Cricket: The NCU and North West rumour mill

Muckamore want to keep Ryan Haire at Moylena
Muckamore want to keep Ryan Haire at Moylena

The 2017 local cricket season may just be over but the rumour mill is already in overdrive ahead of what could be a busy winter of player movement.

Here is a rundown of the possible movement, or otherwise, from around the NCU and North West ahead of the 2018 campaign.

Johnny Thompson is expected to leave Brigade with Ardmore leading the chase

Johnny Thompson is expected to leave Brigade with Ardmore leading the chase

Civil Service North are expected to be one of the busiest clubs after their brush with relegation last season. Pakistan professional Mansoor Amjad is expected to leave Stormont after three seasons with CSNI scouring the market for a new overseas option.

Their chief local target could be the talented Ballyspallen all-rounder Graham Kennedy, with captain Graham McCarter keen on luring his fellow North Wester to Belfast. CSNI may also renew their interest in Waringstown’s Morgan Topping, the young all-rounder who has still to establish himself in the villagers’ first team despite his successes with Ireland under-19s. Waringstown see a big future for the teenager and want him to remain at The Lawn. Andrew White was recently linked with an unlikely move across Belfast from Instonians, perhaps because of the presence of his cousin James Kennedy at Stormont, but there is thought to be no substance to the speculation.

Muckamore, who made a solid start to life back in the Premier League following promotion from Section One in 2016, are looking for a new overseas professional after South African Kasigo Rapulana left Northern Ireland for family reasons during last season. They are expected to confirm the arrival of Jarred Barnes, the South African-born seam bowler who spent last season in Section One with Armagh. Barnes had originally signed for Muckamore for 2017 but his registration was rejected by the Premier League, and instead he played for Armagh in Section One. However, Barnes is putting down roots in Northern Ireland, is staying over the winter and will now be considered a local. He had given a verbal assurance to Muckamore captain Neil Gill that he would be joining up with Muckamore for next season.

The Moylena club are also hoping to retain the services of both Ryan Haire, the veteran batsman, and Iftikhar Hussain, the all-rounder who played a key role in Muckamore’s best moments in 2017. However, it is believed Brigade are determined to have Hussain back at Beechgrove next summer while Haire is considering his options and is believed to have held discussions about a possible return to North Down.

Graham Kennedy of Ballyspallen is attracting interest from CSNI

Graham Kennedy of Ballyspallen is attracting interest from CSNI

CIYMS, who are used to making significant changes in the close season, are thought to be happy with their squad, with professional Matt McGillivray returning in 2018 and batsmen Ryan Hunter and Jason van der Merwe remaining at Belmont despite enjoying mixed summers.

Instonians are plotting their course carefully as the Shaw’s Bridge club are the likeliest NCU side to be significantly affected by call-ups to the Northern Knights and Ireland Wolves. A spin-bowling overseas professional was thought to be their preferred option but that could change if the Inst hierarchy expect to lose the likes of Nathan Smith and Robert McKinley for extended periods.

Premier League champions Waringstown meanwhile, want to bring Shaheen Khan back as overseas professional after he took 33 wickets and scored over 300 runs. However, Khan needs to play the allotted number of first-class matches back in South Africa this winter to make him eligible.

Matty McCord, the 22-year-old Cliftonville star, could be on the move after the club’s relegation to Section Two. McCord, who toured Malta last weekend with the Ulster Grasshoppers when he impressed with bat and ball, is on the radar of plenty of Premier League clubs.

Ryan Hunter is staying with CIYMS

Ryan Hunter is staying with CIYMS

Elswhere, Lisburn, relegated to Section One, are not expected to lose any players. Brothers Adam and Mark Berry, who have both represented the Northern Knights, have committed themselves to Lisburn’s promotion challenge while David Simpson has denied suggestions he will be hanging up his boots.

In the North West, both Johnny Thompson and Johnny Robinson are expected to leave Brigade, with Ardmore reportedly leading the chase for Thompson and Robinson weighing up a return to Fox Lodge. Brigade are rumoured to be interested in bringing back the veteran Cooke brothers, Gordon and David.

Craig Young, the Warriors and Ireland bowler, could also be leaving Bready, with the seamer thought to have been granted clearance to leave his long-time club. However, his destination is unknown, although Eglinton expressed an interest in Young in the past.

Jarred Barnes is expected to join Muckamore after a season at Armagh

Jarred Barnes is expected to join Muckamore after a season at Armagh

Craig Young could be on the move from Bready

Craig Young could be on the move from Bready