Johnston looking for more of the same in remaining practice matches

Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston was impressed with the talent on show at Shaws Bridge yesterday as a 28-man squad kicked off a series of four practice matches.

‘Team A’, captained by Marc Ellison, batted first and scored 158/4 in their 20 overs thanks to 55 from Instonians all-rounder James Hunter while Ellison (25) and John Matchett (23) also contributed.

‘Team B’ captain Shane Getkate (60) led the way for his side and was ably-supported by Morgan Topping (41), but they fell just short of a winning total.

The squad will meet again at the same venue on Friday before another two games next week at Wallace Park.

With a mix of youth and proven quality, Johnston was pleased with how the younger crop handled themselves and it could well lead to him giving even more an opportunity.

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Shane Getkate. ©CricketEurope

“I know what we have in the Union,” he said.

“There are some proper players there and they just need cricket.

“I was a little bit concerned about yesterday because you have Irish internationals like Jacob Mulder and Graeme McCarter and guys who are quality performers like Ruhan (Pretorius) bowling at 15-17 year olds and you’re a little bit wary, but the guys handled themselves fantastically and if anything it’s got me more enthused that it’s the right thing to do.

“I thought to myself we would only play two or three 15-17 year olds that the Irish coaches wanted to see but now I’d be very keen, certainly for the last match, to play a number of people. I really enjoyed it.”

These matches are being used as an opportunity for players to impress and get games under their belt after an extended period away from the middle while Johnston will be planning for the possible return of Inter-Provincial cricket next month.

The likes of captain Gary Wilson, Mark Adair, James McCollum and Paul Stirling will all come back into the fold upon their return from international duty in England.

It isn’t just Johnston that has a keen eye on these fixtures but a range of coaches who are all looking to see who could potentially fit into their respective squads.

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Simon Johnston. ©CricketEurope

“With my Knights head on, if Stirlo isn’t available and has to go to the Blast then I’m looking at a couple of opening batting combinations,” he added.

“I know Pete (Johnston) in the bigger picture is looking at Ireland A stuff – is there a couple of guys that he has missed or hasn’t seen in a while?

“Eagy (Ryan Eagleson) with his U19’s – they have a World Cup qualifier again hopefully next year and he’s looking for people.

“Albert (van der Merwe) is looking at the bigger picture over the next few years and seeing who are the good 15-17 year olds that we can have a look at.

“It has worked really well because we are covering such a big spread. If anything, I would bring more than 28 in because it’s good quality cricket that the guys need.”

Getkate had to deal with the disappointment of being excluded from Ireland’s touring party to England but could hardly have responded in a better way than striking 60 from 46 deliveries at his home ground.

Johnston was full of praise for how he has handled himself and says he is an example to the younger generation on how to reach the highest level.

“Obviously it’s a heavy blow for him to take but his professionalism and attitude since has been phenomenal,” he said.

“He was captain yesterday and the way he conducted himself before and during the game, it showed the young lads that’s what a professional cricketer looks like.

“I can’t say enough about the bloke. He will get his chances again.

“He certainly stepped up yesterday and he is going to play in some of the Dublin games as well, so I would expect him to be showing these younger lads what it takes to be a professional cricketer.”

Getkate’s Instonians team-mate Hunter hit five fours and three sixes on the way to his own half-century.

The 17-year-old also held his nerve in the final over to bowl Instonians to victory at Waringstown on Saturday and Johnston is a big admirer of his ability.

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Hunter batting for Instonians last weekend. ©CricketEurope

“That’s the James Hunter I’ve seen since he was 14 and we picked him at Irish 15’s,” he added.

“I think he’s absolutely quality. At Irish level, 15’s, 17’s and I know he scored runs at 19’s, he just performs.

“For whatever reason at club level it just hasn’t clicked, but if anything I would say he looked like the best batsman on show yesterday which is no small feat.

“He came in on a sticky pitch at the start and struck the ball beautifully. It’s testament to the club with what they are doing with him and he’s coming on leaps and bounds.

“He’s someone who if he gets another score, he will certainly come into our thinking and that’s fantastic news.”

In the remaining three games, Johnston is just looking to see more of the same from everyone who is involved.

“I was so happy with yesterday so I’m looking for more of the same,” he said.

“It was a competitive game and the guys really went at each other hammer and tongs, which I wanted to see.

“The senior guys really stepped up and led. A few of the younger lads put up their hands and that’s all you can ask for.

“You have the quality of Graeme McCarter, who is bowling as well as he ever has, and Jacob Mulder who we know is a quality performer, but then the likes of young (Ben) Snell from Waringstown, who is only 16, was superb.

“It was exciting to see so more of the same would be perfect.”

Aditya Adey makes a perfect start to life with North Down

Aditya Adey marked his North Down debut with a match-winning performance on Saturday as he helped his new club to an eight-wicket victory over Carrickfergus.

Having picked up figures of 1-16 as Carrick were limited to 104/6 in 20 overs, Adey then scored 51* from 60 deliveries as North Down chased down the score with five balls to spare.

The all-rounder put on 78 for the second wicket with captain Alistair Shields, and while it wasn’t always fluent, Adey was delighted to kick off the season with a win.

“There was some time in the innings where the wicket was pretty slow and I couldn’t get off to a good start,” he said.

“I’m just glad I was able to bat through the innings and help the team get a win.

“That’s one of the best things you can wish for from your first game. I’m happy with my first performance.”

Adey moved to The Green from Muckamore during the winter following their relegation from the Premier League last season.

He will be hoping that he is able to help North Down compete at the other end of the table this season and feels he has already picked up some valuable lessons from experienced team-mates.

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Adey batting for Muckamore last season. ©CricketEurope

“I’m loving it,” he added.

“I’m learning loads and it’s great to have senior guys like Ruhan (Pretorius) there.

“All these people have played Premier League cricket or higher so they can all pass on experience to me. It’s great to be there and I’m enjoying it.”

Batting at the top of the order is what Adey wants to continue doing and there is a good chance he will find himself walking out to the middle with Irish international Paul Stirling at some point in the not too distant future.

Stirling is unavailable for the first few games due to his involvement in Ireland’s ODI series against England but Adey is excited by the prospect of opening with a player he watched when he first moved to Northern Ireland from India.

“I would love to having grown up watching him bat for Ireland all this time,” he said.

“When I moved here, the first game I watched I was watching him bat so to open the batting with him would be amazing.

“It will be an amazing experience if I get the opportunity to do that.”

The season was delayed by almost three months due to the coronavirus pandemic but Adey used the time away from the pitch to get himself in better physical condition and that has already paid off.

“I feel good,” he said.

“During the lockdown I was doing a lot of fitness and I was actually surprised I was able to bat through the whole 20 overs on Saturday!

“I’ve been known to struggle a couple of times when I get tired in the 15th over and let the team down in the last five.”

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Aditya Adey. ©CricketEurope

Adey was also named in a 28-man Northern Knights practice match squad for games at Shaws Bridge and Wallace Park.

The first of those took place on Monday with Adey’s side, led by Marc Ellison, winning by six runs thanks to 55 from Instonians all-rounder James Hunter while Jacob Mulder picked up two wickets.

Adey, who scored 11* batting at six, should be involved again on Friday and is hoping a consistent run will help bring his game to another level.

“It was a very close game yesterday,” he said.

“Being back with them is great. We are playing again on Friday and hopefully I can prove that I’m good enough to be there.

“Not selection wise, but it would put me in a good spot confidence wise.

“If I don’t perform, I will tell myself that I didn’t get selected and that’s fine, but if I play consistently my confidence and game will grow and that’s what I’m looking for this year.”

Rebuilding the main aim for new Muckamore captain Sam Gordon

Rebuilding will be the theme of the 2020 season for Muckamore.

Following their relegation from the Premier League last season, they lost the majority of their first team squad with Neil Gill, Jamie Rogers, David Miller, Aditya Adey, Fahad Iqbal, Pavan Karthik and Karthik Rajavelu all departing.

Sam Gordon is the new captain, taking over from Gill who was in the role for almost a decade, and will take charge of his first game on Saturday when Muckamore host neighbours Templepatrick in the Robinson Services Trophy.

Despite losing so many important players at one time, Gordon is excited about leading a new project.

“As much as I would have loved to have some of the players still playing for us, I wish them the best and good luck to them, but it’s a great chance for the younger lads who didn’t feel they got an opportunity,” he said.

“They are definitely going to get one this year and we will see how it goes. We have a lot of young lads coming through so it’s very exciting.

“Everyone is energetic, keen and I can’t complain once about training.

“I’m looking forward to see how things go.

“It’s a fresh start for me and for the club so we will see how we take it. There isn’t a lot of pressure on us this year but obviously we want to perform at our best.

“As much as we all would have loved to see Peet Pienaar come in to light up the league, him not coming maybe suits us because it gives a chance for the likes of Luke (Allen), Ewan and Arnold (Oduvelil) – and that’s just mentioning a few.

“The likes of Jude Keates is coming up as well and he’s hitting the ball as well as anyone in the nets. We are looking forward to the future of the club.”

The club have brought in Ewan Wilson from Templepatrick and the Larne quartet of Eddie Hunter, Chris Keenan, Michael Kennedy and Aaron McKinley.

“Ewan has been great since he came in,” added Gordon.

“He is a great talent and he is someone that is going to look good in the future.

“Unfortunately I haven’t seen the lads from Larne play yet but by all accounts they are meant to be good players and I’m looking forward to having them part of the squad.”

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Gordon predicts Luke Allen will have a big season. ©CricketEurope

There are a number of young players that will be handed an opportunity this season and with no promotion prospects, it could be the perfect chance for them to adjust to a higher standard without the same pressure on results.

With Gordon now one of the older players in the team even though still only 22, he is hopeful that the Twenty20 format will suit his side.

“All our boys are looking forward to it,” he said.

“We have a few guys that like going after the ball so it’ll be entertaining. I think we will definitely be up there in the fielding sides with the young lads.

“With the young lads and then a few older guys like (Richard) Keates and Les Allen, who are stalwarts of the club, will help with the bit of experience.

“I’m new to captaincy and a lot of guys are new to first XI cricket so it’s about pushing them on and building for the future because we do want to be a top league team. How long that will take us we don’t know but the lads have ambition.”

With the prospect of the Premier League turning into a 12-team competition from the 2022 season, Gordon has that in his mind as something to focus on and work towards.

“It’s definitely something we are aiming for,” he added.

“It might take a year or two to build up but it doesn’t matter how long it takes us. We are looking to do it as a team and keep all of the young lads together.

“That’s the most important thing because in the past it has been boys in and out each year but I think if we can keep a strong team for the next couple of years and we grow together, that is the key to being a Premier League team and sustaining it.”

That is the long-term goal but a more immediate target is putting together a side that is capable of progressing.

Gordon is looking to bring Muckamore back to where he feels they belong and is aiming to use this campaign as one for players to get comfortable before launching an attack in 2021.

“Our goals are all to do with rebuilding,” he said.

“We have lost so many in recent years so it’s about rebuilding, getting the team back to where it should be and giving the young lads a chance.

“This year is so important for our young lads. I’m saying that at 22 and it’s important for me too.

“Just getting the boys playing together and going out with no fear this year. If the boys don’t perform they will still be thrown the ball the next week and asked to go again.

“It’s a great learning curve for the lads if they do get hit about to question why that is happening and look at your own performance.

“You’re going to get better in match situations and you mightn’t get this chance again.”

Downpatrick have targets set on Twenty20 Trophy hat-trick

Downpatrick captain Ross Boultwood will be hoping his side can carry their impressive Twenty20 form of recent years into the 2020 campaign.

The Meadow outfit have won the LVS Twenty20 Trophy for the past two seasons, beating Holywood by five wickets in 2018 before following it up with a seven-wicket triumph over Cregagh on home turf last season.

They will kick their defence of that crown off against Ballymena but first up is a Robinson Services Trophy trip to Donacloney Mill on Saturday.

With the league campaign also being played in the shortest format this season, Boultwood is confident that his men can achieve even more success in this campaign.

“The club has reached three Twenty20 finals in the last four years, winning back to back trophies most recently,” he said.

“We have guys who naturally like to play an attacking brand of cricket.

“T20 is almost a release for the guys as I feel like we’ve maybe played within ourselves in recent years in the longer format trying to bat out overs and protect the tail.

“In Ryan Smyth and Jordan Wade we have two guys who can take the game to anyone and are box office when in full flow.

“I myself like to go hard then we have Craig (Boultwood) who likes to rotate strike and keep the score ticking.

“Our bowling attack is experienced with Mark Yeates and myself opening the bowling and then Marty Gartland taking the pace off the ball and bowling with accuracy and variations.

“I’m honestly confident throwing the ball to anyone of 6 or 7 of the guys.

“The shorter format is definitely more appealing to a lot of our guys and I hope we go out from game one with the same confidence and freedom which has seen us be successful in recent years.”

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Craig and Ross Boultwood with the LVS Trophy. ©CricketEurope

Their league form last season was in stark contrast to the cup results they were able to achieve, only preserving their Section One status on the final day thanks to a 44-run win against Donacloney Mill.

That was enough to finish two points ahead of the drop zone and Boultwood feels they are talented enough to not find themselves in a similar situation again.

“Last year we really didn’t get going at all,” he added.

“Luckily we turned it around at the business end and with a couple of results going our way we managed to stay up on the last day of the season.

“I remember beating Cregagh away and an experienced umpire asking me how the hell we were in a relegation battle!

“Section One is such a competitive league where anyone can beat anyone and there is certainly no room for complacency and last season acts as a stark reminder for all of us.

“It’s obviously completely different with no promotion or relegation but we want to give a much better account of ourselves this year as last year didn’t reflect the talent we have in the team.”

After a long wait to finally get back onto the pitch. Boultwood is looking for his team to enjoy the return but also has his sights set on a hat-trick of titles.

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Mark Yeates was named Man of the Match in 2018. ©CricketEurope

“It’s been a long winter and spring,” he said.

“I think the whole cricketing community would agree that it’s great to get some form of cricket in this year all be it a filtered format.

“With the situation being so fluid protocols are forever changing but we are working hard and ticking boxes to make sure the club is ready to go and all clubs are in the same boat.

“At this stage we just want to get out there and enjoy our cricket.

“We always play to win so if there’s a trophy at stake we set our sights on it.

“To win three T20 trophies in a row would also mean a lot and I know the boys are very keen to defend it.”

Like most clubs, Downpatrick will be without their overseas professional James Chappell this season while Tye Pilon has returned to Australia.

Gilmour: Gill is a ‘perfect fit’ at Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus captain Michael Gilmour says Neil Gill has been a ‘perfect fit’ at the club since joining from Muckamore.

Gill, who captained the Moylena side for the best part of a decade, moved to Carrick during the winter following Muckamore’s relegation from the Premier League last season.

The 33-year-old will likely open the bowling for his new team when they get their Robinson Services Cup campaign underway with a trip to North Down on Saturday.

Carrick have also welcomed Michael Armstrong back to the club ahead of the new season but have lost Harry Warke, Jack Burton (both Woodvale), Max Burton and Matthew McCord (both Cliftonville Academy).

With his experience and will to win, Gilmour is delighted to have Gill at Middle Road.

“Giller is an incredible guy to have at the club,” he said.

“Every time I’ve played against him, he’s always been such a competitor with a great attitude.

“He’s dying to win things too, so he’s been a great addition on and off the field.

“I think his experience and determination makes him the perfect fit at Middle Road.”

Another player that Carrick will be without for the upcoming campaign is overseas professional Jacques Snyman.

The South African scored over 1000 runs in his maiden NCU campaign in 2019 and went on to register a half-century against England for a Cricket South Africa Invitational XI in January.

His absence will undoubtedly be felt but Gilmour will be looking to the rest of his squad to step up and put in some big performances.

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Jacques Snyman celebrates a century. ©CricketEurope

“We would have loved to have had Jacques over as he’s proven how much of a quality player he is for us, and what he’s done back home in South Africa has been incredible too,” he added.

“Playing without a guy like that in your team is a huge loss, but at the same time it does give others the opportunity to step up and put in some match winning performances.”

Carrick have been remarkably consistent in the Premier League in recent years, finishing in the top-half for the past four seasons, but there will be a new challenge this time round with the league campaign now being contested in the Twenty20 format.

There will also still be a LVS Twenty20 Cup, in which Carrick will host Lisburn on July 26, but it is a competition that they haven’t progressed past the group stage in since 2016.

Gilmour will be hoping the added freedom this year could bring will help inspire Carrick to push even harder to win some silverware.

“The last few year have definitely been great for the club,” he said.

“We’ve been improving a lot and regularly finishing at the top end of the league.

“Our team is full of ambitious players who want to win competitions, so this year will be no different.

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CJ van der Walt will play a crucial role for Carrick this season ©CricketEurope

“There’s still two great competitions to play for this season and we will be very keen to push for some silverware.

“I definitely think we will be able to play with a bit more freedom, especially as T20 naturally has that essence, but we still want to play the best cricket we can in order to win something.

“There definitely will still be that pressure in big games as I know there won’t be any Premier League teams just going through the motions.

“It’s definitely something different than we’re used to but it’ll be the same hard, gritty and competitive matches that we expect.

“We always want to win every match we play in and we’re excited to get it started this weekend.”

Cregagh looking to go one step further in 2020

Cregagh captain Aaron Johnston is hoping this will be the year where his side can get over the line and pick up some Twenty20 silverware after narrowly missing out in previous seasons.

They have reached a final in three of the last four years, losing out on all three occasions to Downpatrick (2019), Saintfield (2017) and Cliftonville (2016) but managed to win the Section Two league title in 2017.

The Gibson Park side will kick their LVS Twenty20 Trophy campaign off against either Armagh or Cliftonville Academy while the league, which has been renamed the Robinson Services Trophy for 2020, will also be contested in the Twenty20 format.

With their recent success, Johnston’s men are confident entering the shortened season and have their targets set on glory.

“The goal is to win the league,” he said.

“We do see ourselves as a strong Twenty20 outfit so we have the Twenty20 Cup to challenge for again.

“We’ve managed to get to a final in three of the last four years without winning, so that’s something we want to do.

“It’s going to be sweeter when we do achieve that after suffering three defeats.”

Cregagh have one of the youngest sides in the league and have been making steady progress, improving their league position by two places from 2018 to finish in fifth last season.

With the likes of Johnston, his brother Mark and Jay Hunter in their ranks, they are well set-up to take that further, but the skipper is also keen to give even more young players a chance.

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Mark Johnston celebrates a half-century in 2018. ©CricketEurope

“I think the young squad helps in throwing yourself around the field,” he added.

“We do have a few young players that we think this year will be a good chance to bring them into the team and get them some First XI experience.

“I know there’s no promotion or relegation so with that comes a little bit less of competitiveness, so maybe it’s a good time to get some of the younger guys a go in the first team.

“When we go out there, we want to win and will be playing to win regardless of no promotion.

“At the end of the day, it does take a little bit of pressure off so it’s going to be a good time to express yourself as a batsman and maybe try a few things for the bowlers and just build on what we have been doing.”

Cregagh will take to the field against Cliftonville Academy this Saturday with the same set of players that they had last season.

The end goal for the club is to reach the Premier League, which will potentially change to a 12-team competition from 2022 onwards.

That could involve bringing some new faces in but for now, Johnston is happy with the squad as they take another step towards that dream.

“We have a few things in mind of where we want to get to as a squad,” he said.

“We aren’t quite there yet and there’s probably a few positions in the team that we could look to improve on.

“We have this season and next to try and get to where we want to be before hopefully having the chance to go up a league.

“We are going into the season with the same squad but it’s definitely something we are looking at over the next couple of seasons to improve the squad.

“As long as I’ve been at the club, there are very few players that I can think of off the top of my head that have left the club.

“Over the last three or four years we have had quality players come in from some Premier League clubs and every one of them seems to be enjoying their cricket.

“I’m biased, but it’s a great place to play cricket and the environment is great. When people join this club, it seems to be a club for life.

“We are hoping that will attract a few more before the possibility of moving up. At the minute we are just enjoying playing together and being competitive on the pitch.”

While happy to be back, Lee Nelson admits lack of supporters is ‘deflating’

Waringstown captain Lee Nelson admits the return of cricket won’t be quite the same without their supporters watching on.

The NI Executive released details about the return of sport on Thursday saying ‘outdoor competitive games and sporting events can also start again from July 11’ but that no spectators would be allowed to watch the games.

Like most clubs, Waringstown have a loyal base of support that is present at all of their games whether it’s home or away, but if the current rules are still in place by next weekend, they will miss out on being present as their team start the season with a Robinson Services Cup clash against Instonians.

“It is deflating,” said Nelson.

“A lot of our supporters are family members, players’ wives, partners and children and our club is very much community based.

“The cricket club is where our local community spend their weekends during the summer. To not have that is very disappointing.

“From a personal point of view, I think the decision is incorrect. I do think the supporters should be allowed in and they need to be treated like responsible adults. I’m sure they could socially distance without any problems given the large area of ground that we have.

“We just hope that there is some way around it and someone can make a decision that is more feasible for the clubs than is in place.

“It does (take something away from the return). I could sit here and say this and that but it does.

“From a playing point of view, we are very happy to get back playing in some capacity because for a large part of the year we thought there would be no chance of cricket.

“Whilst it’s annoying that as it stands the supporters won’t be there, we are glad to be back playing and we have to make the most of it.

“I didn’t think at a certain stage there would be anything so we have to be grateful that we have the opportunity to get back playing again.”

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Lee Nelson with Dame Mary Peters and Clarence Hiles after the 2018 T20 Cup final. ©CricketEurope

When they do get onto the pitch, Waringstown will be confident of competing on all fronts given their success in the Twenty20 format over the last few years.

Nelson led them to the LVS Twenty20 Cup in 2016 during his previous stint as captain before they retained their crown in 2017 and 2018 under Greg Thomspon.

Since 2015, they have reached at least the final in every season, losing out to CIYMS in both 2015 and 2019 while they also won the All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup in 2018.

With the season curtailed to a maximum of 12 games across the two competitions, Nelson will be looking to give the wealth of younger talent at the club an opportunity to prove themselves in the absence of overseas professional Andre Malan and James McCollum, who is missing for the first three games as he’s on Ireland duty in England.

“I think we have got to the stage where we just have to make the most of it,” he added.

“From our perspective as a squad, this season will probably present opportunities for some of our younger guys to gain experience.

“We aren’t going to have our professional and will maybe be without James McCollum for a large part of the season, so this will give the young players more of a chance to bat and bowl and get the experience that will stand them in good stead going into next year.

“Morgan Topping looks like he has his old hunger and enthusiasm back for it and it looks like he is enjoying being back. His younger brother looks to have come on leaps and bounds and we have Ben Snell who is only 14 or 15 that made his debut last season.

“We have a decent core of youngsters that will get a decent opportunity along with our own guys making sure we win as many games as possible.

“Not having Andre is going to be a massive blow but at the minute it isn’t viable to be bringing a pro over for seven games or so and needing to self-isolate when you get here, which is annoying for us because we were really looking forward to having him.”

With McCollum missing from the top order at certain times, it appears the returning Morgan Topping will slide into that role in his absence.

Topping left Waringstown in 2018 to join CSNI, spending two seasons at Stormont before switching back to The Lawn ahead of the 2020 campaign.

Having watched how he has developed as a cricketer, Nelson is excited to have him back at the club.

“Morgan batted three in an Under-19 World Cup and from what I’ve seen of him this season, he looks like he is back to being that player that got him that reputation,” he said.

“I would really like to see him kicking on now and have that confidence and belief to thrive at this level. I’m looking forward to watching him back playing with us.

“I’m going to give Morgan a go up the order. My plan for Morgan was to bat him wherever James McCollum would have batted in 20 or 50 over games when he was away and then take a spot lower down when James was back. He is going to get an opportunity and I just hope he thrives in it.”

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James McCollum batting for Ireland. ©CricketEurope

Another young star that could have a role to play at some point this summer is Jack Carson.

Carson has long been marked as one to watch in terms of senior international involvement in the future and has been with English side Sussex at different levels since 2013 while progressing through the ranks at Waringstown.

Playing for their Academy before progressing into the 2nd XI, the 19-year-old has already shown signs of his ability in the senior game by taking 5-42 against Essex 2nds in 2018.

He played alongside England’s Jofra Archer last season, taking two catches off the fast bowler as he recorded figures of 6-27 against Gloucestershire 2nds.

Carson has been training with his home club and while it remains to be seen if he will get the chance to play, Nelson is hoping he can call upon his services at some point.

“It’s very much dependent on how many games he is going to have in England at the weekends,” he said.

“From the conversations that we’ve been having with him at training, the majority of his games are going to be during the week.

“He has gone through our system right from U11 to First XI, so he is one of our own.

“From our point of view, we don’t have the financial backing or strength to just bring in anyone we want.

“That’s why it’s crucial for us, like where Morgan is concerned, to be producing our own and at a level that means we can compete at All-Ireland level.

“It would be nice to have Jack available at certain points of the year to showcase that we are bringing through our own players and still can do it on a regular basis.”

While out to win every game this season, Nelson will also be looking to take a glimpse into the future and see which of the next generation are capable of making the step up.

He remembers the chance that was taken on him as he broke into the senior ranks at the club and is keen to give others an opportunity to follow some of the standout stars in the current side.

“We will be going out to win every game and win every competition that is going,” he added.

“We are probably no different to any club in looking at this as an opportunity to plan for next year in terms of who is going to be in your mind for when cricket returns to normal.

“We are going to have a look at certain people to see if they are able to step up to that level or need to plan otherwise. Our plan is the same as it is every year.

“It’s Waringstown Cricket Club and every time we go on to the pitch we have to win and be competitive along with having a look at our youngsters in some games to try and get a glimpse into the future. Waringstown has been doing that for years.

“They had to take a gamble when I came through, when James Hall came through, when Adam Dennison came through. Denny played in a Senior Cup final at 14 so we have always done it.

“Whilst still remaining competitive, we have to make sure we can do that.

“We don’t have anywhere near the same financial power as other clubs to replace players when they want. We need to be able to do it self-sufficiently.”

White confident young guns can have a big say this season

Instonians captain Andrew White is backing his young guns to make a big contribution when the 2020 season kicks off on July 18.

The Shaws Bridge side have one of the youngest teams in the top-flight and have added further to that with the signing of 19-year-old batsman Marcus Poskitt from Bready.

Oliver Metcalfe, James Hunter and Ben Rose are just a few young stars that have cemented their place in the Instonians first team and White will be looking to give even more of the youth talent an opportunity this season.

The ability is clearly there in the junior section and it could be an exciting few years ahead at the club as the Graham Cup, Banoge Cup and Quoile Cup winning sides of 2019 continue their progression.

Instonians will start their Robinson Services Cup campaign with a home clash against Waringstown before travelling to North Down on July 26 for a first round LVS Cup tie.

All matches will be played in the Twenty20 format this year and with the profile of his squad, White is hoping they can produce some impressive results.

“Whether it’s 50 or 20 overs, I don’t think it makes a big difference in how you approach it at club level,” he said.

“You still have to play properly. We have a very young squad, myself excluded! There is no one else close to thirty really so they are all very young and they enjoy the T20 aspect.

“Everyone is looking forward to this new format. I like the idea of playing seven matches and then going into a play-off. I think it’s going to make sure there is something hanging on every game right up until the end.

“Because of the young nature of our squad hopefully we will be one of the better fielding sides in the competition.

“With the likes of Metcalfe, Hunter, Poskitt and Ben Rose I think we have enough young firepower there to cause teams some problems.”

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Oliver Metcalfe batting against CIYMS. ©CricketEurope

Over the last few years it has been the likes of White, James Shannon, Nikolai Smith and Shane Getkate leading the way for Instonians, helping the club reach five Challenge Cup finals since 2012.

There has been good signs that the next generation are now ready to step up and help their more experienced team-mates push for further success with Oliver Metcalfe, who is still a teenager, scoring an Irish Senior Cup century last season.

“Metcalfe, Hunter and Poskitt are now of the age where they’ll be looking to stamp their authority on proceedings rather than the likes of Shane, Nikolai and myself as they have watched for the last few years in terms of finding their feet and learning the ropes,” added White.

“They’ll be keen to make sure it is their time to put on a show.”

Getkate is set to miss at least the first three matches of the season with his likely inclusion in Ireland’s ODI squad that will depart for a series against England on July 18.

With his regular involvement in the international arena since last February, White has had to deal with losing his star player on occasion while some of the younger members have missed games through Ireland underage involvement.

With plenty appearing at training since it was allowed to resume, White is happy with the squad he has and believes new second team captain Jonny Peak will play a big role in helping to bring through even more contenders for his side.

“It’s just a standard thing at Instonians where players come and players go because there is always representative call-ups somewhere down the line,” he said.

“We are used to dealing with people being missing so that won’t be a major issue. We have plenty to choose from and we have the guts of 20 down at training.

“Jonny Peak is looking after the second team and is going to be player/coach there. With his connection with the school I think it’s a great fit.

“He is very enthusiastic, has a great knowledge of the game and knows what is required at Premier League level because he played for a long time at different clubs.

“He’s going to be a vital cog in the club’s future because he knows the young guys coming through the school system and he can continue to push them.”

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Shane Getkate. ©CricketEurope

White will be looking to give even more young players top-flight exposure as the season goes along but wants to make sure they are ready for that call-up.

“My mind is very much in terms of seeing can we get some of these younger guys exposure to stand us in good stead for the next couple of years,” he added.

“It’s finding a balance of being competitive and making sure you win games but if ever there was a year to have an eye on the future it’s this year.

“You have to be putting guys in that you’re comfortable will be at ease and not be overawed or feel out of their depth.

“There is enough hunger there in those guys and they all want to play their part and want an opportunity in these games.”

Instonians performed admirably in white ball cricket last season, reaching the Challenge Cup final, Irish Senior Cup quarter-final and LVS Twenty20 Cup semi-final.

That was in contrast to their Premier League form which picked up in September but White will be looking for a bit more consistency from his dangerous side.

“We have those players in our ranks so there is no fear of taking on anybody,” he said.

“It’s just a case of being consistent and that’s key. You look at our league position over the last couple of years and we have struggled to be brutally honest.

“Some of the players haven’t scored the runs or taken the wickets for us to stay out of that relegation trouble. I’m excited by the group we have and the younger guys coming through.

“They are a year older, hopefully a year wiser and they can contribute to some good performances.”

Lisburn looking to replicate 2018 ‘hunger and desire’ in new campaign

Lisburn will be aiming to put last season behind them and rediscover their winning ways of 2018 when the new campaign gets underway on July 18.

After winning Section One two years ago, the Wallace Park side started their return to life in the Premier League in fine fashion by winning three of their opening six matches before losing eight in a row to survive the drop on net run-rate.

With that now history, Lisburn moved to bring in a number of high-quality signings with Irish international Boyd Rankin joining the club alongside Josh Manley, Matthew Humphreys, Chris Burns, Luke Allison and Tom O’Connor.

Like most clubs, they will be without their overseas professional Faiz Fazal but captain Adam Berry isn’t fazed by that prospect after the recent success they enjoyed.

“I think the advantage we have is that two seasons ago we played in Section One and won the league with a local team and no overseas players which brought us closer together as a team and meant everyone had to step up,” he said.

“The hunger and desire the team showed that season is something we will be looking to emulate this season and build into next with this squad.”

Rankin will almost certainly be missing for Lisburn’s Robinson Services Cup opener against Woodvale and the following three matches as he is expected to be named in Ireland’s 20-man squad for a series against England which departs on the same day as that game.

Manley impressed in his first NCU campaign for Instonians in 2019, picking up 26 wickets at an average of 11.09 – the best of any player in the union.

Berry is hoping to have both available at some point throughout the season and is excited to see what they can achieve at their new home.

“We are delighted to have both at the club,” he added.

“We have managed to attract two really good guys with real, proven quality and guys we will all learn from.

“With the connection through brother Bob we have always dreamed of having Boyd over to play in the same way I’m sure Boyd has always dreamed of pulling on the old gold, green and black of Lisburn!

“In terms of availability we will be keeping in touch with both in the hope we can have them available for some fixtures throughout the season.

“Boyd and Josh would improve any side and we are looking forward to welcoming both to the club hopefully sooner rather than later.”

It has been a long wait for the cricket season to come around and it’ll be over 10 months since Lisburn stepped onto the field when they host newly-promoted Woodvale.

A lot of work has been done behind the scenes by every club to get back into training and making sure they are in a position to return to play, and Berry paid tribute to those that have been getting everything ready for the resumption of cricket at Wallace Park.

“Naturally everyone is looking forward to getting some competitive cricket in which at one point didn’t seem possible,” he said.

“The pictures on social media of the park I think have been teasing us for a long time so it has been great to get back down.

“Credit has to go to Dean Simpson, Brian Mulholland and all of the grounds team for all the effort they have put in maintaining the place and getting it ready to play.

“I can’t thank everyone at the club and the NCU enough for the work which has been done to make a season, albeit shortened, possible.

“Fingers crossed the weather is good and we get to fulfil all the fixtures.”

Lisburn will also face a trip to Carrickfergus in the LVS Twenty20 Cup first round on July 26.

They struggled in the competition last season in its more traditional round robin format, losing all three group games that were contested (three were also void) but will be hoping they can rediscover the form that helped them reach the 2013 and 2016 finals.

“Truthfully, last season given the format of the T20 competition and the midweek fixtures wasn’t great for us with most of the team working however, the guys are looking forward to the challenge this season,” he added.

“It’s a format we have enjoyed previously, reaching finals against Waringstown and North Down a few seasons back. We have a young team and the guys are all excited to get going.”

With a nice mix of youth and experience at his disposal, Berry is looking to use any opportunities they get this season to set a platform for the years to come while also giving those connected with the club something to enjoy.

“We do have a good mix of youth and experience and again given the format the guys will be looking to go out and express themselves,” he said.

“It is an exciting squad and culture we are trying to create and hopefully lay some foundations this season before a full season next year.

“I think the main goal is for the guys to all go out and enjoy themselves and make the most of the opportunity we have been given.

“It’s been a difficult and stressful time for everyone and getting back to some normality or routine of playing summer cricket will be a relief not only for the players but supporters and all those connected to the club.

“From a players perspective, it would be great to give something back to all those supporters of the club and those that have put in so much work behind the scenes to make this season possible.”

CIYMS looking to keep standards high in 2020

Although CIYMS won’t get the chance to defend two of the four titles they won last season, captain Nigel Jones says his side won’t let their focus slip as they get ready to enter the 2020 campaign.

The Belmont club had the best season in their history last time out as they picked up the Premier League, Gallagher Challenge Cup, Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup and All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup.

They will get the opportunity to regain the LVS Twenty20 Cup, where they face a first round clash with newly-promoted Woodvale, in its new knockout format for this season and the All-Ireland crown after Cricket Ireland announced on Tuesday it would still take place.

CIYMS played 31 competitive games across five competitions last season and while they have become accustomed to busy schedules, the maximum amount they could face this year is 12.

Regardless of the lack of matches, Jones says his team are just happy to have the chance to be back on the pitch after a period where it didn’t look like any cricket would be possible.

“The boys have been back for the last week or since we got that sign off and they’ve hit the ground running,” he said.

“It’s been such a long break and the boys have been itching to get back. Everyone is just delighted to be getting some cricket.

“There is a lot of work that goes on. I’m an active committee member myself and part of our Covid committee so I’m fully aware of the work that has gone in – it isn’t a quick process.

“We’ve done everything that we have needed to do and the boys are grateful for the work that has went in.”

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Nigel Jones with the LVS T20 Cup. ©CricketEurope

The league campaign will be known as the Robinson Services Cup for the 2020 season and will be contested in a Twenty20 format.

After winning two T20 competitions last season and their squad packed with internationals, Jones has every right to be confident ahead of their opener against CSNI on July 18 but believes it could also bring more teams into the equation.

“We have been pretty strong in T20 over the last couple of seasons and made it more of a focus,” he added.

“The boys are keen to play it. We will be in the same boat as most clubs with no overseas professional but we have a strong squad with options with both bat and ball.

“We are quietly confident that we can put on a pretty good show.

“Even though we have been pretty strong at it over the last couple of seasons, it can also be a bit of a lottery in terms of the toss at times and you only need a couple of opposition batsmen to come off or have a good day with the ball and you can get beaten easily enough.

“It certainly makes it more competitive. You look at the teams that are playing, they all look like strong short-format teams.”

The Challenge Cup is the competition that players look forward to most and it’ll be the first time since 1918 that it hasn’t been contested.

CIYMS have made no secret of their desire to collect a maiden Irish Senior Cup crown but that is also set to be scrapped amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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CIYMS celebrate winning the Challenge Cup. ©CricketEurope

“We have to just accept it for what it is,” said Jones.

“We are happy as a squad just to be getting cricket first and foremost.

“From a personal perspective you know how much I love the Challenge Cup and it’s been good to me but there isn’t much we can do.

“I’m pleased it isn’t being sacrificed in terms of being played as a Twenty20 competition. It deserves its place in 50-over cricket and we have to take it on the chin that it isn’t going to be happening.

“From an All-Ireland perspective, it makes sense not to push the boat out too far.

“There mightn’t be any of the big traditional cup competitions but I think this new format in the main league will be fun and teams will certainly be trying to win it.

“The knockout cup is a bit different. That could be a bit more of a lottery without the group games and it’s one we will really need to make sure we are switched on for.”

Even though there will be a lack of competitive cricket with the reduced calendar this season, Jones says his men will be just as driven in any game they play.

“As more information has come out about what the competitions are going to be and as we get closer, the boys will start to focus their mind a bit more,” he added.

“Initially we were waiting to see what was happening and we would be happy to play some cricket even if there was nothing riding on it.

“Now that there’s a knockout T20 cup that has focused us already.

“I hate losing so as a captain I will be making sure that we aren’t daydreaming when it comes to the games we play.”