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Lightning won't risk star Alex Cusack

By Ian Callender

Alex Cusack is out of tomorrow's Newstalk Inter-provincial Cup opener against the North West Warriors in The Hills with a groin injury.

The Ireland international has been pulled out of the game to give him a chance of being ready for next week's one-day internationals against Sri Lanka, but even with the uncapped Ben Ackland replacing him, there are still nine internationals in the formidable Lightning squad.

They have one debutant, although he is hardly a 'new boy'. George Dockrell is out of favour with the Somerset coach at the start of the new season but the 21-year-old slow left armer, who will win his 108th cap at Clontarf on Tuesday, will be grateful to turn his arm over in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive clash when revenge will be in the air.

It was the Warriors who denied the Lightning a hat-trick of trophies in the inaugural season of the revamped inter-provincial series with their final day victory at Strabane last September, although the presence of Dockrell and new captain John Mooney, along with Railway professional Pat Collins makes the home side stronger.

Mooney was overlooked for the first Ireland internationals of the summer, and the first since he left the West Indies tour in January with a stress-related illness, but I understand he was prepared to play if selected.

He hit 86 in North County's opening league match last season, so he is in-form, while Andrew Poynter, who is in the Ireland team next week, scored 77 for Clontarf and Collins 76, both leading their sides to wins.

All eyes will be on Max Sorensen, who may be under pressure to retain his place in the Ireland attack, but there is plenty of seam bowling support in Kevin O'Brien, Eddie Richardson and Tyrone Kane.

The Warriors will be desperate to prove that last season's victory was not a one-off. Craig Young, having been left out of the Ireland squad, has plenty to prove, while Andrew Rideles, Johnny Thompson and Stuart Thompson are more than useful back-up.

Andy McBrine should be the second spinner to Dockrell next week, but he also has Ifti Hussain to call on, while no-one scored more runs in the two squads tomorrow than David Rankin.

Meanwhile, the annual Faughan Valley Charity Shield finals take place as usual on the first Sunday in May, renamed this year in memory of Sam McConnell, the chairman of the Derry Midweek League who died in March. Admission is £5 with all proceeds going to charity.

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