NCU Premier League hoping to make up for lost time

Andrew Cowden
Andrew Cowden

The month of June is almost upon us and the NCU Premier League is barely out of the starting blocks, never mind at along the first straight.

After Carrickfergus and Waringstown completed a rearranged Twenty20 match on Thursday night, at least it means each of the eight teams has now completed one fixture.

Mandatory Credit: Rowland White/PressEye'Cricket: Ulster Bank Challenge Cup Final'Teams: Civil Service North (blue) v Waringstown (red)'Venue: The Green, Comber'Date: 1st August 2014'Caption: Jason van der Merwe, CSN

Mandatory Credit: Rowland White/PressEye'Cricket: Ulster Bank Challenge Cup Final'Teams: Civil Service North (blue) v Waringstown (red)'Venue: The Green, Comber'Date: 1st August 2014'Caption: Jason van der Merwe, CSN

The combination of the dreadful May weather, and a fixture list dictated by cup competitions and a suffocating list of interprovincial matches, has ensured that the Premier League has almost been forgotten.

Civil Service North are one of four teams starting the weekend’s fixtures still in search of their first league points.

Andrew Cowden, the captain, leads his team into a double-header against Waringstown at The Lawn on Saturday followed by a trip to Carrickfergus on Sunday.

CSNI have made progress in three of the cup competitions, and the articulate doesn’t deny that they represent the club’s best chance of silverware once again.

“If you had been asking me last September, when Jonesy (Nigel Jones) was still with us, I would say our priority was going to be the league this season, but I am honest we are definitely that one quality player short of winning the league or making a serious challenge for it.

“Nigel is that player, without drawing attention to him, but our focus is still on the top four. But our main hope of silverware would be getting the latter stages of the cup competitions again.”

CSNI at least have good experience of many of their recent meetings with Waringstown.

They beat the villagers twice last season, most notably in a rain-affected Challenge Cup final, but perhaps more impressively in a league match at Stormont.

“When we beat them at our place last year, they didn’t really hit their straps all day, and we had two or three guys who really performed,” Cowden said. “It should be a good game on what is usually an excellent wicket at The Lawn.

“Our first aim in the league this season is to beat those teams who people would expect to be below us.

“If we can do that and then cause upsets against the top three sides, starting at The Lawn, then we will not be too far away from that top four.”

CSNI’s injury list has been uncomfortably long in recent weeks, but the physio’s room should be empty tomorrow.

Regan West, the player-coach, returns after hamstring problems, while Jason van der Merwe plays despite nursing a fractured finger. Cowden will take a late decision on whether veteran seamer John Costain plays against Waringstown or Carrickfergus. Andrew Hodgkins will stand in on either day.

“We are going to The Lawn with confidence,” Cowden said. “There is less pressure on us than them but at the same time it’s important that we get points on the board this weekend.

“We certainly wouldn’t want to be sitting nought out of three. It’s a big weekend of cricket for everyone because so little league cricket has been played so far.”