Wayne eyes up that elusive Junior Cup winner's medal
Wayne Horwood has won almost everything at club level but a Junior Cup winners' medal is still missing from his collection. He gets another chance to put that right on Saturday when he leads Civil Service North II in this year's final against Junior League One rivals Instonians II at Moylena, the highlight for all NCU players on the way up or in the twilight of their career.
Horwood, 28 years after his First XI debut for Woodvale, is most definitely in the latter category but he says he is enjoying his cricket as much as ever.
"I'm certainly enjoying it now more than I did four or five years ago. I know my role, there is a good buzz about Stormont despite the First XI's league placing, people are enjoying their cricket and practice, we know what we want as a club over the next few years and it's actually good fun," he said.
"There's a good camaraderie, team morale and once you cross the white line you forget what age you are."
With six senior Cup finals under his belt, he knows all about the big occasion and will pass that experience on to his younger team-mates this weekend, although he admits the team will not be as young as in some games this season.
"From our perspective, it has been the same team, we've played three or four Under-15s for most of the season and the Ulster Plate, although it's been a more experienced side in the Junior Cup," said Horwood. "We have put a lot more energy and focus into that to get a good run which has been enjoyable.
"A number of people left at the start of the year (Jason van der Merwe and Shane Getkate to name just two), but that, in my opinion, has helped the squads as others have got an opportunity."
Another player that moved on was Jordan Wilson, last year's Second XI captain, and that's how Horwood finds himself in his current role.
"Jordan went to Holywood, so I agreed to put my name forward and help out back in March," he said. "I've still had to alternate between Firsts and Seconds (he has scored two senior 50s this season) so I've only played two Junior Cup matches this year but Mark Ellison is home, relocated to Northern Ireland, and will be playing for the Firsts for the rest of the season. Perfect timing for me I suppose."
Perfect timing so that he has the chance to make up for the final disappointment two years ago ("when we lost to a very good Armagh team") and add to his medal tally, although it was his fifth appearance before he won the first of his two Challenge Cup finals.
"I don't think I'll be around to play in five Junior Cups so time is running out! We'll be underdogs on the day, certainly based on our league position, but we will go into the game with a bit of confidence," said Horwood.
CSN have won three out of eight in the league this season while second place Instonians' record is six out of nine including a high-scoring 27-run win against their Cup final opponents, although Nicky McMinn scored a century in a losing cause.
Captain Michael Warke is the only Instonians player with Junior Cup final experience and, like Horwood, it was initial disappointment as Woodvale II lost off the penultimate ball to Cooke Collegians back in 2011.
Warke describes this year's side as a good mixture of youth and experience with Matthew Humphries the only player not to have played for the First XI.
The latest is young off-spinner Tommy Luke, who appeared in a couple of this season's Twenty20s on the back of impressive performances in the Junior Cup which has yielded 14 wickets in the last three rounds.
"Everybody has been chipping in," said Warke. "All the batsmen have scored 30s or 40s and all the bowlers are taking wickets. There have been no stand-outs, we have had good team performances and will be looking for another one on Saturday."
Teams - CSN II: W Horwood (capt), T Dalzell , N McMinn, C Beverland, J McKinney, A Johnston, N Hodgins, A Hodgins S Ross, C Harkness, C Andrews.
Instonians II: M Warke (capt), O Metcalfe, M Lightbody, R McCarthy, J Hunter, L McNamara, J McCabe, T Luke, B McNamara, M Humphrey, R White.