After a hectic week of No Results, a run-fest on Monday night in Sydney Parade was the final act in the first round of fixtures of Sprint Coatings Division One, now with the league split in half, the top four sides do battle to decide who will be league champions, whilst the bottom four play out their remaining three games in an effort to be best of the rest.
The Hills vs Clontarf
We kick off in The Vineyard where Clontarf are the visitors to the most improved side in the league this season. The Hills struggled in 2020, but this season have put up several strong showings against what are now the top 4 sides, and in spite of only claiming the scalp of Clontarf in the league, have accounted for both YMCA and Malahide in the last two weeks in the Pilkington Plate.
A major part of their resurgence has been the return of new ball bowler Katie Boylan, who has formed an excellent partnership with Jane Maguire, whilst Aisling Byrne has turned out some good performances with bat and ball. This added to a side which relied so heavily on Tess Maritz last season has allowed them to be very competitive and edge away from the foot of the table.
Clontarf’s young side have struggled with results in the league this season, but have not been shorn of reasons to be hopeful, as alluded to last week, their Colts Girls won their cup final and several of that side have started making their way into this team, including Anna Marshall and Freya Sargent who have performed well with bat and ball respectively throughout the season.
Whilst they still rely on Isobel Joyce to perform, her experience and influence on the younger players this season is the most valuable asset they currently possess, and the opportunity to play three more games against the sides around them in the table will be the chance for Tarf to turn their progressive performances into results.
Given they won the first game, The Hills will have to fancy their chances of a win this evening, but will have to perform with both bat and ball, otherwise Clontarf will make them pay.
KEY BATTLE: Tess Maritz vs Cara Murray
Malahide vs Merrion
Two sides who both would’ve been aiming to finish in the top 4 meet in the second fixture of the night, and whilst Malahide have perhaps been a touch inconsistent in the league due to their reliance on their top three for runs, Merrion, finalists in both cup competitions, will be incredibly frustrated that they couldn’t transfer their good form into some consistency in the league. They will also feel a little bit unlucky that they didn’t have the chance to win their game last Thursday against Phoenix and push themselves into the top 4.
Malahide have come into some decent results in recent weeks, dishing out two 10 wicket hammerings to YMCA. Caoimhe McCann and Amy Hunter remain the most fruitful partnership in the league this season and their runs are no small part of their competitiveness in fixtures this season. If they are in the flying form they have been at points this season, they will have every chance of turning over Merrion.
Merrion have had Malahide’s number in each of the Senior Cup, League and Pilkington plate this season, thanks to some excellent batting performances from Leah Paul in particular who has amassed 165 runs in three knocks, whilst Cecelia Joyce and Rachel Delaney have compiled 114 and 92 runs respectively in just two visits to the crease against tonight’s opposition. Adding in the firepower of Rebecca Stokell, Merrion should have plenty in the tank to post a total to give themselves a chance against Malahide’s star openers. Their hopes will then lie with Niamh MacNulty, who they’ll hope can get early wickets and put them in the driving seat whether they are bowling first or second.
KEY BATTLE: Niamh MacNulty vs Amy Hunter
Phoenix vs Pembroke
The first of the two top four ties comes from Phoenix, who play host to Pembroke. The away side confirmed their top four place with the wicket of Jenny Gray on Monday night, but briefly had their hearts in their mouths as her and Robyn Lewis looked poised to take YMCA close to victory. Phoenix on the other hand qualified on a tie-breaker with Merrion after the sides game was washed out early in the day last week.
Phoenix hit the ground running early in the season winning their first three league games against The Hills, Clontarf and Malahide, thanks in no small part to Lara Maritz’s superb form with the bat, coupled with some excellent bowling from their seam trio of Maritz, Ashlee King and Georgina Dempsey. Having been rained off against Pembroke and Merrion, they suffered defeats against YMCA and Leinster meaning they possibly lack a bit of momentum coming into these final three league games.
The exact opposite can be said of Pembroke, who have been on the charge in the last number of weeks, the only side who has had their number this season is current table toppers Leinster, who have seen off the Sydney Parade side in both the league and Pilkington Plate, but Pembroke’s confidence will be sky high as they come into this game having lost just once in their last 8 games dating back to July 12th, including rattling off their whole Senior Cup winning campaign in the space of just 11 days in July. Consistency with the bat from Shauna Kavanagh, Lou Lou Little, Orla Prendergast and Mary Waldron has been key to their momentum, whilst Prendergast has led the way with the ball, staggeringly not one of her spells in T20 cricket this season has gone for more than a run a ball.
Given the momentum Pembroke are carrying, it would take an excellent performance from Phoenix to turn them over, but if there’s a side with the talent to produce, it’s certainly them, and the game will be set up in the first 10 overs no matter which side bats or bowls first.
KEY BATTLE: Ashlee King vs Lou Lou Little
Leinster vs YMCA
This week’s featured action comes from Observatory Lane, in a repeat of last week’s final round featured game. Leinster have been in imperious form in the league this season, and their only defeat in all competitions came at the hands of Merrion in the Senior Cup semi-final. YMCA on the other hand have been slightly less consistent, but have performed well enough to comfortably secure a top four berth.
It’s a little bit “Leinster against the rest” for the next three games, the Rathmines side have a significant lead atop the table and would need to lose at least twice and although they are currently without Sophie MacMahon who has been excellent this season, it’s an opportune time for Eimear Richardson to return to the side. Laura Delany’s form has been excellent which has played no small role in seeing them unbeaten atop the table and progressing to the final of the Pilkington Plate. As they currently sit 29 points clear in the table, there is the slim chance that Leinster could secure the league title if other results fell their way.
YMCA need to win to give themselves a sniff of winning the title still, and again they will be relying heavily on the runs of Gaby Lewis to give themselves a chance of victory. Lucy O’Reilly returns to the side tonight having been missing since pulling up in the warm-up in their victory over Phoenix last month and her bowling will be massive for the away side.
Whilst three of the sides in the league will be hoping for a YMCA victory to keep the title race wide open, Leinster’s form and consistency throughout the season has to be respected and they will be expecting themselves to win.
KEY BATTLE: Ava Canning vs Gaby Lewis