As CIYMS prepare to play in their second of a possible four Cup Finals this year, captain Nigel Jones believes they are building something special at Belmont.
Going into today’s Gallagher Challenge Cup Final against Civil Service North at The Green (11am), Jones says the club is in a good place and there are exciting times ahead.
“I have tried to keep a continuity of players over the last few years, we’ve no more changes than other clubs and now have guys who have played together for well over 100 games,” said Jones. “They know each other well, trust each other and it’s a happy changing room. We’ve been building to something special and long may that continue.”
Jones and CIYMS have a special love affair with the NCU’s premier knockout competition — this is the club’s sixth Final in the last eight years and have won the last two editions — while the captain plays his seventh decider, 11 years after his first for Civil Service North.
“It’s great to play with a great bunch of lads, we have a strong squad and it’s the team that gives you that opportunity. It’s a Cup I enjoy and hopefully that’s the same this year,” said Jones.
CI will be without Mark Adair, on international duty in Bristol, but older brother Ross returns after missing last weekend’s Irish Cup Semi-Final success against Phoenix, which has booked their place in the Final against Lisburn on August 27.
They will also have an All-Ireland T20 Final to look forward to six days earlier if they come through their upcoming Semi-Final but for now all attention is focused on their east Belfast rivals.
“We are going to have to play a good game to get past them, they have a pretty decent core batting group and a bowling attack that will ask questions,” said Jones. “We are certainly going to have to be up for it but if we play the kind of cricket I know we can, the result will take care of itself.”
By contrast, CSN captain Stuart Thompson is preparing for his first Challenge Cup Final but the experienced Ireland international played in two North West deciders for Eglinton, albeit losing both to Donemana.
But he is backing his side to help him lift the trophy.
“We haven’t been beaten in 50-over cricket since the middle of June and the way we’ve been playing recently has been promising,” said Thompson. “Everyone is contributing, including the youngsters who have come in. They’ve all done a job.
“Ryan Hunter looks really comfortable (opening the batting) as a 16-year-old and although as a club we are promoting youth, he is there on merit. His figures speak for themselves. Archie Johnson is another, very tidy behind the stumps and a dynamic batter as well.
“CI were probably favourites from the start of the year and have played brilliant cricket. You look at their bowling attack and they hardly have a weakness and in the batting if you get a couple of early wickets they just keep coming and are all really positive, that’s the way they play their cricket and they have all bought into it.
“But on our day if we play our best game we will go toe-to-toe with anyone. I’m excited for the Final and it could be a cracker.”
CIYMS: N Jones (capt), R Adair, C Dougherty, J Matchett, G Kennedy, J van der Merwe, K Dudgeon, J Mulder, J Beattie, C McCullough, A Coulter.
Civil Service North: S Thompson (capt), L Georgeson, R Hunter, T Johnson, M Ellison, C McMorran, A Johnston, A Cowden, F Lutton, M Foster, B Adair.