The first round proper of the NCU Challenge Cup sponsored by Arthur J Gallagher gets under way tomorrow with an interesting set of eight fixtures. – with all potentially David vs Goliath clashes.
For current Challenge Cup holders CIYMS their season has already been a stark reminder of the power of David as the league campaign began with defeat against Premier League newcomers Derriaghy.
CI captain Nigel Jones is under no illusions going into tomorrow’s tie.
“Looking at the photograph of last year’s winners there are seven blokes missing,” he said.
“For me the challenge of taking on the captaincy is that in this position sometimes it is difficult to gel and with new players I really don’t know how they will respond until we are actually in the heat of battle.
“With a settled side you get to know and work out how people react to certain situations.
“And with all things in life it is easier to face problems when you are confident in how those around you have responded previously and that will take time.
“Chris Dougherty has stepped aside to concentrate on attempting to fulfill his Irish ambitions and having worked with him over the winter I believe that I can help him with that.
“A number of our younger players have left and obviously that is disappointing, but I wish them well and the door will remain open should they wish to return. Obviously this also creates opportunities for some others to step up.
“For me last season was not the ideal start with a new club and it is has taken me time to settle in and adjust.
“Early on I picked up an injury and then my form started to suffer and on a personal level it has been great to have a winter getting back into shape.
“Regarding the captaincy, perhaps I did not realise how much I actually missed it; I feel like a man with a new set of batteries and I am really looking forward to it.
“To be honest, I don’t want to make excuses, Derriaghy deserved the win but everything that could go wrong that day did, starting with my wife being ill in the morning and me arriving 10 minutes late for the warm up. Perhaps I should have seen the omens.
“We dropped eight catches something which at any level of cricket you simply cannot afford to do.
“Derriaghy played an aggressive brand of cricket and as the day went on the noise level went up.
“We were also 50-5 when we batted, so if we look to take positives from the game the last five wickets added 130.
“All and all though it was just a really rusty performance. I have no doubt though that Woodvale will equally be up for the game this weekend, so yes we need to improve.
“I think it will be an exciting year, unfortunately ‘Doc’ picked up a groin strain, but he will return at the weekend, playing as a batsman in Friday’s T20 game and back behind the stumps as well on Saturday.
“I will be looking to the younger guys to take the opportunities when they get the chance.
“John Matchett is already established but I would like to see his bowling develop this year and we have the likes of Joss McConkey, Johnny Moore and David Robinson all in the team against Woodvale.”
As a side CIYMS tend to polarise opinion and doubtless many would be delighted to see them slip up again, but there are simply too many seasoned campaigners in the likes of Johnny Thompson, Allen Coulter, Justin Kemp, Zach Rushe and the skipper himself to believe in a reoccurance.
It shouldn’t be long before the real CI come to the party and they are expected to be challenging for silverware once again, particularly in the cup competitions, so discount them at your peril.
It is difficult to see where the upsets may happen, all the Premier League sides seem to have too much firepower for their Section One opponents, though it will be interesting to see how Derriaghy cope with expectations on their visit to Donaghcloney.