Clontarf looking to shock Merrion in RSA Irish Senior Cup Final
Wed, Aug 21, 2013 3:58 PM
The 32nd RSA Irish Senior Cup final takes place on Saturday at the new international ground at Malahide (11am). It's an all Leinster affair - the 8th time this has happened - with Clontarf taking on Merrion in an intriguing contest.
Clontarf will start as underdogs, by virtue of their Senior Two status, and the fact that they have never won the trophy - their solitary final appearance coming way back in 1990 when they lost to Lurgan. Current Cricket Ireland chairman Ross McCollum was their nemesis that day, scoring a Man of the Match 91 as the Mid-Ulster side prevailed by 73 runs.
Leinster sides have dominated the competition in recent years, winning 10 of the 12 finals since the turn of the century. In total, seven different LCU club names have been inscribed on the Bob Kerr trophy, with North County (five), being joined by Phoenix, Leinster, Malahide, Railway Union, Merrion and The Hills.
For Clontarf skipper Eoghan Delany, it's a game to be enjoyed, trying to ease the pressure of expectation building around Castle Avenue.
"The whole club is obviously very excited about the day. It's been a long time since Clontarf have reached these heights and it would mean a lot to countless people to bring this trophy home on Saturday evening.
"But the players are surprisingly relaxed, training tonight was no different to any other session. It's another game of cricket and the cricket we've played thus far will also be enough to win." he added.
Delany revealed there is a major injury concern over their prolific opening batsman Bill Coghlan: "Our squad will keep the faith in the guys that got us this far. Unfortunately it looks as if Bill Coghlan might not recover in time to participate after injuring himself two weeks ago playing for Leinster Lightning. Other than that there will be no major surprises."
The Clontarf squad is packed full of experience, none more so than Andre Botha, who is the leading wicket taker in Irish Cup finals (11) and in 2007 became the only player to take a hat-trick in the competition decider, against The Hills. Botha has five winners medals to his name and will be hoping for a sixth come Saturday.
Former Scotland international Dom Rigby is another extremely experienced campaigner, while Andrew Poynter has 44 caps to date in his Irish career. Professional Zander van der Merwe and Joey Morrissey form an effective new ball partnership and their ability to make early inroads into the much vaunted Merrion top order could well prove decisive.
Delany is aware just how much of a challenge Merrion present, but is hoping their excellent form in winning Senior Two will stand them in good stead: "Playing against Merrion is the kind of challenge you really want in such a final. They'll bring plenty of experience to the occasion and after losing last year I'm sure they'll sense a little extra pressure to succeed this time round. We're out to enjoy the whole day, knowing they can be rare enough, and simply carry on what we've been doing all year."
Merrion will start as slight favourites, having reached their third final in four seasons. The 2010 winners have been very impressive in this year's competition, recording wins over Coleraine, North Down, Waringstown and Civil Service North.
Their undoubted strength lies in their formidable batting line-up, with Dom Joyce being joined by Ben Ackland, Brett Thompson, Tyrone Kane, Damian Poder, and John Anderson - one of the most prolific batsmen in Irish cricket, and the leading run scorer in the revamped 2013 RSA Inter-Provincial series.
Skipper Joyce revealed that it's been an injury free build-up to the crucial encounter with only Nathan Rowe missing out: "There will be only be one change from our last game against YMCA, which is Kade Beasley in for Nathan Rowe who is ineligible. We have no injuries which is very surprising for us, but Tyrone (Kane) is carrying a few niggles."
Despite the favourites tag, Joyce admitted he was expecting a real battle against Clontarf: "I'm expecting a very tough game, Clontarf have completely cruised Division Two this year as everyone expected they would. If they were in Division One I would have expected a title challenge from them."
The Malahide ground is currently being readied for the RSA Challenge ODI against England on Tuesday September 3rd (tickets available via www.cricketireland.ie or TicketMaster outlets), and the former Irish international is relishing the opportunity to play the final at the venue.
"I'm certainly looking forward to playing at the redeveloped Malahide - I haven't seen it yet - and we are all looking forward to playing our third final in four years. We have great memories from the Leinster Cup final there in 2011."
Action at Malahide gets under way at 11am, and admission prices are as follows: Adult - €10, OAP - €8, Under 16 - FREE
All spectators should enter the ground via the main Malahide Cricket Club entrance on the Dublin Road. Free car parking is available in the grounds of the castle. Follow signs for castle entrance and Avoca. The Malahide Cricket Club bar will be open to the public and there will be a BBQ to purchase food. There is no neccesity for fans to bring seating as there will be plenty in one of the stands which is already completed in advance of the RSA Challenge.