Quarter-final day in the NCU Challenge Cup is among the most eagerly-anticipated days of the season.
But there will be a distinct feeling of anti-climax on Saturday with just two of the ties due to go ahead.
With North Down still awaiting the winner of CIYMS’ trip to Cliftonville in the first round, the tie of the day promised to be the holders Civil Service North against Muckamore at Stormont.
David Gill and his team were determined to right the wrongs of last Saturday when they came within a hair’s breath of knocking Leinster out of the Irish Cup in Dublin.
But as attentions turned to the Challenge Cup Muckamore discovered that with a pipe band championship event taking place at the Stormont grounds on Saturday, the tie will be postponed until Sunday week.
Gill said: “We only got the call a few days ago. We have been trying to speak to Roger Bell of the NCU and Andrew Cowden to see if there’s a way around it. It’s another game to have to get squeezed in and we’ve checked with Woodvale and we can’t even reschedule the league game with them.
“It’s unfortunate, CSNI have no control over what is happening on their ground and although Moylena is free, they don’t want to come here.”
Gill and his team are still smarting about the circumstances of last week’s last-over defeat at Rathmines. Umpiring decisions didn’t go their way, but the captain prefers to dwell on the positives.
Much was written about the pre-season signing of Ryan Haire and professional Avadhoot Dandekar but youngsters like Sam Gordon and Aditya Adey caught the eye on Saturday.
“The decisions didn’t go for us but it was a really positive performance,” said Gill. “It was a long journey back up on the bus but looking around and seeing the contributions that the young players had made was really encouraging.
“We have been trying not to over-expose Ryan. He has predominantly batted at five and in the top order you have Sam, Jay Hunter and Craig Drummond who is still only 21. Ryan has been working with the academy and with Sam you can see his game improving every week.”
According to most pundits, the Section One promotion race is a formality and Muckamore will race to the title without breaking a sweat.
Gill is not even entertaining such thoughts.
“You only need to look at the results in the league so far,” he added. “Downpatrick are a strong side, Academy are the surprise package and even Cliftonville, Alan Blain is a very good player and they have (Jonathan) Terrett back again. We need to perform every week but of course our goal is to win the league and get promotion.”
A run in the cup competitions, which Muckamore made their own two years ago, also appeals. It is a measure of their progress that no-one would be surprised if they topple CSNI next weekend.
“It’s a game we’re really looking forward to. We want to go as far as we can.”