After another winter of lockdowns, uncertainty and fear, the domestic cricket season springs into action on the June Bank Holiday Monday and it can’t come a day too soon for everyone involved in our great game.
With new sponsors SportsHub on-board, the Leinster Senior League Cup continues as a 20-over competition in 2021.
Four groups of four will play a round robin format to determine the semi-finalists, before the Leinster Senior League Cup final takes place in Sydney Parade on Saturday 24th July.
In Group A Rush, Leinster, Terenure and YMCA will decide one semi-finalist. Despite being the defending champions, YMCA have had a difficult off-season with the sale of the grounds in Sandymount hanging over them.
Rush and Leinster meanwhile, have seen important players move on in Stephen Doheny and George Dockrell, respectively. However, both are hotbeds of young talent and will be hopeful of seeing more future stars step up to the first team, while Joey Carroll has returned to Rathmines for 2021.
Terenure will be hopeful the likes of Séamus Lynch and Zubair Hassan Khan continue the form that has seen them gain the attention of the Munster Inter-Provincial set-up.
The first round of games in Group A sees YMCA travel to Terenure, in a repeat of the game which closed out the group stages for both sides last year - a Harry Tector inspired YM won out that day as he made 64 without which a different result would have been likely. The Sandymount men will however be without his services for this game, with Simi Singh also on International duty, whilst Curtis Campher is side-lined after an ankle surgery. They can still call on the services of Tim and Jack Tector, as well as Rory Anders and Mitchell Thompson, all of whom have been named in IP squads in the early part of the season. Terenure are boosted by the addition of Niranjan Shankar, and with Lynch and Khan leading the line with bat and ball respectively, a very competitive clash is in the offing between these sides on Monday.
Meanwhile in Kenure, Rush host Leinster in a tie that always throws up some enthralling encounters. Last season the Rathmines men made home advantage pay as they won out by three wickets in a low-scoring affair. Much has changed at Leinster in the off-season, with a possibility of as many as 4 debutants in round 1, to supplement the returning Carroll. Their potential seam attack of Carroll, captain Venter, ever-reliable Bilal Azhar and young Mark Tonge could be as tough to face as you can find around, while their spin-twins of newly arrived duo Devender Ranolia and Aviral Shukla will be equally important to their chances. Rush pose an equal threat on the seam front, with experience in the form of Eastwood, Barnes and Ahmed, all of whom will hope to provide big impact with the bat in support of Interpro players Neil Rock and Nathan McGuire, who have both shown glimpses of form early in the season, while former captain Eoghan Conway returns to the fold after some time away from senior cricket.
Group B sees Clontarf, Cork County, Malahide and Railway Union paired together. Railway will be hoping to go one better than last season when they were runners-up to YMCA and will be relatively unchanged. Ciaran Divney should return from a serious knee injury this season.
Malahide have lost Greg Ford to Balbriggan, but the emergence of David O’Halloran for the Leinster Lightning gives them a potent attack when both himself and Peter Chase are available from international duty.
Day 1 sees Clontarf make the trip to the Mardyke, they are strengthened hugely this season with the addition of PJ Moor, who will be hoping to catch the eye of national selectors in the next 18 months of his qualifying period. Fionn Hand also joins having spent 2020 in the UK. Andrew Poynter once again captains the side, along with ‘Bobbo’ Forrest and Eoghan Delany, they boast a wealth of experience in the batting stakes. While on the bowling front, Hand joins Mick Granger, Ben McCabe and David Delany in a threatening seam-attack. Cork meanwhile have a major element of the unknown about them this season, particularly having not played in the 2020 season in Leinster. One thing that’s certain is that they will be strong in the left-arm spin department, with Diarmuid Carey and Abubakar Saddique their two premier bowlers, left-arm seamer Harvey Wootton will lead the bowling attack and whilst they’ve lost one young South African in Brandon Kruger, they have a broad span of youth players who will be champing at the bit to get a chance in Leinster for the first time.
Railway welcome Malahide to Park Avenue, with both sides missing players due to International duty. Kevin O’Brien is away for Railway, while David O’Halloran and Peter Chase will be missing for Malahide. The Villagers skipper Fintan McAllister will still be able to call on seam duo of James Newland and Cameron Shoebridge, as well as the spin of Matt Ford and Adam Coughlan, a potent attack which compliments a destructive batting line-up. Railway meanwhile will look to their spinners in Eoghan Grehan and Prabhanshu Kamal to lead the way with the ball, supporting strike bowler Oliver Perry who had a fine debut season in 2020. Their batting will be led by the ageless Kenny Carroll and captain Glenn Querl, both of whom had extremely fruitful seasons in the run to last year’s Final.
In Group C, Balbriggan have grown into a large club serving the local community and have made some shrewd acquisitions with Ford joining from Malahide, Shahid Iqbal and his son Noman from Rush and keen overseas youngsters complimenting an existing competitive side, all under the watchful eye of Head Coach Andre Botha.
Will they have enough to take on the likes of Merrion and Pembroke? Merrion have added Stephen Doheny to their always impressive batting line-up and Pembroke’s strength in depth is underlined by having at times having four Ireland squad members unavailable and still competing for top honours.
North Kildare won’t just make up the numbers on their first genuine return to senior cricket, as some experienced additions to a talented, young squad will make them a danger to anyone taking them lightly.
Merrion travel to Balbriggan for what will be the featured coverage game of Round 1. The visitors will be without Doheny, who is away on Ireland duty, but the returning Jack Carty will help in some way account for the loss of Tyrone Kane to Phoenix. Again their batting line-up boasts huge experience, Anderson, Joyce, Sorenson and Lewis are household names at this level, with Anderson aiming to add to his three consecutive Marchant Cup wins in the last three seasons. Balbriggan meanwhile have gained South African youngsters De Freitas, Lues and Davies-Webb in their ranks and the side is skippered this season by their premier batsman Connor Fletcher, if their new men bed in swiftly, they will make for a very tricky opener for the men from Ballsbridge.
Travelling to Kilcock to face North Kildare will be a Pembroke side bereft of no fewer than 4 men currently on International duty in the Netherlands, on top of losing Jack Balbirnie to the country permanently! Fiachra Tucker again captains the side, they were able to rely on some big performances from experienced players last season, both Theo and Paul Lawson contributing match-winning salvos at various points in the season. They will rely on their spin bowling in the absence of their internationals, with Lawson, Ruttle and Garth all providing options in that department. North Kildare on the other hand are boosted by the addition of several players this season, with 3 potential debutants in Patel, Azmat and Coad, as well as the returning Josh Uddin, their young pace attack of Sherzad and Maroof will be hoping to build on their debuts at this level last season when they caught the eyes of a few people around the province with some of their displays.
Group D is a group of contrasting expectations as one would expect. The Hills and North County, traditional north Dublin rivals who will be determined to get the better of one another with largely unchanged squads and plenty of familiar surnames in both line-ups.
Dublin University, with Lightning coach Nigel Jones onboard, are a little bit of an unknown quantity but will be determined to make an impression in the six games they are guaranteed for this year.
Then there is Phoenix who are building a strong squad out in the Park. Whilst they lost Ben White and Jeremy Lawlor in the off-season (who were asked to move up North), their line-up still includes the likes of InterProvincial players Aaron Cawley and Jamie Grassi who are already in their ranks whilst the two major pieces of transfer movement over the winter have seen both the Leinster and Munster captains, George Dockrell and Tyrone Kane move to the Park.
If all the pieces come together and fire at the same time, this could be quite the season for Stephen Moreton’s side and they will be expecting to be picking up silverware come the business end of the season.
The local rivals face off in round one in Milverton, a notable name returning for The Hills this season is Naseer Shoukat who didn’t play at all in 2020. They have also gained Sameer Dutt who will add some more experience to the bowling department. While new batsmen Dylan Blignaut and Murray Commins are set for debuts early in the season, but whether they appear in round one is still up in the air. North County are very nearly a case of same again, with Ryan Gallagher coming in to the squad and replacing Dhram Singh who has moved to the North West, Eddie Richardson is sure to be a key man for the Inch men again this season, while their batting line-up has the potential to pile up some big scores if any of Mooney, McGovern or Andrews can get going.
The final game to note in the first round is Dublin University hosting Phoenix – the home side look set to have the services of Nigel Jones for round one, while they’ve also added Gavin Hoey and Sam Streek to their squad. Captain Sanil Gupta along with Nicolaas Pretorious will be vital for the students chances with the bat. Phoenix meanwhile can call on in-form Lightning batsman Grassi, skipper Adam Chester and James Maginnis will both hope to find some form with the bat, while their bowling will be led by Munster Reds trio Kane, Cawley and Theo Dempsey, they are however without Dockrell who’s incredible form with the bat has seen him regain his spot in the National side.
The SportsHub Leinster Senior League Cup gets underway on Monday 7th June with the first round of eight matches.
Main coverage on the day will come from Jack Harper Memorial Park as Balbriggan welcome Merrion to North County Dublin. Twitter updates will be on @cricketleinster with full match report, results round-up and photo gallery from Oisin Keniry in Balbriggan on the website at the close of play.
Sports Hub Senior League Cup Fixtures Monday 7th June
1pm Terenure v YMCA, Terenure
2pm Rush v Leinster, Kenure
1pm Railway Union v Malahide, Park Avenue
2pm Cork County v Clontarf, The Mardyke
1pm Balbriggan v Merrion, Jack Harper Memorial Park (full reporting coverage)
1pm North Kildare v Pembroke, The Maws
2pm Dublin University v Phoenix, College Park
2pm The Hills v North County, The Vineyard