The last time Instonians and Waringstown reached the semi-finals of the Irish Cup in the same season five years ago they were kept apart in the draw and ended up contesting the final.
NCU supporters will be hoping the draw, held on Tuesday lunchtime, delivers a similar result and gives home advantage to the NCU duo against tough Leinster opposition in the form of Merrion and Dublin YMCA.
In truth, neither of the 2011 finalists looked in any trouble on Sunday as Waringstown, the holders, cantered to a surprisingly comfortable eight-wicket win at North County while Instonians, inspired by 94 from captain Nikolai Smith and 70 from Andrew White, defeated Phoenix by 63 runs in Dublin.
CIYMS couldn’t make it an NCU treble however. The Belmont club went down by 46 runs at Dublin YM as none of their batting big guns, Chris Dougherty, Nigel Jones and Justin Kemp, came off in pursuit of the home side’s 248.
Tom Fisher had top scored with 66 for YM but the target wouldn’t have been considered out of CI’s reach at halfway. However, Dougherty went early, caught at slip, and although John Matchett made 29, the game was probably up when Jones (29) was trapped lbw and five overs later Kemp was bowled for 20.
Waringstown would have been expecting a tough ride at in-form North County but they were undoubtedly helped by the home side’s questionable decision at the toss. The surface was green and with the sun shining and the pitch likely to dry out later, Lee Nelson, the villagers’ skipper, would have inserted North County had he called correctly.
Instead, the Balrothery side opted to bat and within nine overs they were 35 for four as Phil Eaglestone and in particular professional Cobus Pienaar (3-31) made the ball talk off the seam.
Pienaar produced the delivery of the day to take the shoulder of Ireland international Eddie Richardson’s bat through to wicketkeeper Marcus McClean, but North County’s demise was also self-inflicted, mix-ups between the wickets leading to two run-outs expertly executed by Adam Dennison.
Andrew Sheridan struck a defiant 29 at number eight but North County were dismissed for just 107 by the 32nd over.
From there it was all about James McCollum, the Waringstown opener, who produced an exhibition of exquisite boundary-hitting. He was equally adept off front and back foot, striking 10 fours and a six in an unbeaten 63 from just 64 balls. Waringstown completed the formalities in the 19th over to secure a fourth Irish Cup semi-final in six years.
Instonians’ only moments of concern came during a fightback inspired by South African Nicolas Pretorius at Phoenix. The hard-hitting wicket-keeper made a brilliant 97 from just 100 balls but the game was effectively up when he was sixth man out, caught off left-armer Stephen Bunting (3-43). Nathan Smith (3-34) was also impressive as Phoenix were dismissed for 227 with six overs to spare.
Inst, who were without suspended professional Rusty Theron, were indebted to a superb match-defining second-wicket partnership of 145 between Nikolai Smith and White. Smith struck eight fours and two sixes while White’s 70 took just 81 balls. There was also a quickfire 45 from James Shannon as Inst piled up 290 for nine.
In the one NCU Premier League game yesterday. Carrickfergus completed a league double over North Down with a three-wicket victory at Middle Road. The Comber side, who could even be sucked into the relegation battle, were 158 for two batting first as professional Pieter Malan made 73, but four wickets from Ryan Eagleson saw them collapse to 176 for eight after 50 overs.
Carrick openers Michael Gilmour (46) and Iain Parkill (36) made good contributions but they wobbled as three wickets fell for just one run to Jacob Mulder (4-33).
However, they recovered as North Down lost for the fourth game out of six.