Most observers feel that despite its competitiveness the push for promotion from this season’s Championship will be contested by Fox Lodge, Drummond and Glendermott, and all three started their campaigns with impressive weekend wins.
Fox Lodge seem determined to return to the top flight at the first time of asking and they recorded a comfortable win over last year’s surprise package.
Burndennett to get their campaign up and running. Granted the home side’s line-up was decimated by players away on a stag weekend but you can only play what’s in front of you and that’s what the visitors did.
New Ballymagorry professional, Marco Marais, was the star man for Brian Allen’s team, picking up 3-22 as the hosts were restricted to 152 all out. It looked like no bad effort from Burndennett, but it took an unbeaten 62 from Ross McCay and 61 from the rather more experienced Gerard McAuley to get them to that total.
Young McCay has been developing into a top notch player over the past few seasons and this is a big summer for him as he comes under more scrutiny with the experience behind him. He certainly had all the answers here though against a good attack and with McAuley, at least gave his own bowlers something to work with.
The target was easily within the visitors’ compass if truth be told- Marais the man-of-the-moment with a debut century. The South African hit 12 fours and 7 sixes in his 104 and with Luke Hayes adding 34 they were able to cross the winning line with tons in hand. John McCormick (2-37) fared best with the ball for the Foxies who it must be said, will be presented with more difficult challenges in the weeks ahead.
Similar comments possibly apply to Glendermott who were far too strong for a Creevedonnell team without several first choice players, including their new professional, Jean Symes.
This match was dominated by another Protean; the hosts’ new overseas man Eden Links showing his liking for his new surroundings scoring an impressive 167. Links hit 21 fours and 5 sixes in an innings that wasn’t as swashbuckling that it may have looked- the all-rounder playing some superb ground shots throughout until upping the ante in the last few overs.
Former skipper Gordon Montgomery gave the home side a perfect platform with 68 at the top of the order while Andrew Baggley with 39 and 26 not out from Mattie Henderson allowed them to close on a daunting 354 for 7. Leighton McGarrigle (2-57) and Kyle Culbert (2-82) were the main wicket takers during the melee.
Creevedonnell’s reply never got going as they lost two wickets in the first five overs and after that it was all about the distance.
Opening bowler Stuart Cochrane kept everything in check with an excellent spell of 1-2 from 6 overs and the visitors were very much on the back foot after that. Kyle Culbert with 27 and Darren Moore (26) fared best with the bat, however a superb effort from Jed Donnell (5-19) meant that things were soon wrapped up. Jack Glen (2-21) and Links (2-30) completed formalities as the reply closed on 94- a 260-run win for the Rectory side.
Drummond are off the mark too but it was a far from straightforward day at the office for Steve Moore’s side who only just came out best in a low-scoring game at home to Newbuildings.
The division’s new boys did a really good job in restricting their hosts to just 109 all out as they batted first- and the total was 39 overs in the making to boot. Scoring proved very difficult as Jason Browne (4-15), Dale Culbert (3-17) and Thomas Thompson (2-34) all fared well with the ball, however a dogged resistance from Chris Moore (42), kept Drummond in the game.
The visitors found life no easier when it came their turn to bat and although Peter Allen (31) battled hard as always, conditions were favouring the bowlers.
Johnny Martin, who has had spells at Limavady and Coleraine, could well be a very useful player in Drummond’s title push this season and he simply tore through the Newbuildings order to post figures of 6-19.
Simon Dunn (2-13) and Jamie Millar (2-17) completed a 24-run win that sees the Roe Valley men make a solid start to their season, however Christopher Cooper’s team showed enough quality to suggest that they will be a threat to all in the league.
The final match on Saturday saw David Cooke make his debut for Bonds Glen however the appearance of the all-rounder wasn’t enough to push his new side over the winning line at Killyclooney.
Ironically, the visitors were undone by a set of brothers making their first appearance on the North West scene for several years as Darren and Giles Moan combined to give the home side a 50-run win.
The pair haven’t batted together since their Sion Mills days but, coming together with their new club at 71-4, Darren with 89 and Giles (47) posted a 118-run partnership that was to give ’Clooney the edge.
An earlier 39 from Alan Colhoun and 36 not out from Timmy Dougherty allowed the home side to post 260 for 7 despite Cooke’s impressive 4-36 with the ball.
Much would then depend on the former Irish International with the bat, however it wasn’t to be his day. Willie Jackson (48) and Lee Britton and Richard Rodgers (35 apiece) fared best in that department however Giles Moan (3-20), Mark Gordon (3-61) and Jordan Connor (2-57) did enough to keep the Bee Gees at arm’s length.