The semi-finals of the Sprint Coatings Women’s Senior Cup take place this evening, with two excellent ties in store in Dublin 4, as Pembroke host Clontarf in Sydney Parade, whilst at Anglesea Road, Merrion play host to Leinster.
Starting off in Sydney Parade, Pembroke became the only home team to progress from Round One on Monday evening, when they saw off YM in a much delayed tie. LouLou Little continued her fine form with 39, whilst Clare Shillington’s rapid 45 from just 25 balls gave them impetus in the back end of their innings to set a total which proved too many for YMCA to chase down.
Pembroke will be hoping the form of Little and Shillington continues, as their boundary hitting ability is key to their side as a T20 unit, Shauna Kavanagh’s role of batting through the innings from number three will also be important to the home side this evening, as a solid base will ultimately give them every chance of outgunning Clontarf in the back-end of the innings.
With the ball, Orla Prendergast’s spell of 4 overs, 2 for 5, including two maidens, put YM on the back-foot on Monday, if she can replicate that again, it will be a long road back for Clontarf to get themselves into the game, whether they’re batting first or second.
The Castle Avenue side travel over the East Link close to full strength, they progressed to the semi-finals with a win over The Hills on the first night of the season. That night it was Christina Coulter-Reilly who led the way with the bat, but in the intervening period in the league season the unit has been led by Aoife Brennan and Isobel Joyce, both of whom have contributed heavily to almost every batting effort.
The visiting side will need to be on the mark from ball one with ball in hand, captain Emma Butler plays a vital role in that regard, and will hope to take early wickets to tie Pembroke down. Freya Sargent’s off-spin in the middle overs will also need to be on top form against a Pembroke batting line up who have in general terms been in great form this season.
KEY BATTLE: Orla Prendergast vs Isobel Joyce
The featured game this evening is the match-up at Anglesea Road. The league tie between the two sides unfortunately was ended prematurely by the weather after Leinster had made 98/5 in just 12 overs.
Sophie MacMahon was in the runs that evening for the visiting side, and she gave us some thoughts about this evening’s tie;
“We're really looking forward to playing Merrion in the Cup semi-final. Cup matches are always competitive games and it's always a good game against Merrion. Obviously they have their big international players but they also have a few good young girls as well so it should be a good contest.”
The sides are well acquainted which can work both ways, MacMahon is quick to acknowledge Merrion’s strengths in their bowling department, but is hopeful Leinster have enough firepower to combat them;
“They have quite a slow bowling line up consisting primarily of spinners so that could pose a challenge to us. We bat deep though with plenty of young girls who are more than capable.”
Leinster have excelled in the field this season, a fine margin which the Leinster all-rounder is hopeful will help swing the game in their favour;
“One thing we've been really happy with this season so far is our fielding so hopefully we can continue those high standards into the game tomorrow and hopefully get a win.”
Meanwhile on the Merrion side, we spoke with Irish international Celeste Raack, her side are naturally well aware of the strength of their opposition, but are excited by the opportunity nonetheless;
“The cup is a huge opportunity for us to show our strength as a club and how we’ve developed our juniors to play important roles in the 1sts. We are really looking forward to playing Leinster, who have been the strongest club in recent years.”
Raack too is quick to acknowledge where Leinster’s real strengths lie, and points straight to the top of their order with where Merrion need to be right on the ball;
“The big wickets from our perspective are Sophie MacMahon and Laura Delany. They’ve both scored runs consistently and we’ll be looking for some of our young talented players to take their opportunities.”
This game has all the ingredients to be a really high quality cup semi-final, both sides are littered with international class players and an off-day for either team would almost certainly see them unceremoniously dumped out of the competition.
Whilst the batting units on both sides are inherently strong, there’s every chance it could come down to the opening bowlers on each side to provide a piece of magic and help their side get on top. Ava Canning for Leinster has been hugely impressive this season right up to international level, whilst her opposite number for Merrion, Niamh McNulty has shown great control with the new ball.
The two teenagers are both likely to play a huge role in the early stages of each innings, and if one or the other can get their side on top, it will take a huge effort from the opposition to regain momentum.
KEY BATTLE: Ava Canning vs Leah Paul