The season started early. In fact there were three rounds of competition completed before the 1stMay. But remarkably only one game was lost to the weather out of 45. The winners of the two sections, The Hills and Merrion, dominated the early stages of the tournament and both qualified for the semi-finals with a round to spare. But there were still multiple teams competing for semi-final places and for access to the Premier League right through to the final rounds. In other words there were relatively few dead rubber matches [by my count there were only two matches where the result did not have a material impact on the outcome of the competition or qualification for the Premier league].
Perhaps reflecting the early start, the first round of the competition saw the bowlers dominate with a scoring rate of only 0.58 runs per ball. Over the following rounds the batting sides increased the rate and by the end of the tournament the average had gone up to 0.72. Only in R2 did the scoring rate rise above a run a ball and the SF/F stages again saw the bowlers dominate with the rate falling back to 0.58.
The average runs per wicket started off at 19.99 but quickly climbed above 20 and ended up a respectable 23.10. There were a total of 13 centuries, 71 50s and 9 five wicket hauls. The 225 wides and 20 No Balls in R1 were never repeated and in the end the average number of wides per match was just under 25 and no balls 2.3.
Looking back over the tournament, and with the benefit of hindsight, there were a number of key moments and exceptional performances.
The Hills beat YMCA in a tight contest by two wickets. Recovering from 88/7 The Hills reached the YMCA total of 156 in the last over thanks to an undefeated 68 by Daya Singh.
Balbriggan produce the first shock of the tournament by beating last year’s runners-up in the Premier League, Clontarf, by 32 runs. Seeking to overturn a score of 228/7, Clontarf looked well on the way to victory on 152/2 until Farooq Nasr [4/38] and Ehtesham Ahmed [3/37] brought about a spectacular collapse.
Elsewhere Pembroke skittled out Leinster out for 88 with five players getting a brace of wickets each, and then went on to win by seven wickets. This proved to be an important win in the context of the final table.
Clontarf figured in another important game in the second round but again they were to come off second best. Batting first Merrion scored 322/6 [the second of three scores over 300 in a row] but in what had been a closely fought match until then, the game turned in the 36thover when Michael Lewis hit five sixes in a row and took 32 off the over. Clontarf never really recovered and now with two losses were in trouble.
In the other section Dublin University nearly spoiled Malahide’s day when they ended up on 194/6, 19 runs short, in a rain affected game. It was an important win for Malahide and now with two wins in Section A they were set up to compete for honours.
R3 saw a series of one sided matches. The Hills bundled out North County for 67 [the lowest score of the competition] with Luke Clinton taking a career best 7/13 [also the best figures for the tournament]. There were also critical wins for Malahide over YMCA and Leinster, under DLS, over Balbriggan.
Clontarf again featured in a tight finish as Clontarf failed to defend 212 and lost by three wickets. At 200/7 with Gareth Delany just out for an excellent 101, Clontarf had a sniff of a chance, but two sixes from Abdul Sattar in the 45thover ended the match.
North County had a narrow 12 run win over Railway to get them back into contention for a Premier league place in a match which saw no batsman pass 50 runs. Shariq Khan had taken 6/42 in the NC innings but this was no enough as Railway’s batting was unable to deliver.
Terenure had their best game of the tournament so far and nearly pulled off an upset against Rush. Terenure could only manage 122, with Jarred Barnes taking 4/33, but fought hard in the field with Mark Thomas taking 4/43 as Rush squeezed home by two wickets.
In a trailer for the final, The Hills beat Phoenix by 26 runs and cemented their place at the top of Section A. Once again they were able to defend an average total of 210/8. In the Phoenix innings Nicolaas Pretorius and Poonish Mehta both made half-centuries but they did not get the support they needed from the rest of the order. Daya Singh completed a memorable day by taking 4/45 to add to the 57 he made in The Hills innings.
Rush scored the highest aggregate score of 402/5 in the tournament and again it was the Clontarf bowlers who were on the receiving end. Jurie Snyman made the highest individual score – 178 in 106 balls – with good support from Neil Rock  and Nathan Mcguire . A century by Eoghan Delany was the highlight of a spirited Clontarf reply of 318/8 and what I believe is the highest aggregate total  in an overs match.
Note: The previous highest  was in a 50 over match in Inch in 2011 between North County II and Rush. The highest total in a single innings match was the 863 runs scored in the timeless Senior Cup semi-final between Merrion and Railway in 1961 when Railway made 485/7 and Merrion replied with 378.
This proved the decisive round for some clubs. YMCA’s victory by two wickets over North County chasing 277 was a massive effort and all but assured them of a Premier league place. Jonathan Andrews  and Eddie Richardson  had put North County into a strong position at the halfway point and after losing two quick wickets the YMCA cause seemed lost. Contributions from John Cassidy , Rory Anders , Tim Tector , Fionn Hand  brought the large NC total within reach. But with an over to go eleven runs were still needed to secure victory. This was achieved in five balls as Bobby Gamble reached the target and his 50 with two sixes. On such small margins do seasons turn.
Another key game in this round was the encounter between Rush and Pembroke. Again the winning side had to chase down a large score. Rush batted first and made 276/9 mainly thanks to Nathan Maguire  and Subramanya Ramnathur . But it wasn’t enough as a century from Theo Lawson helped secure a four wicket win for Pembroke with seven balls remaining.
At this point in the competition both Merrion and The Hills were already qualified for the semi-finals and neither were in action. But there was still plenty to play for with the crucial game being the win by Phoenix over Malahide. In the end this was achieved quite comfortably with Phoenix reaching their target of 198 for the loss of only two wickets.
Terenure had a memorable victory over Leinster winning by 35 runs, but as it turned out it didn’t matter as Pembroke secured the second semi-final place from Section B with a comfortable eight wickets win over Clontarf with Theo Lawson [122*] making another century.
But the match of the round, and perhaps of the whole tournament, was the clash between Rush and Balbriggan to determine who would get the final premier League spot. Rush batted first and 150 from Neil Rock set the platform for a massive 351 all out in the 50thover. Not to be outdone Balbriggan reached 345/7 in their 50 overs – 142 from Clinton Hinchliffe with support from Nathan Rooney  and Connor Fletcher . The difference of six runs was a very small margin with nearly 700 runs scored on the day. The extra wides bowled by Balbriggan  as opposed to only 5 by Rush, proved crucial.
The final tables looked like this, with the top four in both Sections qualifying for the Premier League.
In many ways the semi-final and finals proved something of an anti-climax. All the games were low scoring with no total exceeding 200. The losing sides in the semi-finals, Merrion [v Phoenix] and Pembroke [v The Hills] had opportunities to win their respective games but in the end the margins of 51 runs [DLS] for Phoenix and three wickets for The Hills were comfortable enough. Amish Sidhu turned in a match winning performance for Phoenix in taking 5/21 and also contributing 38 runs in a vital partnership with Poonish Metha  to rescue the Phoenix innings. Three wickets each for The Hills’ opening attack of Daya Singh [3/32] and Naseer Shoukat [3/14] reduced Pembroke to 114. Pembroke fought hard to defend this low total but it was never looked like being enough.
And what can you say of the final other than that Naseer Shoukat proved once again what a marvellous bowler he is in taking 7/20 [and he could have had more if a couple of late catches weren't dropped] and bowling Phoenix out for 84. The Hills duly won by seven wickets.
The outstanding individual performances with bat and ball [in terms of scoring and economy rates] are set out below. But the player of the tournament is surely Naseer Shoukat for his big match contributions as well as for taking 14 wickets at the miserly rate of 3.1 runs per over.