As holders of the Clubturf Ulster Cup probably the last tie Coleraine would have wanted in the first round of their defence is a trip to North Down.
Gordon Cooke’s men, one week on from losing at home to Brigade in the North West Premiership, will face a searching examination of their character at Comber on Saturday.
However, on the way to winning the competition in 2013 the Bannsiders beat both North Down and Waringstown, so Cooke insists a visit to The Green isn’t as daunting a prospect as some people might think.
“There is no doubt that North Down and Waringstown would be the two teams that you would want to stay away from when the draw is made, but you can only beat what you are drawn against,” said Cooke. “It will be a hard game there, but we beat them last year along with Waringstown so we don’t have anything to fear. If we have one of our good days there’s no reason why we can’t win there.”
Cooke insists Coleraine won’t be dwelling on their first defeat of the season to Brigade. He concedes the North West champions weren’t at their best. However, he refused to make excuses despite Coleraine having the least favourable of the conditions.
“We won the toss and decided to bat, the wicket looked decent but it nipped about a bit early doors and when you are sitting 12 for four you are always going to be chasing the game,” Cooke said. “Rishi (Chopra) and Davy (Cooke) went in and put a partnership together and when Rishi was out me and Davy had a partnership. But apart from us three no one else got runs and it’s hard to win a game when so many batsmen don’t perform.
“But we went out in the field and fought hard. It took them 48 overs to get the runs and if we had got Johnny Thompson out they would have struggled. We dropped him twice so we had our chances. The better team won on the day, I’ve no complaints.”
It’s very early days in the title race but Cooke admits that Coleraine’s likeliest challengers are set to be Brigade and a revitalised Strabane.
“Brigade’s new pro hardly played a shot against us, he only hit about two or three fours and was very slow, but he did a job and stayed there while JT hit the boundaries. He could be what they need because since Ifty (Hussain) left Brigade have lacked someone to stay in and just bat for a long time,” he added.
“I think Brigade are the team to beat and Strabane have started really well. They will always be there or thereabouts. You always think they are a team you should be beating, but I certainly wouldn’t rule them out.”
Fox Lodge also make the trip to the NCU on Friday as they face Waringstown, last year’s beaten finalists at The Lawn.
The Ballymagorry men faced a stiff task. Waringstown have won seven consecutive matches this season in all competitions and when the teams met at the same ground last year the Foxies were dismissed for just 111.
Bready, who have started the season so impressively despite being without David Rankin for the most part, should continue their winning sequence at Muckamore. The NCU side are still without a win in all competitions.
Eglinton, in trouble in the North West Premiership, host Instonians while Ardmore play CSNI at The Bleachgreen.