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Villagers target title after pain of final defeat

Irish Cup final

By Ian Callender

Waringstown captain Lee Nelson says tomorrow evening's Premier League clash with Instonians is perfectly timed for his team, after the disappointment of surrendering their Irish Cup crown on Saturday.

The Villagers are the fourth team to reach the final the year after winning it and the third to come up short as Merrion turned the tables at Castle Avenue to record their second victory in the competition.

But less than 72 hours later, it is Waringstown's league title which is at stake because if Instonians win the top of the table clash at Shaw's Bridge (5pm), then the NCU's top trophy will be returning to Shaw's Bridge for the second time in three years.

"It's probably the best game we could have asked for because you have to get yourself back up for it," said Nelson. "Our climate dictates and we have to play 20-over games at this stage of the season. It just happens to be a possible title decider."

All Nelson asks for is a better batting performance because he admitted that is where Waringstown lost the final on Saturday, after falling 56 runs short of Merrion's 252 for nine.

"In this day and age 250 is no longer what it used to be. If you want to win an all-Ireland you have to be able to chase 250. The pitch was good all day, but we kept losing wickets at crucial points. Every time somebody got going they got out," said Nelson, who was as culpable as his team-mates despite top scoring with 48.

"We were second best, we have to hold your hands up."

Head and hands above the Waringstown team on the day was John Anderson, who treats every game in this competition as a personal challenge to bat through the innings. More often than not he succeeds as an average of 80 proves.

This year, the Ireland international batted only three times and was never out for less than 100, sealing the deal with a chanceless 109.

It needed a direct hit from Greg Thompson to run him out, 19 balls from the end and Ireland will be hoping he carries on that form when he returns to his favourite format - four-day cricket - in the Intercontinental Cup match against Hong Kong, at Stormont, from tomorrow.

Merrion captain Dom Joyce describes himself as a "half-John" , getting to 50 but invariably falling short of a century .But his 67 in a second wicket stand of 108 "put us ahead of the game", added Joyce.

"We probably left 20 runs out there but our bowlers were superb, it was a really professional job and I didn't have to bowl, which is always a bonus."

Rolling back the years was David Langford-Smith, Ireland's opening bowler at the 2007 World Cup and Joyce admitted it was his plan to give the 39-year-old only a short spell, but 10 overs later he had figures of two for 28, the wickets being the prize ones of Nelson and Thompson.

He dismissed Waringstown's two in-form batsmen in the space of 14 balls to reduce the holders to 127 for five and, on the day, the lower order were never going to succeed where the top five had failed - the innings ending with 17 balls unused with two catches in the deep.

It wasn't just the experienced players in the side which ensured Merrion's triumph. Up front, teenager Max Neville produced an outstanding new-ball display, conceding just 12 runs in his seven overs, culminating in the wicket of professional Cobus Pienaar, while Tom Stanton, a former Ireland Under-19 opening bowler is now a slow left armer and had James Hall stumped for 37, another innings cut short before its prime.

Scores: Merrion 252-9 (J Anderson 109, D Joyce 67, S Morrissey 23; P Eaglestone 3-57, C Pienaar 2-39); Waringstown 196 (47.1 overs, L Nelson 48, J Hall 37, D Dawson 28, G Thompson 20; W von Behr 3-38, T Kane 2-25, D Langford-Smith 2-28). Merrion won by 56 runs

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