The 2019 season is drawing to a close and it has been four months of exciting,
dramatic action in the Northern Cricket Union.
CIYMS picked up four trophies, Muckamore were ultimately relegated from the Robinson Services Premier League and Woodvale secured promotion to the top-flight for the 2020 season.
It is that time of year again where we hand out the JM Sport End of Season
Awards in a range of categories. Let’s begin.
NCU Player of the Year
Winner – James Cameron-Dow
Honourable mentions: Jacob Mulder, Chris Dougherty
This was maybe the toughest category to decide out of all that you will see in this
article due to how well CIYMS played this season and how many contributed to
Cameron-Dow, just like Mulder, picked up 47 wickets throughout the season in
all competitions while Dougherty scored a wonderful 916 runs while playing a
part in 43 dismissals behind the stumps.
With overseas professionals excluded from this (their own category coming up), I opted for Cameron-Dow who picked up his wickets at an average of 14.32 in 29 matches with a strike-rate of 22.
His economy was also 3.91 and he rated just slightly better than his spin twin
Mulder in those categories, but there was barely anything in it which is further
illustrated by the fact his best figures were 4-10 and Mulder’s were 4-11.
Cameron-Dow also chipped in with some important runs down the order – none
more so than in CIYMS’ first league meeting with North Down that had a big say on the title even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Cameron-Dow helped CIYMS to four trophies in 2019
Innings of the Year
Winner – Greg Thompson (153 vs CSNI, 12 May)
Honourable mentions: Andre Malan (145* vs North Down), Jacques Snyman
(190* vs Instonians)
I can only judge this on the innings that I witnessed personally throughout the
season and because I wasn’t present at Middle Road when Snyman blasted190*
against Instonians, I can’t go with that although I’m sure it was brilliant.
At Stormont in early-May, three of the seven highest run scores throughout the
whole season were complied with Greg Thompson (153) and James McCollum (140) scoring centuries in the first innings before Andre Malan (136) notched up his own in a 50-run defeat.
Thompson was fresh off hitting 149* the previous day at The Lawn against
Instonians and was in superb form, hitting 153 from 118 balls with 16 fours and six maximums.
I tweeted very early on that Thompson was going to go big on that sunny Sunday
because of how good he looked from ball one and that proved to be the case as
Waringstown motored to 347-7 despite being 25-3.
Thompson has had an impressive season so far, hitting 757 runs at an average of
47.31 with Waringstown scheduled to face North Down on Saturday.
Bowling performance of the Year
Winner – Josh Manley’s first spell against CIYMS – Challenge Cup final
Manley had a wonderful debut season in the NCU and his run in the Gallagher Challenge Cup was something special.
After dismissing four of Waringstown’s top five in the quarter-final to knock the
reigning champions out of the competition, he fired in the final to dismiss CI’s top three and leave the favourites reeling at 12-3.
It took some special batting from Jason van der Merwe and Obus Pienaar to get
them out of it before Mark Adair took over late on, but that opening spell from
Manley was incredible.
In the end, he picked up figures of 4-42 from 9.2 overs which doesn’t tell the
whole story and he is set to have a big impact in the coming years with the
Northern Knights and potentially Ireland.
Overseas professional of the Year
Winner – Andre Malan
Honourable mentions: Jacques Snyman, Ruhan Pretorius
Copy + paste from the 2018 season.
Malan was brilliant last season but somehow found a way to be even more
impressive in 2019, hitting a league-high 1,238 runs at an astonishing average of
65.16 with six fifties and five centuries in 23 innings. Truly insane.
If that wasn’t enough, he would also take 41 wickets for CSNI with a strike-rate
of 23.02 before jetting back to South Africa where he is set for another busy
He has been the best player in the NCU for the past two seasons and I’m sure he
will have no shortage of offers to come back in 2020.
Snyman smashed 1,085 runs in his first season for Carrickfergus and also took 24
wickets while Pretorius averaged over 50 for the fourth consecutive season and
made his mark on the Inter-Provincial game with the Northern Knights.
Andre Malan batting in the Premier League against North Down
Captain of the Year
Winner – Nigel Jones
Honourable mentions: Alistair Shields, Adam Berry
I feel like this is a straightforward answer considering how the season unfolded
with Jones leading CIYMS to four trophies.
He has the best squad of players at his disposal but he is the one that holds
everything together at Belmont and it is clear to see he has created a real team
culture there and they’d been building up to a season like this.
Jones has also tried to give youth a chance when possible with the likes of Zach Solomon and Carson McCullough playing on a regular basis and when it comes
time for him to leave the club, they are going to have an almost impossible job
replacing him which pretty much sums his impact up.
Alistair Shields turned North Down from a sixth-placed side into title contenders
in the space of a season and he will be looking to add one or two more to his
squad for 2020 as they look to take that next step.
I know Lisburn lost their last eight in a row, but staying in the Premier League
after being promoted isn’t an easy task in this day and age, so Berry deserves
credit for that and Lisburn’s early season form.
Winner – John Matchett
Honourable mentions: Ollie Metcalfe
Matchett has been opening the batting for CIYMS for a few years now but this felt like the season where he really broke through and showed what he is all about.
Over the past month he has shown incredible form to end up with 838 runs at the top of the order at an average of 34.
He played a massive part in winning the All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup, sharing two
century stands in a day with Chris Dougherty and was named man of the match in the final for his half-century.
Matchett will be on the verge of Northern Knights selection if he can carry this
sort of momentum into 2020 and seems to be the future of CIYMS.
Ollie Metcalfe is the best teenage batsman in the union and has scored 543 runs so far with his highlight being an Irish Senior Cup century against Cork County.
Matchett being awarded Man of the Match in the All-Ireland T20 final
Winner: Ryan Hunter
A new category for this season and it is awarded to someone that had a big say in
even bigger matches but perhaps was overshadowed by the performances of
those above him.
Hunter didn’t have as many opportunities this season for CIYMS but always stood up when his side needed him in the games that mattered.
Just this past weekend, he scored 30* of CI’s 113 to set a reasonable total against
North Down in a game that all but secured the league crown and was there at the end against Instonians in the deciding match as they reached 192 for a tie.
Hunter also scored 39 in the Gallagher Challenge Cup final in a 110-run sixth
wicket stand with Mark Adair .
Best signing of 2019
Winner – CJ van der Walt
Honourable mentions: Josh Manley, Murray Commins
Van der Walt kicked his 2019 season off by picking up a five-wicket haul for
Carrickfergus in the opening Premier League game and didn’t really look back
Batting in the middle order, van der Walt scored 653 runs at an average of
almost 40 as Carrick reached their first ever Irish Senior Cup quarter-final and
rounded the league campaign off by winning six in a row.
He also took 30 wickets to cap off what is the ultimate all-round season and with
the likes of Snyman, Jamie Holmes and van der Walt, Carrick have a team going
forward that should be capable of winning trophies.
They have all the potential and have added firepower, so a couple more additions during the winter could see them take that next step.
Umpire of the Year
Winner – Alan Neill
Honourable mention: Michael Foster
When deciding this category I looked to who officiated the biggest matches, and
Neill was in the middle for both the Irish Senior Cup final and Gallagher
Challenge Cup final alongside Phil Thompson.
It has been a big season for umpires with four of them (Neill included) receiving
contracts from Cricket Ireland and the standard is seemingly increasing and
participation also healthy enough in the NCU.
Foster stood in his first Irish Senior Cup final alongside Neill at Milverton this
season between Pembroke and Waringstown which is a fantastic achievement.
It is a great advert for our officials that two of them were doing the biggest club
game of the season while another, Jareth McCready, was on third umpire duties.
Women’s Player of the Year
Winner – Alison Cowan
Honourable mentions: Abbi Leckey, Amy Caulfield, Suzi Morrison-Keates
The women’s game has continued to improve year upon year and the Challenge Cup final at Stormont between CSNI and Muckamore was a great, exciting spectacle that went down to the final ball.
Captain Abbi Leckey held her nerve in the final over as CSNI secured their first
cup title after falling at the final hurdle against Lurgan last season while also
picking up the Premier League crown.
Cowan has been the star of CSNI’s team throughout the season, finishing not out
in five of the six league matches that they played, scoring three half-centuries in
She also scored another half-century in the Challenge Cup against Waringstown
while registering 42 in a semi-final success against Lurgan in what was a special year for CSNI’s women’s side.
Coach of the Year
Winner – Simon Johnston
When you talk to any player that has spent any amount of time in the company of Johnston, they are so enthusiastic about his love for the game and how brilliant he is as a coach.
The Knights haven’t had the luck with injuries or the squad to truly compete on
all fronts before this year, but everything seemed to click in the Twenty20 side of things and they also showed a lot of promise in the 50-over competition, beating Leinster in Dublin.
A true reflection on a coach is how the players improve in their company and it is no coincidence that Mark Adair, Shane Getkate and James McCollum are now
established Ireland stars while Jacob Mulder, James Cameron-Dow, Greg
Thompson, Harry Tector and David Delany have all been involved/are set to be involved.
Johnston has a very exciting squad at his disposal now and it’s going to be interesting going forward to see how they perform.
(Fun fact: Johnty was once my coach at NCU Under-15 level and dropped me at the
final stage before the Inter-Pro’s. I’m not bitter. I promise. I’m fine!)
Section One Player of the Year
Winner – Stephen Bunting
Honourable mentions: Wayne Horwood
Woodvale were by far and away the best side in Section One this season and
were able to take that leap from contenders to champions.
Without having access to any statistics for the S1 campaign and having watched
limited action in the competition, I am relying a lot on scorecards and statistics
for this selection.
I played in two games for my home club Armagh this season against Holywood,
where David Kennedy took 8-29 in the first innings before Ross Adair smashed
70* from what felt like 30 balls, and a comfortable win against Ballymena.
Bunting features on almost every scorecard in some fashion, be that with bat or ball, with a couple of six wicket hauls scattered in there while Horwood played a great role at the top of the order setting a platform for the Ballygomartin Road men.
It is a big jump to the Premier League but they’ve two proven performers already
in their side and will need to recruit smartly.
One thing I would change for 2020?
Answer: White ball Premier League
Not really an award as such but it was included on Twitter so thought this was as good a place to answer it as any.
I am a big advocate for a 10-team Premier League but I don’t know if I want it put in place for the 2020 season because the team coming second in Section One didn’t know they were playing for that and mightn’t be ready, but if they are happy to be promoted then I’m all for it.
If we have 10 teams who all play each other once and then the league is split into two groups of five, I believe it would produce more competitive cricket with the last four games of the season being played between teams of the similar standard and could also help the need to spend big money knowing those teams who are looking to survive will be playing against each other in the remaining weeks.
One thing that I would really love to see tested is a white-ball, coloured kit
I don’t know if it’s just me, but turning up to watch a white-ball game is more exciting and it feels conducive to better games, more runs and a better spectacle.
The best times of the season are always big cup games (which are all white ball)
and I would be interested to see if that would translate into the league.
Could CIYMS be defending their title in a white ball league come 2020?