Clontarf vs Merrion
In one of the most intriguing clashes of the weekend, Clontarf take on Merrion at Castle Avenue, with both sides looking to get an important win on the board.
Clontarf have been in good form so far this season, and made it to the semi-final stage of the T20 competition and have started this 50 over format well with a win and a tie from their two games thus far. They would have a lot of expectations coming into this competition, as they are renowned to be such a strong side, and are suited by this format.
The top order looks particularly strong, with Robert Forrest and PJ Moor adding a lot of momentum at the start of the innings, before a solid middle order which includes Eoghan Delany, Fionn Hand and John McNally. Between them, they have a great balance of young players coming through, and experienced players who can provide a lot of expertise.
A great example of this is the opening bowling partnership of Mick Granger and Ben McCabe. Both bowlers provide very different tests, with McCabe’s left arm in-swing tough to face, and Granger with plenty of pace and movement, providing a much different but equally tough test for opening batters. They will be looking to cause problems to what is a very good Merrion batting line-up.
Merrion have also had a solid start to this competition with a win and two abandoned games so far in their three fixtures. However, they were perhaps on the back foot when the game against YMCA was called off for bad light, and they suffered a surprise reverse to Cork Harlequins in the All-Ireland T20 Semi-Final last weekend.
This means that this weekend’s game is crucial for them, as it will be very important to bounce back from those efforts and to get back on the winning thread in this important league clash. With both of these sides having such ability, one would feel it will be a high class game.
The top order of Merrion was shown to great effect against YMCA with half centuries for Carty and Doheny, and they’ll be looking for them to lead the way again with the bat, with John Anderson in typically fine form at number 3 also.
It’s hard to split these two sides and it should be an excellent game between them.
KEY BATTLE: Mick Granger vs Jack Carty
Malahide vs Phoenix
Malahide come into this clash after what has been an excellent start to their 50 over campaign. Comfortable victories against The Hills and Leinster mean they boast a 100% strike rate thus far, and come into this game with plenty of momentum.
There is a brilliant balance to this Malahide side, who have had plenty of success with both bat and ball already this season. The pair of brothers, the Frost’s and the Reynolds’ have been leading the way. The left arm spin of Mike Frost has been very difficult to get away and paired with the good seam attack which is led by David O’Halloran and James Newland, who have both been in the wickets thus far this year.
Added to the solid batting line up has been the revelation of Callum Riches, who has been in tremendous form and excelling in his new role at number 3 in the order, and has added plenty to the two wins so far. Alongside Ali Frost and Alan Reynolds, there are plenty of run scoring options within this side.
Phoenix will have been disappointed as they didn’t get over the line against The Hills in an important game last time out, failing by just a wicket on this occasion after a spirited effort with the ball.
However, it’s the batting for Phoenix that continues to let them down, and they only managed 133 against The Hills, which was another disappointing effort. With the likes of George Dockrell and Jamie Grassi within the ranks, you would think that a turn of fortunes with the bat in hand must come pretty soon, as it is not through a lack of quality in the order.
They can take good encouragement from their bowling efforts, which have been keeping themselves in games so far and if they were to click both the batting and bowling together, they will be a force to be reckoned with against any side in this division.
KEY BATTLE: James Newland vs George Dockrell
The Hills vs YMCA
The Hills came out on top of that dramatic game against Phoenix two weeks ago and will be looking to bring that momentum into this home fixture against YMCA, who are a team they have a good record against in recent years in this competition.
They have their bowling attack to thank so far this year, with the seam bowling of Blignaut and Murphy leading the line in impressive fashion. However, it has been the young duo of Cian Nulty and Killian McGrane who have completed the attack to great effect.
Their batting has been a little bit short so far in this competition, but with the quality within the top order of The Hills, you’d be surprised if that was to continue to be the case. Donegan, McLoughlin-Gavin and Commins are all excellent players and will be looking to cash in during an important home fixture.
As for YMCA, they will have been very annoyed to have been brought off on the cusp of victory against Merrion a few weeks ago, which denied them a potentially important victory. They had Harry Tector back for that game, and they will be further boosted this weekend by Curtis Campher coming back into the side.
On Saturday, they miss the duo of Jack Tector and Mitchell Thompson, which will be a difficult loss given these two opened the batting against Merrion, and Thompson was in the wickets. Impressive wicket-keeper, JJ Cassidy, will take over the captaincy duties for the Saturday game.
YMCA have an important double weekend this week and will be looking for an important victory in either this game or their Phoenix game on Sunday to give themselves some needed momentum.
KEY BATTLE: Bobby Gamble vs Murray Commins
Pembroke vs Leinster
Pembroke have also had an impressive start to this competition with a win and a tie from their two completed games, and were perhaps a shade unlucky to only tie the game against Clontarf.
Unlike many of the other sides in this division, the batting of Pembroke has been the hallmark of their success, with three Tucker brothers leading the way with runs from Fiachra, Lorcan and Diarmuid all in the first couple of games. I mentioned last week that their seam bowling looked a little bit light, with Joe Prendergast doing an excellent job to fill that void against Clontarf.
However, last week Barry McCarthy was due to play, and it will be interesting to see whether Josh Little might be able to return to the side, which would help out the balance of the attack massively, which is a majorly spin orientated. Coming into this game, you would have to think that Pembroke are favourites, and if they manage to post another good score batting first, they could well be in a commanding position.
Leinster have yet to register a victory in the Premier League with defeats to both Merrion and Malahide. It was a decent effort against Malahide before falling to a four wicket victory.
Like many other teams, their batting has been their achilles heel so far this year, but it was encouraging to see runs for JP O’Dwyer and Jack Salter against Malahide and they’ll need people to continue to put their hands up in the next few weeks if they are to post totals or chase totals to win games.
The bowling has been excellent so far and it has a nice balance between seam and spin within it. Aviral Shukla has been bowling with nice control and has taken a fair few wickets this year since his switch from YMCA, and alongside Bahadur and Ranolia, they are a good spin trio. They come into this game as underdogs, but that may well suit them, and they could spring a surprise at any stage.
KEY BATTLE: Paul Lawson vs Joey Carroll
Phoenix vs YMCA
These two sides are the only teams who have a double weekend this week, with Phoenix hosting YMCA on Sunday. YMCA’s lack of a home ground this year has meant that they have to play all their fixtures away from home, and therefore certain games are being rescheduled, such as this one.
A lot of how this game pans out may well depend on how the games on Saturday transpire, as it could be the team with the most momentum that carries the aces going into this Sunday tie. For both sides, double weekends of 50 over cricket can be difficult and draining both mentally and physically, so this is a huge tie for both sides - who have neither registered a victory so far in this competition.
Phoenix will be looking to make that home advantage count in this fixture, and will be looking to bounce into this game after a good performance against Malahide away from home. They will be hoping the returning Adam Chester can contribute with the bat in hand, while Aaron Cawley and Conor Sheil will once again be entrusted to lead the way with the ball in hand.
YMCA have a tough weekend with two tricky away fixtures, and this will provide another chance to get an important win on the board. They will have the duo of Jack Tector and Thompson back for Sunday’s game, which will give them a very strong side and when they have their Irish Internationals back, they are a major force to be reckoned with.
If they can capitalize on the return of these players for these critical games, they could take a much needed win from this weekend and into the rest of the campaign, to give them a chance to finish the season on a high.
KEY BATTLE: Aaron Cawley vs Jack Tector