North Down ended a seven-year drought when Alistair Shields lifted the Robinson Services T20 Cup yesterday in front of their own spectators after a comfortable seven wickets victory over Waringstown.
The Villagers had done the hard bit by defeating holders CIYMS in a thrilling semi-final on Saturday but they had nothing left for yesterday's decider and the absence of top scorer James Hall, who pre-Covid had booked a holiday, made their final task even more difficult.
In contrast, North Down had enjoyed a facile 41 runs win over Instonians and were boosted by the inclusion of Paul Stirling for the second day in a row - although it was not his big hitting which inspired the hosts' victory
Stirling had scored 12 and taken 2-14 in the semi-final but, after Waringstown won the toss yesterday, he immediately put them under pressure with three wickets in his first three overs, including the only maiden of the weekend, to reduce the Villagers to 39-5.
Only Greg Thompson had survived the early carnage and, although he then added 27 with Kyle McCallan, the former captain was the first of Ryan Haire's three victims as they lost four more wickets for 10 runs in 21 balls.
Haire did not bowl in the semi-final but, on a pitch hosting its third game in two days, it was the perfect surface for the slow bowler who proved virtually unplayable until James Mitchell hit him for a six and a four in his final two overs.
The late rally, however, still did not get Waringstown to three figures and even the loss of Stirling, caught at long-on, in the first over had no impact on the chase.
Ruhan Pretorius had signalled his intention on Saturday that, unlike his two previous innings, he was going to take the attack to the opposition and he crashed 120 not out against Instonians, with seven fours and nine sixes.
He wasn't quite so forceful against better bowling in the final but, by the time he was leg before to McCallan for 47, he had hit five fours and two sixes and North Down needed only 26 to win from seven overs.
Shields, with the help of Peter Eakin, saw the job through and the home celebrations could begin three overs early.
The game of the weekend, arguably the best of this truncated NCU season, however, was the first semi-final when Waringstown survived the collapse of the season - seven for 22 - to reach the decider by losing one fewer wicket with the scores tied.
Only two CI batsmen reached double figures, Nigel Jones and Jacob Mulder who had come together at 50-4 at the start of the 11th over and were still there eight overs later, taking the score to 112.
But in a remarkable conclusion to the innings, Mitchell removed both batsmen in the 19th over and skipper Lee Nelson took the other four wickets in the last crazy over, which ended with a hat-trick in two legitimate balls, as David Miller and Trevor Britton were bowled and, in between, Karthik Rajavelu was stumped off a wide. CIYMS 124 all out.
But, in a case of you have seen nothing yet, Waringstown had coasted to 92-2 after 10.1 overs when Hall was caught at mid-wicket for 47. Thompson holed out in the next over and when Britton - hit for 16 in his first over - returned, he took 4-4 in 14 balls to leave the Villagers on 114-9.
Britton conceded two singles in the 19th over, leaving Mark Adair to defend eight runs. With the help of a wide, Nelson got them off three balls and left No 11 Matthew Purse to see out the over. In the end, both teams were the losers.
The other winners at the weekend were Cregagh, who won the Robinson Services Trophy with victory over Muckamore, which was enough to pip Derriaghy on run rate after the Queensway side fell to a home loss to Cliftonville Academy.