The NCU’s track record of success against Dublin clubs in their own backyard in the Irish Cup doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
So there will be considerable sense of forboding on Saturday as Instonians and CIYMS, two of the union’s best chances of success in the competition, travel south.
Instonians, the 2011 losing finalists, have the easier match on paper at Malahide while CI, under-performers in the Irish Cup since their promotion to the top flight, face a daunting task at Merrion, finalists in three of the last five years.
CI’s record doesn’t inspire confidence. They exited in the first round last year and 2011, and the second stage in 2013, 2012 and 2010.
However, you get the impression from captain Chris Dougherty that there is a steely determination to success this year. If they can just see off Merrion, they have the potential to go deep into the latter stages.
“Merrion have a great record in the competition over the last five years,” said Dougherty. “They are one of the leading teams in Leinster, in Ireland, but we’re looking forward to it. It’s a challenge for us.”
If CI are going to win, then surely they will have to limit the damage inflicted by John Anderson, Merrion’s Ireland international. Dougherty gained the best possible insight into Anderson’s destructive capabilities when he kept wicket during the recent interpro between the Northern Knights and Leinster Lightning.
“John is the glue that holds Merrion together,” said Dougherty. “He will be a crucial wicket for us, he is their key man. Last week in the Twenty20 he smashed 70 off 35 balls but I think for Merrion he will look to bat through the 50 overs.”
Dougherty doesn’t subscribe to the theory that home advantage means everything. However, he warns that some of his team could be hindered by rustiness
“You obviously want to play on your home patch and home advantage is a factor but there are good wickets at Merrion and our lads will look forward to batting on a good deck.
“The lads are pretty hungry for runs. We have only played one 50-over game and a Twenty20. Myself, Rassie (van der Dussen) and JCD (James Cameron-Dow) have been getting plenty of cricket with the Knights but for the rest of the lads, it must feel like ages since they’ve played.”
Instonians go to Malahide in the knowledge that Imad Wasim, the Pakistan professional so influential in their Premier League title triumph last year, will not be returning to Shaw’s Bridge after his call-up for Pakistan.
Inst are in the final stages of signing a replacement.
Belmont will host a cricket match with a difference on Sunday.
Geoff Brittain, who has been completely blind in one eye since 2005, has organised an eye patch match involving some leading names from the NCU.
The Twenty20 match starts at 1.30pm. All players will be checked to see which is their dominant eye, then their weaker one will be covered with an eye patch.