The 2009 Irish Cup final, Leinster v Limavady is a tremendous prospect, in the beautiful setting of Milverton, home of The Hills CC.
Donemana will go into the final feeling that they should have won the final last year against North County and will be keen to record only their second victory in this competition. They will travel to Skerries in confidence too, having already comprehensively disposed of The Hills in an earlier round.
While Donemana are likely to be at full strength, Leinster will go into the final handicapped by the loss of possibly two, but more likely three key players. Jason Molins, the former Ireland opener has just got married, while George Dockrell is away with Ireland under 19s. In addition it is doubtful if JP O’Dwyer will be fit enough for the final.
Leinster however are this season’s surprise packets – already winning the 4FM Twenty20 competition and finishing runners-up to Railway Union in the final of the DGM tournament while occupying a respectable mid-table position in Section A of the League.
With the success has come a certain confidence. Their pro is West Indian Carlos Brathwaite, a key player for them. But Leinster also have important players in off-spinning all-rounder Anton Scholtz, and potential match-winning opening bat Mark Jones. Craig Mallon and Ian O’Herlihy can hit quick runs in the middle order. But there is no doubt that they will miss players of the calibre of Molins and Dockrell.
Donemana are an experienced team, who play hard cricket and have talented players throughout the team.
Their star batsman is captain and pro Azhar Shaffique, batting at number 3. When he gets going he is a fluent batsman, so runs are likely to start to flow if is batting for any length of time. It will be key for Leinster that they ‘get’, him early or else they may find the game getting away from them.
Richard Kee, the burly opening bat for Donemana is a hard-hitting batsman who likes to dominate the bowling. He is likely to go for his shots from the off. It will be important for Leinster not to feed him any loose deliveries as they are likely to be punished. The left-handed Graham Boyd will probably be Kee’s opening partner.
As Pembroke know to their cost, Donemana bat a long way down. Pembroke had them 93-6 at one stage chasing 155 to win and the men from the Holm still won by 4 wickets thanks to 55* from James McBrine.
Batting in the middle-order will be 15 year old Andy McBrine, who has cemented a place in the team this year. He also bowls off spin. His father, 46 year old 'Junior' is still the best bowler in the team however, bowling his left arm spin with plenty of subtle variations of pace and flight.
Opening the bowling for Donemana will be Steven Dunn and Shaffique, who are a useful combination. Otherwise the other McBrine, James will bowl some right arm medium pace and Jordan McGonigle is likely to bowl his full quota of left arm spin. The loss of Andy Britton who moved to Fox Lodge last winter has taken some edge off the Donemana attack.
So a fantastic occasion in store. Donemana are likely to field a stronger all-round team than Leinster but this advantage may be partially off-set with the final being in Dublin.
A lot will depend, I believe, on the state of mind of both sets of players. It will be a hard match for Leinster to win. They will need to play intense cricket for 100 overs. If Leinster go into the match thinking they have a good season behind them, no matter what the result and are not sufficiently motivated, they could get blown away.
Donemana will play aggressive cricket for 100 overs. Of that there is no doubt. However, that said, I think it will be on their minds that despite being one of the top clubs in the country for many years they have only one All-Ireland to their name and that was back in 2000. It will also be on their mind that they should have won last year’s final (at least in their eyes). If Leinster can apply pressure and sustain it the Donemana players may start to feel it.
So who do I think will win?
I would have more confidence in Leinster if one or both of Molins and Dockrell were playing. Without them, the greater experience of Donemana in such a big game may be crucial.
Verdict: Donemana to win
Donemana (probable): Richard Kee, Andy McBrine, Azhar Shaffique (c), Dwayne McGerrigle, Graham Boyd, 'Junior' McBrine, Jordan McGonigle, James McBrine, Richard Dougherty (wk), Dale Olphert, Steven Dunn
Leinster (from): M. Jones, C. Mallon, C. Brathwaite, A. Scholtz, D. Lucas, R.MIley, I.O’Herlihy, H. McDonnell, W.Lennon, J.P.O’Dwyer, R.Keneally, A.McConnell
Time and date: Friday 4th September, 12 noon
Venue: The Hills CC, Milverton, Skerries
Weather: Cool with sunshine and showers
Copyright: Cover Point