CHALLENGE CUP FINAL: Instonians and CIYMS set for summer showdown

Rival captains Nigel Jones of CIYMS (second left) and Nikolai Smith of Instonians with the NCU Arthur J Gallagher Senior Challenge Cup they will compete for in the final in Comber on Saturday. Also included are, from left, Shane Matthews (regional managing director of Arthur J Gallagher) and Peter McMorran (president of the NCU).
Rival captains Nigel Jones of CIYMS (second left) and Nikolai Smith of Instonians with the NCU Arthur J Gallagher Senior Challenge Cup they will compete for in the final in Comber on Saturday. Also included are, from left, Shane Matthews (regional managing director of Arthur J Gallagher) and Peter McMorran (president of the NCU).

Without doubt the highlight of the NCU cricketing summer is the Arthur J Gallagher Challenge Cup final, played on Saturday at Comber.

Some have argued that the switching of the final from Friday to Saturday in some way diminished the occasion, but surely it is better to have the best players from each team involved?

Both teams will arrive at The Green tomorrow morning with questions marks against their current form, having in turn been comprehensively beaten by Muckamore last weekend.

Indeed, Instonians have failed to win a match since beating Lisburn in the semi-final but there will undoubted be plenty of quality on show.

There are of course explanations; talking to Instonians captain Nikolai Smith in recent weeks has been akin to standing outside a hospital waiting for the doctor to supply medical bulletins but he was in upbeat mood ahead of a second final appearance in three seasons.

“It’s all good, the only one who will miss out is James Metcalfe who requires an operation on his hand. James Shannon is good to go, Stephen Bunting plays as a batsman, we are confident that Shane Getkate will play as a bowler but bat at number eleven.

“Robert McKinley and James Magee are approaching full fitness again and Eugene Moleon appears in yet another final. The players to lose out in the squad are Ollie Metcalfe, James Hunter, Lewis McNamara and Tommy Luke,” he added.

“We know it will be a good wicket, each side has match-winners, it is a question of which match-winner turns up. If James Shannon scores 100 it will happen quickly, likewise if Matt McGillivray take five wickets then we are in trouble.”

Across the city at CIYMS, their Nigel Jones appears in relaxed mood, when asked about his fourth consecutive final appearance.

“It is probably something I will look back on and reflect on in years to come. Much is made perhaps of Instonians not having a professional whilst we have Matt, but they have quality cricketers, six or seven of these guys are involved with the Knights, so I don’t see any advantage,” said Jones.

“In terms of the cup final morning itself, I believe in treating it like any other game, I will look to relax and instil the same in the players, if we can nail the process then the chances are we will get the outcome.

“It really is a question of who turns up on the day, certainly we will look to see what James Shannon does, equally we have respect for Nikolai and Andrew White, but if we can get into their top four early then we have a great chance.”

Saturday’s showpiece is the second time in the space of three years that the teams have met in the final. Two years ago it was the Rassie van der Dussen show, the South African hitting two centuries (the first washed out) as CI won a thrilling match despite a brave Instonians run chase.

11am first delivery, so don’t be late because if it’s anything like last year’s final the fireworks will start early.