North Down skipper Marty Moreland captured his first senior trophy at the helm at one of the NCU’s most successful clubs. The O’Neills Ulster Cup may not rank alongside the bigger trophies available each season, but for the new captain of a young developing team given little or no chance by the pre-season experts, it was a very satisfying moment to receive the trophy from Cricket Ireland President Dr. Murray Power.
North Down’s 10 runs win under the Duckworth Lewis System (DLS) may not have been as convincing as their 233-6 total in 40 overs deserved, but it was a wet day in Ulster and a credit to the grounds staff that the match got as far as it did. Instonians may regret their slow batting as the rain approached, especially after skipper Neil Russell hit a blistering 47 off 28 balls to give them a terrific start alongside Smith (36). But Moreland and Jacob Mulder slowed the onslaught on pace men Malan, Khan and Davidson and took the crucial wickets of Russell, Smith, Khan and White that swung the match dramatically in favour of the home team. When the rain finally arrived Instonians were stranded 10 runs short of the target required under DLS.
Earlier North Down owed a lot to South African professional Peter Malan playing in his last match before leaving for Cape Town on Monday. The popular all-rounder has made a big impact at Comber this season with his work with the younger players and his runs on the field. Sunday was no exception and after Sutherland (38) and Graham (43) gave the locals a solid start it was Malan (98no), Ali Shields (20) and Davidson (13) who took the score to a formidable total. Malan was rampant in the latter stages where he pillaged 59 runs off the last four overs and helped take North Down total to 233-6. It was not impregnable given the strong Instonians batting line-up, and at one stage it looked vulnerable with Russell in full flight, but when he offered Mulder the crucial caught and bowled chance it was the turning point that eventually led to victory.
Peter Malan was acknowledged as the Man-of-the-Match for the Award that never was, but it did little to deter the celebrations for a team in the making. It also made up for the disappointment of losing to Waringstown the previous day in a top of the league clash that will have a significant bearing on the title as the season closes in the next two weeks. But Waringstown has the all-round strength and experience that North Down is seeking to achieve and on this performance their day will come.
Overall the O’Neills Ulster Cup competition continues to grow in status and it remains a good medium for North-West and NCU clubs to compete with each other.
En route to the final North Down defeated holders Bready, North-West kingpins Donemana and ironically NCU kingpins Waringstown.
Well done Marty Moreland and his young North Down lions with a few ‘oul hands in there like himself!