The NCU Challenge Cup’s history dates back to 1887 with North Down the first winners.
Donaghcloney Cricket Club has never won the competition but dates back even further and this year celebrates its 125th anniversary.
Like Donaghcloney itself; situated beside the River Lagan the club is synonymous with a bygone era where Irish linen was the centre of village life; founded by the Liddell family and is one of the few still using their original pavilion, now a listed building. The Factory next door made the linen for the Titanic.
This was the first game with the NCU’s latest sponsors Arthur J Gallagher joining a list of illustrious names to support the Challenge Cup.
NCU Chairman Andy Clement was there to welcome them on board and acknowledged how much the game depends on them.
On the field Donaghcloney’s nerves were jangling at 169 for 6 when new professional Rahul Desai departed lbw to Stephen Sistern Tate for a well made 49,
Academy’s Mitchell Dickeson having already top scored with 47 came into bowl to Bobby Lyttle who dispatched him for three boundaries in the over.
Andrew Magee was next to suffer as Lyttle went straight down the ground for six plus and finished the game in the grand manner by putting Connor Boyd back over his head.
Earlier in the afternoon, Academy began brightly with Tate (33) and Magee (27) adding 64 for the first wicket. Dickeson continued the good work with 47 from 63 balls with 6 fours.
The introduction of Bruce Topping, former Ireland badminton international and one time wicket-keeper but now a slow bowler turned things Donaghcloney’s way.
He took 3 for 41 off 10 overs including two in two balls in the 34th over to halt Academy’s momentum.
There were two wickets each for Desai, Stevie Hanna and Timmy McClure as the innings petered out. The batting side also had a five run penalty applied for running on the wicket.
Donaghcloney were always ahead of the run rate, batting positively, opener Mark Campbell (37 off 31 balls with 7 fours) and Matthew Lyttle striking 6 boundaries in his 32 from 35 balls.
Desai held it all together with his top scoring 49 containing 8 fours.
Chris Halliday was the pick of the Academy bowlers after going for 17 in his first two, he conceded just 11 runs from the next 8 and picked up two wickets. Man of the Match went to Bobby Lyttle.
In the days other Challenge Cup tie Saintfield beat Armagh by one wicket in a tense low scoring affair.
Armagh made 104 with Stuart Lester top scoring with 23. Saintfield skipper Gareth Harrison grabbed 6-14. Saintfield just about crossed the line despite Indrajeet Kamtekar’s 4-26 and Matthew Steenson’s 3-5.