Brigade ready for top of the table clash

Brigade's Gareth McKeegan is getting geared up for the next challenge
Brigade's Gareth McKeegan is getting geared up for the next challenge

Just one week after they lost the North West Senior Cup final for the third year in succession, Brigade face another season-defining match on Saturday.

Gareth McKeegan’s team, who are level on points at the top of the table with Strabane, meet their fellow title contenders at Strabane Park.

The winners will gain a stranglehold on the title race and perhaps the key factor is whether Brigade can put aside the misery of defeat on the same ground in the cup final.

Johnny Thompson, the Brigade all-rounder, firmly believes they can. Like many of his team-mates, Thompson has taken a break from cricket this week as the pain of defeat in the season’s showpiece took its toll.

He, McKeegan and their respective families spent several days at a hotel in Belfast where some time spent with Roy Torrens, the former Brigade stalwart, raised their spirits.

The cup final is history now but Thompson does have regrets, particularly in how he and his team-mates approached their run chase on Friday.

“We just didn’t turn up on the Friday and 100 runs was just too many for us to turn round on the second day,” he said. “Myself included, we just didn’t play our natural game on Friday with the bat. Some of the other guys got bogged down and I did the same, making 0 from 20 balls. Even when we came out in the field again on Friday night for 10 overs we just gave them 38 runs. We were like zombies.”

Saturday was an entirely different affair though as Brigade, led by a blistering half-century from Thompson from just 47 balls, gave Donemana some anxious moments before they lost by 88 runs.

“I thought we were great on the second day. If I had batted for another hour it could have been different,” Thompson said. “I kept targeting the short boundary and it worked against Jordy (McGonigle) but then I moved across my stumps too far and got bowled. David Murdoch did really well after I got out. I didn’t realise he was capable of playing an innings like that in the pressure of the cup final. He’s a real find for us.”

The Warriors man is confident this season’s title winners will come from Saturday’s game.

“I think it’s the best two teams in the league playing this weekend, the table doesn’t lie, he added. “I think that if we beat Strabane we should go on and win the league. We have been playing really good cricket apart from that first innings in the cup final.

“Strabane beat us earlier in the season but we lost Ryan Hunter and Andy Britton injured that day. We had them 20 for four with the bat and their pro hit one straight up in the air but we missed the catch.

“If we play to our capability we will get back on track.”

At the other end of the table it’s almost do or die time for Fox Lodge. The Ballymagorry side entertain resurgent champions Coleraine but are without professional Tabish Khan as he serves the second of a two-match suspension. Bready meanwhile can ill-afford to lose at Ardmore if they want to resurrect their faltering title challenge.

Donemana will be without talisman Andy McBrine for their clash with Eglinton.