Brigade stun holders to book Ardmore date in O’Neill’s Ulster Cup final

Brigade's Gareth McKeegan
Brigade's Gareth McKeegan

Brigade confounded predictions for the second weekend in succession yesterday, beating O’Neill’s Ulster Cup holders North Down on their home ground to book a cup final place.

Andy Britton’s men will meet Ardmore in the showpiece next month, the Bleachgreen side progressing after winning their second bowl-out in a week against Waringstown.

While there was a heavy note of farce from events at The Bleachgreen, with Waringstown travelling amid apparently hopeless prospects for a game, Brigade were indebted to superb batting displays from openers David Barr and Gareth McKeegan, along with professional Danza Hyatt.

Batting first on a typically fine Comber pitch, Brigade’s early progress was steady rather than spectacular as they reached 104 for one after 25 overs.

McKeegan was the more aggressive of the openers, his 75 coming from just 82 balls and containing seven fours and two sixes.

The opening stand of 125 was eventually broken by young spinner Tim Carson, but Barr and West Indian professional Hyatt upped the ante in the closing overs. Barr made 84 from 116 balls, including five fours and a six, but it was Hyatt’s fireworks that pushed the North West side to a really intimidating total.

He was unbeaten on 67 from just 36 balls, plundering five fours and three sixes.

The final total of 239 for three was impressive but it was not insurmountable with Pieter Malan, the explosive South African, in the North Down ranks.

Brigade appeared to take an early stranglehold during the North Down chase, Britton trapping Jacob Mulder lbw and then Nick Donnell removing the dangerous Daniel Graham and Alistair Shields.

At 62 for three Brigade were in charge but the game turned back the home side’s way as Malan found a willing ally in Nathan Burns.

Malan, who seems to love this competition after his man-of-the-match performance in last season’s final, was in typically superb form during a 114-run stand.

North Down appeared to be in control but both players went within two overs of each other in similar circumstances.

First Burns was caught off a Hyatt full toss after making 37 from 44 balls and then another loose delivery removed Malan, who was comfortably caught at cover by Britton.

Malan had made 104 from 99 balls, including nine fours and three sixes, but his dismissal prompted North Down to fall increasingly behind the rate.

Hyatt (3-12) also picked up Peter Eakin and Britton (3-31) collected two more late wickets as North Down were dismissed for 218 with seven balls to spare.

Earlier, Decker Curry, Gary Neely and Conor Brolly hit with Ardmore’s first three attempts against Waringstown. Ardmore beat another top NCU club, CIYMS, in a bowl-out last Sunday.