Sporting history is stacked full of great cup final upsets and if Eglinton are lifting the Danske Bank North West Senior Cup after two innings of cricket against Donemana, they will have delivered a big one.
The odds appear to be stacked against Chris Pierce’s young side. Donemana have won the trophy in each of the last three years and in terms of the big-occasion experience, leave Eglinton trailing in their wake.
To compound their difficulties, Eglinton are without Craig Averill, one of their finest and most experienced cricketers, because he is attending the wedding of his brother Mark, who also would have played.
And yet this is far from a lost cause for Pierce’s team. For all that Donemana enjoy playing at the village venue, Eglinton’s nerves should ease because they have the comfort of home advantage.
Secondly, in Oraine Williams, the West Indian professional, they have arguably made the overseas signing of the season. With 595 runs, Williams is leading run-getter in the North West, and with 30 wickets, he is also the top wicket-taker.
Thirdly, you cannot ignore the credentials of any club team that includes Stuart Thompson in its ranks. The Ireland international is a match-winner with bat and ball, as Pierce is only too happy to point out.
“You look at Stuart and the pro, and over the course of two innings, you would hope that at least one of them will put in a really big performance at some stage,” said Pierce. “If the rest of us can chip in and Stuart and the pro do even half as well as we expect we will do well in this final. It’s going to be a good batting track and they are two aggressive players who can be very dangerous.
“With Oraine if he sees the ball he is going to try and hit it. There is no point in trying to stop him doing that.”
Pierce’s opposite number Richard Kee insists there is no danger of Donemana underestimating their opponents. For the first time in four years, they won’t be facing Brigade in the final, and Kee’s men are bigger favourites for this game than for any of the three previous showpieces.
However, Kee is quick to highlight the potential star quality in the Eglinton line-up and he highlights the potential importance of home advantage.
“A lot of people are saying we are favourites but if you think about it Eglinton are playing a Senior Cup final on their home ground and that’s a big thing,” said Kee. “Their whole village will be behind them, they will have a good support out over the two days, and it’s going to be hard for us.
“Maybe because we are playing in our fourth cup final in a row people will say we are big favourites but they will be well up for it. We played them in the league recently and we lost seven or eight wickets chasing down 180 or 190. It was a good game and we should have won easier, but they have Stuart Thompson back now and he is obviously their best player.
“He is a standout player and a standout performer, and we will hope to keep him as quiet as possible. Their pro is the top run-scorer in the North West too and he has 30 wickets. They have other good players and they are a good unit, but they will be thinking about our players too.”
The tradition on cup final day is to bat first, especially on the two-innings format. An ordinary weather forecast for today may just make the two skippers think again but if the sun shines they are both in agreement about their intentions.
Kee said: “Everyone likes to bat first in a Senior Cup final but it’s not the end of the world if you lose the toss.”
Pierce too would not be fearing the worst if the toss goes against him.
He said; “Both teams will probably want to bat first on a good pitch and put a good total on the board to put pressure on the opposition. It would be nice to bat first and get a big score but whatever you do first you want to do it well. The game won’t be won or lost on the toss.”
The key for Eglinton lies in the first day. If they are close to the cup favourites at the end of 100 overs the underdogs will have a fighting chance. Donemana should have too much but let’s hope for a riveting final and for the rain to stay away.
Play will start on each day at 12pm.