With the prospect of good weather this weekend cricketers throughout the leagues will be hoping for better conditions than they have endured all season. They certainly deserve it given the horrible conditions during July.
With the top four teams playing the bottom four teams predicting the winners should be a straightforward matter. It would certainly be difficult to see Ballymena beating Instonians at Eaton Park or Carrick beating joint league leaders North Down at The Green and only a staunch Lisburn supporter will fancy their chances against cup winners CI at Belmont. This leaves Civil Service North hosting the other joint league leaders Waringstown at Stormont and this might be amore tricky assignment for the Villagers. On paper the visitors have a formidable team, but the hosts have a habit of upsetting the odds and won’t be overawed by the challenge. Waringstown should win, but they can’t be complacent.
The Derriaghy juggernaut rolls on and with six games left to play the title is theirs to lose. They have two wins to spare over their nearest challengers with pre-season favourites Muckamore well adrift and three matches to make up. The league leaders have a tough match at the Meadow in Downpatrick this weekend and if the County Down team is to make a serious challenge for the title they have to beat the visitors on Saturday. They have the talent, but Derriaghy has the momentum and this might prove decisive. Lurgan should beat Bangor at Pollock Park despite their mixed season and Templepatrick should also win at home against struggling Donaghcloney. Cliftonville are also in deep trouble at the foot of the table, but they can expect no return from the visit of Muckamore in the Sunday game. This leaves the north Belfast derby game between Academy and Woodvale and the visitors might just edge this one.
Pointless Larne travel to BISC this weekend and can expect no favours from the hosts who toppled league leaders Armagh last week. Just one win separates five teams at the top of the table and it has all the ingredients of a fantastic finish. Virtually every match left to play will have a bearing on the outcome although Armagh will be out of the firing line this Saturday because they are in the Junior Cup Final. BISC should beat Larne at home and Holywood should be too strong for visitors Laurelvale who lost out in the Junior Cup semi-final. The County Down derby between Saintfield and Drumaness could go either way with home advantage perhaps the difference, and Cregagh should edge out Dundrrum in the Sunday game.
With Cooke Collegians and Millpark locked at the top of the table and Dunmurry just four points off the pace, there’s all to play for in Section 3 this weekend. Millpark surprisingly lost to Donaghadee last week, but they should bounce back with a home win over Monaghan and Cooke Collegians will make sure they don’t slip up at home to the ‘Dee. Newforge will do well to beat Dunmurry despite home advantage, but there will be a lot of interest in the outcome of the bottom-of-the-table clash between Dungannon and Ards in County Tyrone. Ards are four points better off than their rivals but it could be all square come Saturday evening.
JUNIOR CUP FINAL
The Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup Final will take place at Moylena on Saturday afternoon when Civil Service North II take on Armagh. There is always great rivally between the 2nd XIs and the junior clubs so a meeting from both sections gives the final an added edge. The Junior Cup dates back to 1891 and many of the top players in the Province have played in it. Both teams are well matched and one interesting player in the Civil Service North team could hold the key to the outcome. The prolific all-rounder Wayne Horwood makes sporadic appearances these days, but he’s a proven match winner at the highest level and scored a crucial half-century in their semi final win over favourite Waringstown II.
Maybe Wayne will prove the difference once again?
Wherever you are playing or watching this weekend let’s hope the weather is kind and cricket is the winner.