North County vs North Kildare
North County had a good start to the season with a strong T20 campaign leading them to the semi-final of that competition, before narrowly losing to eventual winners, Merrion. However, they would have been disappointed with their first game in this division, where they were beaten comprehensively by Railway Union away from home. They return to their home ground today, and will be looking forward to getting back on track.
They are led by Eddie Richardson, who has been given able support by John Mooney throughout the season. These two provide the bulk of the runs and the wickets for this side, with superb all-round performances. However, they have other strong performers with the bat and you wouldn’t be surprised to see runs from Niall McGovern, Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Sheridan soon. Cian Mulvaney is also one to watch out for with the ball, as his slow left arm can be very potent on turning wickets.
North Kildare had an excellent start to this tournament with a convincing win against Co Galway. They have been aided by the off-season additions of Monil Patel, Waqar Azmat and Danny Coad, who have all added to the depth in the North Kildare batting ranks. They are building a strong squad as a result and will be looking to have a solid league season.
The bowling has also looked good so far this season and there was an excellent five wicket haul for Wasif Ali against Co Galway. However, the one to properly look out for is young gun, Muzamil Sherzad, who has represented the Ireland u19 team in some of their Emerging Series games this year. He is able to move the new ball around with good control, which can cause problems to opposing batters at the start of innings.
KEY BATTLE; Eddie Richardson vs Monil Patel
Rush vs Cork County
Rush will be looking for the return of Nathan McGuire and Neil Rock to the side to draw about an improvement in batting displays for the Kenure side, who have been short of runs this season. McGuire and Rock have both scored big runs in the T20 format when returning to their club side, and will now need to transfer that to the 50 over competition. Youngster Finn McGee has also hit the ground running at 1st team level this year after making his debut earlier in the season, and is a prospect to look out for.
Rush have an experienced bowling attack, full of first team wickets. The opening partnership of Allan Eastwood and Jarred Barnes is very good at this level, with the two very tall bowlers likely to test out opening batters' techniques. Asher Abbasi is the wildcard for Rush, with his good pace and ability to hit very quick lower order runs being a valuable asset to the side, They will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing five wicket loss to Terenure in their first game.
Cork County were also defeated in their game in this competition to Balbriggan, but there was more than enough promise in that effort to suggest that they will be winning games this season. They are led from the front by Ross Durity, who was in the runs against Balbriggan opening the batting, and has been a stalwart for this side for many seasons now. There were also runs for Rudolph Pollard, who adds plenty to this Cork side with both bat and ball.
The main all-rounder to watch out for is Aboubaker Saddique, who is well known for his vast middle-order hitting and also his tight slow left arm. He will be key to the success of the Cork side, who will be looking to cement themselves in this division with a strong showing this year. Losing to Balbriggan was no disgrace and they will be hoping to upset Rush on their home ground this weekend.
KEY BATTLE; Neil Rock vs Harvey Wootton
Balbriggan vs Railway Union
It has been a really good year for Balbriggan so far, who so nearly qualified for the T20 Semi-Finals in a tricky group that included Pembroke and Merrion. They then backed those performances up with a convincing win over Cork County in the first round of fixtures in this competition. This was inspired by a brilliant unbeaten hundred from Greg Ford, who has been excellent since joining from Malahide in the close season.
They have plenty of excellent players in this side, including the new addition of Christopher DeFreitas, who has put in some top notch all-round performances so far this year. They also have Nathan Rooney captaining the side, who can score runs at a blistering pace in the latter stages of the innings. That added to a bowling unit that includes the impressive off-spin of Farooq Nasr, they have a very well rounded squad and will take some stopping this year.
Railway Union have had an equally good season so far and started their campaign by causing a minor shock by beating North County in decisive fashion. That was helped brilliantly by an unbeaten 84 from Glenn Querl, who should be back available for the side after being involved in the coaching ticket for the Irish Women’s Side this week. Phillipe Le Roux is also one to watch out for with the bat in hand, he has made some stylish runs for the Irish u19s so far this year, and will be looking to transfer that to this Railway side.
The bowling attack for Railway is balanced and varied and causes major concerns, especially on their home pitches. Oliver Perry has been leading the attack for the last two seasons, but is ably supported by Fakhar Zaman, Hashir Sultan and the leg-spin of Eoghan Grehan. Despite going into this game as small underdogs, Railway are a team to underestimate at your peril, and are sure to have a good season.
KEY BATTLE; Greg Ford vs Prabhanshu Kamal
Terenure vs Co Galway
The final clash of the weekend comes from Terenure, where the home side will be looking to get their second win on the trot after an impressive 5 wicket win against Rush last time out. It was an excellent effort all-round, but led by the bowling unit. After an impressive opening spell from Zubair Khan, it was the bowling in tandem of Hayden Sharland and Sadiq Safi, who both took three wickets each, that swung the game in Terenure’s favour.
It was an accomplished run chase as well, as a Mick Cotter half century led them to a comfortable win. However, Cotter will be missing this week’s engagement due to work commitments, and therefore more pressure will be heaped onto Seamus Lynch and Daniel Wicks at the top of the order to score the necessary runs. Lynch, who has been playing for the Munster Reds this year, is an impressive top order batter and improving wicket keeper.
Galway are new to this division and suffered a heavy defeat to North Kildare on their first taste of Championship action. This being said, it was not a performance without a lot of positives, and the bowling effort showed up to be very decent. There were wickets for the duo of Ramnathpur and Youzafai for the Galway side, who restricted North Kildare to 240.
The batting didn’t quite stand up to the test against North Kildare, and a lot of pressure will be on the opening pair of Shariq Nasim, who top scored with 35, and Vageesh Shivraprasad - who formerly played for YMCA in recent seasons. They are captained by Conor Mullen, who is a steady anchor to their side in the middle order and will be looking to score important runs throughout the season. They are underdogs this year in the Championship, but have shown more than enough to suggest they will be very competitive.
KEY BATTLE; Séamus Lynch vs Subramanya Ramnathpur
NORTH COUNTY VS NORTH KILDARE, INCH, 12:00
RUSH VS CORK COUNTY, KENURE, 12:00
BALBRIGGAN VS RAILWAY UNION, JACK HARPER MEMORIAL PARK, 12:00
TERENURE VS CO GALWAY, TERENURE, 12:00