Jamie Brown who will be in action today for Merrion in the IBI Corporate Finance LSC Final
The final of the Leinster Senior Cup, sponsored this year by IBI Corporate Finance, is the highlight of the club calendar. Since the competition started in 1935 there have been many memorable finals and for those fortunate to take part in one it is a memory retained long after a career has ended. Over the years the structure of the competition has changed many times and there were certainly concerns in some quarters that with the latest 40 overs per side format the competition might lose some of its lustre. But, to my mind at least, it has worked well this season with some excellent matches and a faster scoring rate than for 50 overs.
So what of this year’s contestants, The Hills and Merrion. it is more difficult than usual to assess their relative performances as Merrion’s undefeated journey through D2 has perhaps told us less about their current form than The Hills battles in the top league.
In terms of their path to the final [with all matches at the Vineyard] - The Hills accounted for Rush [winning by nine wickets] with big scores from Cormac McLoughlin Gavin [75*] and Mike Baumgart [77*]. YMCA were accounted for in the second round where a 92* from Max Sorensen rescued the home team in a low scoring affair. Railway Union were defeated in the semi-finals with The Hills this time successfully defending a low score. Merrion had a more difficult route to the final. In the first round, away to North County, batting first they made 273/7 thanks to a century from John Anderson and 93* from Vikas Dhiman. Five wickets from Tom Stanton secured victory in what turned out to be a tight contest. A much easier second round saw Merrion post 316/4 against Terenure at Anglesea Rd, with another century from Anderson and half-century from Dhiman. But it was the third match, the semi-final v Clontarf [also at home] that produced what was probably the game of the competition so far. In massive trouble in their first innings Merrion were rescued by another Anderson century and then just managed to hold off Clontarf in a pulsating run-chase.
Turning to the match today, with league form giving us little to go on it is difficult to compare the teams. Both had successful runs in the T20s where they were defeated semi-finalists. Merrion fell to a very strong Warringstown side in a rain affected game in the QF of the Irish Senior Cup - The Hills have made it through to the SFs. Nor does history tell us much, Merrion have won the LSC three times, The Hills four - but the two teams have never come up against each other in a final and anyway it is many years [Merrion 2011 / The Hills 2005] since either team got this far in the competition.
Looking at the team selections, a major positive for The Hills is their all-round strength. Their bowling attack can works equally well in conditions that favour spin or seam and in Ryan Cartwright they have someone with real pace. A strong top order to the batting, with Sean Terry and Hamid Shah leading the way, is backed up by players throughput their ranks who can make important runs. And of course in Max Sorensen they have a player who can turn any match on its head in a few overs.
Merrion, especially with a number of players missing from their ranks, do not look to have the same level of experience or strength in depth. What they do have, however, are a number of match winners. John Anderson’s form with the bat in this competition has been more than impressive and Jamie Brown, John Blakeney, Dom Joyce and Tyrone Kane have all proved that they are capable of big scores. Looking at it without a ball having been bowled one has to imagine that the match may turn on the ability of the four Merrion slow bowlers to manage the big hitters from The Hills.
In the end home advantage and a better balanced side makes The Hills favourites. But Merrion will relish the underdogs tag, something that they have not had to bear much this season, and will be looking for one more big performance from someone to take the trophy.
The Hills have Mark Donegan [away on Ireland U19 duty] missing from their usual line-up.
The Hills: Max Sorensen [C], Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin, Albert Van der Merwe, Sean Terry, Hamid Shah, Ryan Cartwright, Naseer Shoukat, Tomás Rooney Murphy, Luke Clinton, Yaqoob Ali, Mike Baumgart. 12th Ivan Ryan
Merrion have a number of players injured or unavailable - Max Neville, Rory Allwright, Nitin Sharma, Ed Joyce. Also Mohin Sane is a late withdrawal from the match day scorecard.
Merrion: Dom Joyce [C], John Anderson, Jamie Brown, John Blakeney, Tom Stanton, Sean Stanton, Jeff Short, Tyrone Kane, Michael Lewis, Denny David, Patrick Tice.