Stage set for season showpiece weekend

It’s a huge weekend of cup cricket coming up with both the Sammy Jeffrey Shield and the North West senior cup up for grabs over the two days. Strabane will entertain Glendermott in the first of those and we’ll preview that next, however we start with the Blue Riband decider between Eglinton and Brigade at the village venue.

The two sides last met in the final just three years ago when an incredible second innings bowling performance by Andy Britton and an excellent all-round effort from Johnny Thompson saw the Beechgrove side win comfortably. The Brigade skipper returned figures of 7-24 while Thompson scored 57 and 47 and was also among the wickets in a 94-run victory.

Brigade retained the trophy a year later and lost out in the decider to Donemana last season, so they will be appearing in their fourth consecutive final this weekend. And it is that experience that Britton feels can help them back on the winning trail now.

“We’ve won the Ulster Cup Final, the Faughan Valley and the All-Ireland T20 this year already and we’re a team that is used to playing in these big games. We’ve played in cup finals here before as well and hopefully that experience will stand us in good stead this weekend.”

“At the start of every season people talk about targets for the year and what competition you want to win most, and for me it is absolutely the senior cup. You never get tired of playing in these two-innings finals and all the players are really looking forward to the weekend.”

In terms of where he thinks the game will be won or lost, the Brigade captain felt that his side is versatile enough to cope with whatever Eglinton throw at them.

“Scoreboard pressure can be a big factor in these matches and if you manage to get away to a good start it can be difficult to pull back. We have won the cup batting first and we have won it chasing so either way we know if we’re on our game we’ll be hard to beat.”

In the other corner, Andy Millar will be playing in his third final on Friday and the Eglinton skipper is still looking for his first winners medal. The villagers last won the trophy in 2006 when they defied the odds to beat Strabane but the hard-hitting all-rounder isn’t put off by that and said his team was looking forward to getting started.

“There’s a great buzz about the club and we can’t wait to get going going. Hopefully the weather plays ball and I know we’ll have really good backing from the home supporters.”

“It looks set to be a very interesting game and we have to try to match Brigade up top. They’re very strong early on with both bat and ball- the likes of Ifti and Murdock with the bat will come at us hard and their bowling attack is the same, with plenty of quality.”

“I think though that our spinners are also key- Richard Wylie, Simon Dunn and Robbie Millar will have a huge part to play. And just on that- the fact that nine of our team will have come through the youth set-up at Eglinton which is great for the club.”

“I honestly think it’s going to be a great game.”

Play starts at 11am on both days and the umpires are Clarke Killen, Norman Allen and Andy Stevenson. Admission is £5 (£3 concession) pay at the gate, and gates open at 10am.

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