In what has become the most unpredictable of seasons there has to be a real irony to the fact that this year’s Sammy Jeffrey final at Eglinton will be between the sides currently occupying the top and bottom places in the Long’s SuperValu Championship table.
It has been a fantastic summer for Fox Lodge obviously, as Brian Allen’s men have stood head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the division.
Things were going well enough for them earlier on, but now that Marco Marais has really hit his straps as well, there seems to be no stopping either them or him.
The South African was heavily involved again on Saturday as the Ballymagorry men had 5 wickets to spare over Newbuildings in a low-scoring affair.
David Robb top scored with 38 while Jason Browne (27) and Marty Mehaffey (23) fared next best as the visitors were all out for a below-par 130. Gareth Heywood picked up 4 wickets while there was a couple for Jason Milligan too and although Newbuildings refused to lie down, they just hadn’t enough to play with.
Graeme Robb picked up a hat-trick in his very first over to give Dale Culbert’s team hope, however it was that man Marais again that proved his quality with an unbeaten 64 to send the Foxies into the final.
In the opposite corner will be St Johnston after in-form Andrew Fleming helped them to an impressive win at home to Ballyspallen.
The North West Chairman made a well-crafted 58 in the Donegal men’s total of 152 all out with Jacob Logan-Wilson and Graham Kennedy sharing six wickets for the visitors.
Ivan Hill-Nicholl gave the reply a solid start before Fleming intervened again - picking up three wickets that gave the Saints renewed hope. And from there on the Donegal side wore their visitors down as David Lapsley, Nathan Cole and Ian Macbeth exploited conditions well to bowl ’Spallen out for 112.
To be fair, St Johnston look to be in something of a false position at present and it would be very foolish to write off their chances of working their way back up the table between now and September, although whether or not they can lower Fox Lodge’s colours in that sort of game remains to be seen.
The two-innings final will take place on 19-20 August and is sure to be a decent spectacle for what is likely to be a good crowd.