Can the Noisy Neighbours stop the Beechgrove Express?

Brigade and Glendermott will have the stage to themselves this weekend as the NWCU’s showpiece domestic event, the Bank of Ireland senior cup final, gets under way at Eglinton tomorrow (12 noon). With a reasonable weather forecast across the two days, organisers will be hoping for a sizeable crowd at the village venue for the first ever senior final between the Waterside neighbours.

Brigade are the cup holders and indeed the current runaway leaders of the Long’s SuperValu Premier Division, and they’re going into the match very much the favourites to keep the trophy.

Andy Britton’s team haven’t seen a rival in league or cup so far this summer, and having already won the Sam McConnell Charity Cup and reached the final of the Faughan Valley, they are serious candidates to complete a domestic clean sweep from here.

The Beechgrove side have been threatening a big season for a while now and have just added consistency to the mix this time. They have maintained the same batting order pretty much all season, and that has stood them in good stead.

Gareth McKeegan and David Barr have formed a solid opening partnership that has caused problems for just about every attack in the league. Kyle Magee and iftikhar Hussain are next in and both have also posted big numbers throughout the summer, and although this quartet has pretty much done the bulk of the batting, the middle order isn’t bad either.

Britton himself along with Ross Allen, Johnny Thompson, David Murdock, Rachit Gaur and Johnny Robinson offer serious depth to the line-up, although Gaur is believed to be a doubt for the final this weekend through injury.

If anything, Brigade’s bowling is actually their stronger suit with Ryan Macbeth leading the line at present, backed up by Britton, Thompson, Gaur and the spin of Hussain, Allen and Robinson. Such has been their potency this year that neither Magee nor Barr have had much of a look-in with the ball.

Glendermott’s strength comes in a good blend of youth and experience and also in the fact that few clubs have as many long hitters in their ranks.

They tried an interesting experiment last Saturday moving Scott Laird from Number 9 to the top of the order and it was no disaster. Laird can be destructive if he gets to free his arms for a few overs and to be fair to the Rectory boys, they have one or two more like him as well.

Gordon Montgomery will be hoping that himself and the two Cookes can provide the guile to those around them and he will need the likes of Alan Johnson, Bob Robinson and Steve Moore to bring their best form into the weekend.

‘Goofer’ knows it’s a mammoth ask and his side has been on the end of two very heavy defeats when the teams met in the league, however he is upbeat ahead of the weekend.

“They’re the best side in the North West by a long way and it’ll be a hard job even staying close to them” he suggested.

“That means there’s little or no pressure on us so from our point of view we can try to enjoy it that bit more.”

“We’re not going there to make up the numbers and we have quite a few guys who could make it awkward for them if things go our way. Our batting order likes to attack and in a one-off game you just never know.”

“The two Cookes just love the big games and they don’t come any bigger than this in North West cricket.”

“We’ve had a difficult year at the club with the loss of key members so this is a chance for players and supporters to get together and enjoy the biggest weekend of the season.”

“We’ll give it everything we have, I know that.”

For his part, Brigade skipper Britton agreed that this was no one-horse race.

“Any team can hurt you on their day so we have to be on our guard. The boys know their jobs from 1 to 11 and if we get it right then we give ourselves a chance of winning.”

“It’s the senior cup final- the game that everyone starts the season hoping they’re playing in. We’re the cup holders and we’ll be doing everything we can to bring it back home with us again.”

Action at the village gets under way at 12 noon and one innings per side will be played each day unless an early close or weather dictates otherwise.

Umpires for the match are George Brolly (junior), Ian Gamble and Vinny O’Hara.

Admission is £5 (£3 concessionary) and patrons are asked to note that only those who have pre-approved access will be permitted to park in the club car park.

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