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Cricket: Pienaar to draw crowds

The Ulster Bank Challenge Cup quarter-finals may hold centre stage in the NCU this weekend but it is a Premier League game on Sunday which is expected to draw the largest crowd.

Normally Muckamore v Waringstown at Moylena would just be an add-on fixture to Saturday’s cup ties but long-serving Muckamore member Ivan McCombe has turned the game into a must-see. Indeed, his biggest fear is that “we will not be able to cope with the crowd that turns up”.

McCombe’s big idea is to promote club cricket and the game has already had 100,000 hits on Facebook as he tells the new town of Antrim that the old village of Muckamore has a senior cricket team.

“In promoting this game I found out that even the nearby school doesn’t know there is a cricket ground in the Technology Park and I wanted to tell the people of Antrim that there is an entertaining local product on their own doorstep,” says McCombe.

And it is no accident that he has chosen the Waringstown match as the game to attract the disinterested public.

“Obus Pienaar (the Villagers’ big-hitting South African professional) has been the talk of local cricket this season and he will be playing on Sunday. They also have Kyle McCallan, Ireland’s most capped player, and Muckamore have one of Ireland‘s top batsmen in Jason van der Merwe and our professional Indrajeet Kamtekar so there are just four reasons to come along and watch.”

The original plan was for a bouncy castle and kids area but such has been the initial response that McCombe has decided not to go down the “gimmicky route”.

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He added: “We want many non-cricket watchers to come along but we want them to keep coming back to Muckamore on a regular basis. Even if we get an extra 50 regulars it would make a difference to the atmospherea nd if they buy one pint or put £1 into the box it would help the finances at the club if they came back next week and the week after.

“There will be a barbeque and beer tent, to take the pressure of the bar, and I’d like to thank Alan Waite, from Brakes, who have sponsored the food.”

McCombe’s target last week was a crowd of 600 which would be unheard of at a NCU league game. Now he is hopeful of even more if the weather stays fair.

First up for Muckamore tomorrow is their Cup tie at in-form Instonians who are playing their third quarter-final in a week, having already reached the last four of the Ulster Cup and NCU Twenty20 Cup.

Ireland international Gary Wilson is home from Surrey this weekend and plays for Civil Service North at Ballymena, while Carrickfergus can spend the weekend in Comber! After tomorrow’s cup tie against North Down, the holders, the teams meet again in the league on Sunday.

Fixtures: Tomorrow: Ulster Bank Challenge Cup quarter-finals (12.00): Ballymena v Civil Service North, Instonians v Muckamore, North Down v Carrickfergus, Waringstown v Lurgan.

Section One (1.00): Cliftonville v Dundrum, Downpatrick v Woodvale, Millpark v Derriaghy, Saintfield v Donacloney.

Section Two: Drumaness v Academy, Templepatrick v BISC.

Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup quarter- finals: Armagh v Woodvale II, CIYMS II v Cooke Collegians, Lisburn II v Portadown, Laurelvale v North Down.

Sunday: Ulster Bank Premier League (1.00): Civil Service North v CIYMS (noon), Muckamore v Waringstown, North Down v Carrickfergus.

Section One: Cliftonville v Millpark, Derriaghy v Holywood.

Section Two: Armagh v BISC, Templepatrick v Dunmurry.

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