YMCA in pole position to end 20-year league drought
Sandymount club can claim first Leinster Division One title since 1993
With Ireland’s showcase summer fixture against England at Malahide still over three weeks away, the focus in the coming weeks switches to domestic matters as the big prizes in club cricket come up for grabs.
In Leinster, the battle for the RSA Senior League Division One title is set to be one of the most hotly contested in recent years.
YMCA currently lead the way at the top as they seek their first league title since 1993 and they hold a 20-point buffer over Merrion with four rounds of games to go.
They also enjoy an easier run-in and host Merrion at Claremont Road in the key fixture on August 17th.
In a squad littered with internationals past and present, a special mention must go to the performances of Simmi Singh, who has over 500 runs to his name this season as well as leading the wicket-taking stats in Leinster with 37 at an average of just over 13.
Yacoub Ali has also had a fine season with the ball with 26 wickets, a vital contribution considering the fact that Ireland opening bowler Trent Johnston has been limited in how much he can bowl due to an Achilles injury.
On the double
Despite being knocked out of the All-Ireland Cup by Clontarf at the semi-final stage, YM can still win the league and cup double, with the Leinster Senior Cup final against Sandymount neighbours Pembroke set to be refixed for later in the month after the first attempt fell foul of the weather.
Merrion can also dream of double glory after beating Civil Service North at Stormont last Saturday to make the All-Ireland decider against ’Tarf at Malahide on August 24th.
John Anderson’s batting has been the key to their success, with the South African-born Ireland international making an unbeaten 86 in last weekend’s semi-final victory in Belfast.
Tyrone Kane will be keen to put Ireland under-19’s failure to qualify for the World Cup behind him with a strong end to the season in a side that looks to be hitting top form.
In with a chance
Despite being 31 points adrift of YMCA in third spot, The Hills can not be written out of the title picture just yet, but must win Sunday’s big derby match away to North County if they are to have any chance of launching a late charge.
A win for County could light the fuse on a late run from the Balrothery men, while Railway Union are still waiting for their appeal to he heard against the loss to Leinster in Rathmines to see if they will get the points back.
The loss of Kevin O’Brien to the Caribbean Premier League will also hinder their chances in the run-in, but they will have a big part to play in where the the title ends up, starting with a home game against Merrion on Sunday.
Last year’s champions Leinster are presently in the drop zone, along with bottom placed Phoenix and even four wins for each side might not be enough to avoid the drop to Division Two, with Pembroke presently enjoying a 52-point advantage over Leinster in sixth position.
As expected, Clontarf have breezed back up to the top flight on the back of an unbeaten run of 10 games in Division Two, wrapping up promotion with four games to spare.
With a RSA Irish Senior Cup final meeting with Merrion to come, they have a chance to show just how strong they are and will start next season as one of the favourites for the Division One title.
Terenure remain on course to join them in the top flight, with seven wins from their nine games and two home games to come against two of the bottom three sides.
This weekend could see Leinster Lightning add the 50-overs Interprovincial Cup title to the Twenty20 Trophy they have already secured if they can beat the Northern Knights at Waringstown tomorrow (10.45am).
John Mooney takes over the captaincy in the absence of O’Brien, with a number of changes in personnel, including a first appearance at interprovincial level of young Malahide opening bowler Peter Chase, another who will be looking to impress after Ireland under-19’s disappointing World Cup qualification campaign.