top of the order and if they all come off then even Kyle McCallan’s formidable presence in the Villagers’ team may not be enough to see off the men from Shaw’s Bridge.
How North Down react to their second cup final horror show in three weeks, when they lost the Challenge Cup decider to Instonians, is likely to decide if they can give their title defence one last fling.
Tomorrow they have the perfect comeback fixture, against already relegated Bangor, at Uprichard Park, and on Sunday they are at home to Carrickfergus.
That battle is between Woodvale and CI, and they meet at Belmont on Sunday in a 20/20 final attempt, so even if Derek Heasley’s side lose to Waringstown they can take a giant stride to Premier League survival with victory in their second match of the weekend.
Today (4pm): Ulster Bank Premier League: Woodvale v Ballymena (Shaw’s Bridge).
Tomorrow: (11.30am): Bangor v North Down, Carrickfergus v Civil Service North, CIYMS v Waringstown, Instonians v Ballymena, Woodvale v Lisburn.
Sunday (11.30am): CIYMS v Woodvale, North Down v Carrickfergus, Waringstown v Instonians.
Other fixtures: Today: Section One: Derriaghy v Muckamore (20/20). Tomorrow: Derriaghy v Holywood, Dundrum v Cooke Collegians, Laurelvale v Dunmurry, Lurgan v Downpatrick, Muckamore v Cliftonville. Sunday: Dundrum v Holywood (20/20), Dunmurry v Downpatrick (20/20), Lurgan v Cliftonville (20/20).
Today: Section Two: (4.30pm): Portadown v BISC. Tomorrow: BISC v Armagh, Drumaness v Templepatrick, Larne v Saintfield, Portadown v Academy. Sunday: Drumaness v Saintfield, Cregagh v BISC, Armagh v Larne.