It’s the busiest club weekend of the season with the North West Senior Cup getting under way followed on Sunday by a full league programme, while it’s the reverse in the NCU with tomorrow’s league action preceding the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.
The top two in the Robinson Services Premier League clash at The Lawn in the match of the day, with the early outright leadership going to the winners of Waringstown’s game with Carrickfergus.
Carrick have been the surprise package with professional Jacques Snyman their consistent class act but they have won four of their first five games despite injuries and unavailable players.
Captain Michael Gilmour injured his collarbone in the T20 Cup final in June and last Saturday acting skipper Iain Parkhill fractured his wrist, while new signing Graeme McCarter has played only four games because of international call-ups.
McCarter should be available tomorrow as he is not in the Ireland T20 squad which begins a three-match series against South Africa on Monday and Gilmour, forced into an earlier than expected return last week because Jeremy Lawlor was called into the Ireland squad and then stood down, expects to have the former Glamorgan professional available as well.
“We are finalising the team tonight,” Gilmour said yesterday. “Iain will be a big loss as he has been in great form. I had to step in at late notice last Saturday but I’ve been doing a lot of shoulder rehab recently and feeling a lot stronger. I just had to take it easy and do what I could.
“It’s a big one for us this weekend so we just need to keep doing what we’re doing, and it will be nice to be back at The Lawn, scene of our T20 Cup success.”
So, is the squad daring to dream of a first Premier League title?
“We know we’re capable of competing against anyone,” added Gilmour. “We’ve started well but we’re just aiming to keep ticking each game off as it comes to give ourselves the best chance of being in the mix at the business end of the season.”
Carrick and Waringstown are the only two top-flight sides not involved in Sunday’s Challenge Cup ties, with Gilmour’s side losing to league champions CIYMS in the one all-Premiership first-round tie, while the Villagers were kicked out of the competition for playing former Ireland international wicket-keeper Jonny Bushe when he wasn’t registered for cup action in time.
The first-round draw for the North West Senior Cup was seeded this year so the top eight teams in the Premier League in 2019 will be favourites to make the quarter-finals.
Originally one team was due to get a bye but The Nedd agreed to make it a 16-team competition as long as they could also take part in the Qualifying One Cup.
The junior side got a plum draw, at home to Bready, but they must play their tie away so they will be in action at the international ground tomorrow.
TOMORROW’S FIXTURES (12pm): Robinson Services Premier League: CIYMS v North Down, Instonians v Lisburn, Waringstown v Carrickfergus, Woodvale v CIYMS
Section One: Ballymena v Saintfield, Cregagh v Cliftonville Academy, Derriaghy v Armagh (11am), Donaghcloney Mill v Bangor, Muckamore v Templepatrick (11am)
Section Two: Holywood v Laurelvale, Lurgan v BISC
Section Three: Drumaness Superkings v Donaghadee, Dunmurry v Larne, Victoria v Ards
GMcG Junior Cup: Cooke Collegians v Instonians II. Sunday: Civil Service North II v Laurelvale.
North West Senior Cup first round: Ballyspallen v Killyclooney, Bready v The Nedd, Brigade v Fox Lodge, Burndennett v Eglinton, Coleraine v Bonds Glen, Newbuildings v Glendermott, St Johnston v Donemana, Strabane v Ardmore
Gallagher Challenge Cup quarter-finals: Cregagh v Instonians, Civil Service North v Derriaghy (11am), Lisburn v North Down, Woodvale v CIYMS.
SUNDAY: Long’s SuperValu 40-Over League: Group A: Ardmore v Fox Lodge, Bonds Glen v Strabane, Bready v St Johnston, Glendermott v Brigade. Group B: Ballyspallen v Burndennett, Coleraine v Newbuildings, Killyclooney v Eglinton.