Today sees the semi-finals of the SportsHub Leinster Senior League Cup played out, with the winners set to face off in the final in Sydney Parade next Saturday. Merrion play host to North County at Anglesea Road, whilst holders YMCA must travel to Castle Avenue to face Clontarf, who have a rich recent history in the Senior Cup.
This week we spoke to all four captains in the lead up to the games, starting off with Merrion, Tom Stanton is looking forward to hosting North County after his side’s exceptionallast-ditch efforts to ensure qualification from their group;
“We’re delighted to be in the Semi-Finals. Going into the game against Pembroke we knew what we had to do in order to qualify and I had every faith in our team to deliver the margin of victory required. Pembroke got off to a good start with the ball but we dug deep through John Anderson and James Hitchcock to get a score on the board and something to defend. A strong start with ball in hand was vital for us and we managed to do so with early wickets. Tight bowling from all of our bowlers coupled with a lot of fight and determination in the field kept us on top from there on in. Having home supporters was huge for us and we really appreciated their efforts from behind the rope, they will be crucial for us this coming weekend as well.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s opponents, Stanton is wary of what skills the Inch side have to offer, but also nods towards the potential advantage which the draw has thrown up for them in terms of playing the game at home;
“North County have a lot of experience to draw on and some talented cricketers in their side, we’re looking forward to that challenge and battle on the pitch. Having home advantage is a nice bonus, knowing our own conditions and what to do with bat and ball. We just can’t wait to get going in a big double weekend for our side.”
Meanwhile from the North County side, Eddie Richardson’s team won a winner-take-all tie with Dublin University to ensure their passage to the semi-final stage;
“We had a good win last weekend, it was a great batting performance from the lads with everyone chipping in and thebowlers kept doing their job like they have all season”
Looking at his own side, Richardson points out that everyone has contributed in some way to getting to this stage of the competition, and as a result, it would be tough to pick out anyone as being particularly important;
“Our whole team are key players – we’ve had runs and wickets from everyone at some stage in the competition to get us important wins to make sure we’ve qualified, so it’s definitely been a team effort more than just one or two players at any time”
As attentions turn to Merrion on the weekend, Eddie is quick to look at some well known figures as players which County will have to keep an eye on this weekend if they are to have a chance of beating Merrion;
“Merrion are a very strong side, hopefully we can keep Ando (John Anderson) and Max (Sorensen) quiet, but again the result will mainly be down to our own performance”
From a neutral perspective on the game there’s obviously plenty to look out for, Richardson and John Mooney provide firepower and match-winning ability with both bat and ball for County, whilst Merrion have the explosive power of Jack Carty and Max Sorensen as well as the consistent run scoring of John Anderson and Michael Lewis, but it’s highly possible that a niche skill is the one which could separate the teams. Merrion’s duo of left-arm spinners, Amish Sidhu and Tom Stanton, are in fine form with ball in hand, while County’s Cian Mulvaney took the vital wicket of Gavin Hoey in last week’s must-win encounter with Trinity. On a pitch that is likely to assist the spinners, these three will play vital roles for their sides.
KEY BATTLE: Tom Stanton vs Eddie Richardson
Meanwhile at Castle Avenue, the home side are looking forward to a tough encounter with YMCA, captain Bobbo Forrest however started off by acknowledging just how deep ‘Tarf had to dig in order to qualify last weekend;
“We are all very excited for our semi-final on Sunday against YMCA have squeezed past Malahide last Saturday in a nail biting chase which we thankfully came out the right side of.”
His team have been in good form with both bat and ball, and Forrest is quick to acknowledge where the many strengths of his team lie, with a plethora of players all more than capable of contributing match-winning performances at any stage;
“Our batting isn't short on power hitting and we have had a lot of good starts between myself and PJ. Eoghan has then given us a solid foundation to allow David (Delany), Fionn(Hand) and John (McNally) the freedom to bat positively. With the ball, Mick (Granger) and Ben (McCabe) have been excellent up front with David Vincent, David Delany, Polly(Conor Kelly), Fionn and Kashif (Ali) all being excellent through the middle overs.”
Looking at their opposition, Bobbo is quick to point to a couple of key men who have excelled with the ball for YM so far this season;
“YMCA are a similar team that is full of talented cricketers. From looking at the scorecards, Cillian and Mikey have put teams on the back foot and it is crucial to not allow them take wickets first up.”
Meanwhile with the bat, whilst they may be shorn of their international talent, Forrest still points to some excellent players within YM’s ranks that they will need to keep under wraps to give themselves the best chance to progress;
“Their whole batting line up is full of talent and the 2 Tectorswill likely be the 2 main targets for us early on but even if we managed to dismiss them cheaply, they have so many other players to worry about. It will be a very very close game and I'm hoping we can come out on top!”
YMCA had the most comfortable passage of the four teams through the group stage, ultimately finishing 44 points clear of Rush, having lost just once to Leinster in the second round of fixtures. The Sandymount side have now won 4 games on the bounce and will look to continue that momentum into the semi-final stage. Captain Jack Tector is quick to acknowledge the all-round efforts of the squad in qualifying:
“Obviously it’s great to be through to the semi-final stage again this season, five wins in our group was an excellent achievement, and considering the number of players we were without for the two InterPro weekends, it was great to see the likes of Mikey O’Reilly, Cillian McDonnell, Bobby Gamble and Tom Anders step up with some really strong performances to earn us two wins in that period against Rush”
Looking ahead to Clontarf this weekend, Tector is quick to point to a number of ‘Tarf players who could easily turn a match on its head:
“Clontarf are an excellent side, with plenty of match-winners with both bat and ball, we are all too aware of the threat PJ Moor poses given he’s spent time playing with us, Bobbo Forrest is another dangerous player who can score quickly and we’ll need to be right on it from ball one against those two opening the batting. David and Fionn are two more quality operators with the ball and both can be destructive with the bat, so hopefully if we can win those couple of small battles within the game it would be a big help to us”
YMCA aren’t short of match-winners themselves, but Tectoris more than aware that his side is very much the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts, as this season has shown;
“It’s been great for us that all of our batters have contributed to a performance at one stage or another, with players coming in and out of the side and moving around the order, it’s important that guys feel comfortable that they can contribute anywhere in the team and that’s been great for us so far. With the ball we’ve had a fairly consistent attack this season, but again it’s definitely been a group effort from the boys and our bowling unit has stood up excellently in the group stage”
In fact YMCA’s bowling this season has been more than just excellent, it’s been borderline unplayable at times, only one side, Terenure on the opening day, have managed to pass 100 against them, and that was one of just two occasions in the six games where they didn’t bowl their opposition out, taking 54 of 60 wickets available to them in their 6 games so far.
Clontarf on the other hand have lost just 28 of the 60 wickets available to them so far this season, so we could again be posing the question of what happens when and unstoppable force meets and immovable object. Tarf will look to score freely from the outset, whilst YM will look to tie them down with dot balls and force wickets through pressure. It’s highly likely that whoever can get on top in the battle between the home side’s opening batters, and the visitors opening bowlerswill come out on top by the end of the game.
KEY BATTLE: Mikey O’Reilly vs PJ Moor