The North West Premiership title race will be ending on a whimper this weekend.
After Brigade’s thrilling one-wicket victory over Coleraine last Saturday, the cricketing public was whetting its appetite at the prospect of a title play-0ff.
But instead of a gripping finale there is farce. Coleraine will lift the trophy for the second time in three years but only after a bitter stand-off involving Brigade and the North West’s cricketing body.
The first hint of a potential spanner in the works arose in the aftermath of last Saturday’s thriller at Beechgrove. By Monday night it had become a crisis when this reporter spoke to several leading figures at Brigade.
Andy Britton, his players and the club hierarchy on the Limavady Road were adamant that they had given North West officials ample warning of their unavailability for this Sunday, September 13. Gareth McKeegan, Ryan Hunter and Ian McGregor will all be on foreign holidays.
The officials were equally adamant that no guarantees had been given and Brigade released a formal statement on Wednesday saying, insisting that they will not be turning up for a Sunday play-off.
The final nails in the coffin came yesterday afternoon. The North West board of control released a statement of their own, saying there was no question of changing the play-off date from Sunday to Saturday and with Brigade pledging that they won’t take the field on Sunday, it is their intention to present the trophy to Coleraine this weekend.
In a statement the North West said, “There are clear and concise regulations governing what constitutes a legitimate reason for having dates of matches changed once set however holidays and work commitments are not among them. The Union has had to make several difficult decisions this season already regarding players not being available for high profile matches, however those decisions were taken and subsequently accepted by the parties involved.
“This is not the end of the season that we had hoped for however we feel that it is absolutely essential that members abide by the dates set by those responsible. We should also point out that Coleraine CC agreed throughout to comply with any decision of the Union.
“As things stand, and given that we have received official confirmation from Brigade that they will not be fulfilling the fixture, we have no choice but to make arrangements with Coleraine CC to carry out a formal presentation.”
Although the title play-off will not go ahead, the promotion-relegation one between Fox Lodge and Bready will do at Strabane Park.
Bready of course have been here before. They defeated St Johnston at this very stage two years ago, but it promises to be much closer against their derby rivals.
Both teams’ professionals have returned home but Bready are able to call upon Ireland opening bowler Craig Young. If he fires, it’s hard to look past them.
In the NCU Waringstown will be formally presented with the Premier League trophy before their game with Instonians at The Lawn.
In Section One Donacloney host Cliftonville in a 20-over relegation decider at The Factory Ground. After much calculation it is believed Cliftonville are narrowly ahead on nett run-rate. With the forecast poor, that could be decisive.