Here is the full rundown of all you need to know about the 2017 NCU Premier League, including who has moved where, the new professionals and the men to watch out for.
CARRICKFERGUS: CAPTAIN: Pat Botha. OVERSEAS: Botha,Daniel Poulton. IN: Poulton. OUT: Michael Armstrong. 2016: Premier League runners-up. KEY MAN: Michael Gilmour. VERDICT: Surprise runners-up last summer after Waringstown’s spectacular end of season collapse, there is no reason why Carrick shouldn’t be in the mix for trophies once again. The cups look their best bet and with the league’s most explosive professional in Botha, they can beat anyone on their day.
CSNI: CAPTAIN: Andrew Cowden. OVERSEAS: Mansoor Amjad (Pakistan). IN: James Kennedy (Ballymena), Aaron Wright (Waringstown). OUT: Jason van der Merwe (CIYMS), Jordan Wilson, Paddy Park, (both Holywood). 2016: Fourth, Challenge Cup winners. KEY MAN: Graeme McCarter. VERDICT: It could barely have been a worse winter at Stormont, with van der Merwe’s departure, the protracted saga over Getkate’s move to Instonians and the departure of several squad players. A struggle with relegation looks very possible.
CIYMS: CAPTAIN: Nigel Jones. OVERSEAS: Matt McGillivray (South Africa). IN: Jason van der Merwe (CSNI), Ryan Hunter (Brigade), Trevor Britton (Brigade), Jacob Mulder (North Down). OUT: Justin Kemp, Johnny Thompson (Brigade), Stephen Chambers (Lurgan). 2016: Fifth, Challenge Cup runners-up. KEY MAN: Mulder. VERDICT: CI start 2017 looking significantly stronger on paper than a year ago. Bringing Ireland international Mulder back to Belmont looks a superb acquisition, even if his availability might be limited, and van der Merwe is surely ready to hit the next level. Silverware surely a must.
INSTONIANS: CAPTAIN: Nikolai Smith. OVERSEAS: None. IN: TBC. OUT: Rusty Theron, Neil Russell (North Down). 2016: Premier League winners. KEY MAN: Nathan Smith. VERDICT: They might be starting the season without an overseas professional, but few would dispute that Inst remain the team to beat in the NCU. Assuming Getkate’s move from CSNI goes ahead, they will have a mouth-watering batting line-up to accompany a seam attack that is the envy of the division.
LISBURN: CAPTAIN: Adam Berry. OVERSEAS: Gionne Koopman (South Africa). IN: Koopman. OUT: Steve Lazars (Coleraine), Nathan Waller, Cody Chetty. 2016: Sixth. KEY MAN: David Simpson. VERDICT: A tough winter with Lazars departing after just one summer at Wallace Park and Waller is not returning from Zimbabwe. Many people’s tips for the drop, but Lisburn are a resilient bunch, especially at home. Performances of new professional Koopman will be pivotal to their survival chances.
MUCKAMORE: CAPTAIN: Neil Gill. OVERSEAS: Kasigo (Jonty) Rapulana (South Africa). IN: Iftikhar Hussain (Brigade) OUT: Avadhoot Dandekar. 2016: Section One champions. KEY MAN: Ryan Haire. VERDICT: Moylena men managed just a solitary victory in their last Premier League season, but and the collapse of Jarred Barnes’ move is a hammer blow to the bowling attack. If professional Rapulana and Haire fire they could have enough to avoid the drop.
NORTH DOWN: CAPTAIN: Marty Moreland. OVERSEAS: Ruhan Pretorius (South Africa), Carl Robinson (Zimbabwe). IN: Stuart Nelson (Cregagh), Jay Hunter (Templepatrick), Neil Russell (Instonians). OUT: Pieter Malan, Jacob Mulder (CIYMS), Kris Lyness (Lurgan). 2016: Seventh. KEY MAN: Alistair Shields. VERDICT: A brush with relegation last summer and it could have been worse but for Malan’s batting heroics. Losing Malan and Mulder is a blow but Pretorius should be a fine addition. Expect an improvement from 2016.
WARINGSTOWN: CAPTAIN: Greg Thompson. PROFESSIONAL: Shaheen Khan (South Africa). IN: Khan. OUT: Aaron Wright (CSNI), Cobus Pieenar. 2016: Twenty20 Cup winners, Irish Cup runners-up. KEY MAN: Thompson. VERDICT: The squad has changed little from 2016 when the villagers collapsed with the finishing line in sight. They boast the longest batting line-up in the NCU but seam bowling depth is a worry.