The first round of fixtures in Sprint Coatings Division One comes to a close, almost, this evening, with the final full round of fixtures set to take place – depending of course on the weather!
With ‘the split’ due to happen after 7 league fixtures for each club, tonight’s games carry extra significance for the sides hovering between 2nd and 5th in the table. Leinster are the only team that has sealed their place in the top 4 as things currently stand, and with YMCA and Pembroke not set to face off until Monday evening, there’s also a chance that the top four aren’t fully confirmed until after that fixture is played.
The Hills vs Malahide
Starting off in Milverton, two sides who have had mixed fortunes this season face-off. Both are confirmed to be in the bottom 4 for the second round of fixtures, meaning they will definitely do battle again before the season ends.
The Hills have been much improved this season, and come into the game in good form having claimed the scalp of YMCA in Monday’s Pilkington Plate fixture, Malahide however also comprehensively beat the Sandymount side in the previous round of the competition. Aisling Byrne was the star for The Hills on Monday, she top scored with 33, before taking 4 wickets, including the first three to fall, as her side won by 22 runs.
Malahide on the other hand have dished out a couple of massive hammerings this season, and it’s no surprise that when their openers, Amy Hunter and Caoimhe McCann, score runs they tend to do very well. The pair are comfortably the top batting partnership in the league, combining so far this season for 526 runs at an average of over 105. Needless to say that if they get going, there’s a chance they score more than enough runs to overpower The Hills.
KEY BATTLE: Katie Boylan vs Amy Hunter
Clontarf vs Pembroke
Castle Avenue this evening sees the home side, winless since their opening night cup win over The Hills take on the Senior Cup Champions. The away side need a win to guarantee themselves a top four slot for the remainder of the season.
Clontarf have been unlucky in parts this season, often performing near their best against the top sides and falling just short, only to fail to replicate that form in games where they would have otherwise expected to win. They are a young side with several of them involved in last evening’s Girls Colts Cup final win over Phoenix, and given time will only improve further. For now they will hope that Isobel Joyce’s return from injury can help guide the side to some good performances to close the season out.
Pembroke are in flying form of late, with seemingly every one of their players in excellent form, when one misses out, the next does well. Mary Waldron’s return in particular seems to have galvanised the side, as each player seems comfortable playing their natural game knowing that there are others in the side who can score runs should they fail. Orla Prendergast and Anna Beale have been in excellent form with the ball in hand, and are generally Pembroke’s key wicket-taking threats.
KEY BATTLE: Emma Butler vs Mary Waldron
Phoenix vs Merrion
In the Phoenix Park, there’s what has the potential to be a winner-take-all tie between Phoenix and their visitors Merrion. Both are locked on identical points tallies in 4th and 5th in the table, and although both could mathematically still qualify, winning the game this evening will absolutely guarantee it for whichever side takes home the spoils.
Phoenix have had a bit of a mixed-bag this season in the main, they have annihilated all opposition below them in the league, but have fallen to heavy defeats to both Leinster (in all three competitions) and YMCA in the league. They were in the box seat against Pembroke before the rain intervened in the first innings, it’s tough to really know where they lie against other sides in and around them in the league table. Lara Maritz and Georgina Dempsey’s runs will be vital if they are to defeat Merrion, with both being dominant boundary hitters.
Merrion have been in strikingly similar form to Phoenix this season, they also suffered defeat at the hands of a Gaby Lewis masterclass for YMCA in the last few weeks, and although they haven’t been beaten by Leinster, Pembroke have had their number on two occasions. Their batting however has been imperious the last few weeks. Only once have they not passed 150 since the start of July, and that was in a 10 wicket win over The Hills chasing just 72, they also amassed 298 in Monday’s 50 over game, in short, if Phoenix don’t get on top of Merrion’s top 4, they could be in trouble.
KEY BATTLE: Rebecca Stokell vs Georgina Dempsey
Leinster vs YMCA
Finally we come to the featured game of the evening, where Leinster welcome YMCA to Observatory Lane. As mentioned already, Leinster are the only side to have already secured their position in the top 4, and whilst a win for YMCA would see them do likewise, a strong haul of bonus points from their final two games would see them guaranteed their place were they to lose both games.
Leinster have lost just one game in all competitions this season, when they fell to Merrion in the semi-final stage of the Senior Cup. Aside from that, they have been imperious, their tightest margin of victory so far has come against Pembroke, when there were still 31 runs between the sides at the end of the game. Laura Delany has been dominant as ever with the bat, and her good form will need to continue as the home side are without Sophie MacMahon for this evening’s clash. They are boosted however by Eimear Richardson returning, whilst Katie Dillon’s good form with the ball will support opener Ava Canning.
YMCA have been another side delivering a massively mixed bag of results this season, in essence Gaby Lewis has shown her importance to her side’s results. She has made three run chases look incredibly easy with scores of 94*, 70* and 126* accounting for Clontarf, Phoenix and Merrion with great control throughout. When she has been dismissed however, YMCA haven’t managed a victory as yet, if another player can step up and play a match-winning innings in either tonight, or Monday evening’s game, it could make all the difference in whether YM are still in contention when the league splits.
KEY BATTLE: Ava Canning vs Gaby Lewis
SPRINT COATINGS DIVISION ONE – 5.8
THE HILLS VS MALAHIDE - THE VINEYARD, 17:30
CLONTARF VS PEMBROKE – CASTLE AVENUE, 17:30
PHOENIX VS MERRION – PHOENIX PARK, 17:30
LEINSTER VS YMCA – OBSERVATORY LANE, 17:30 (featured game)