SIX TIMES: Waringstown champions of Ireland again after win over Merrion

The victorious Waringstown team. Picture: Colm Lenaghan
The victorious Waringstown team. Picture: Colm Lenaghan

Waringstown were crowned champions of Ireland for the third time in four years on Saturday, an 85-run win over Dubliners Merrion at Stormont taking them to a record-breaking six all-Ireland triumphs.

Level-pegging with North County before the showpiece on five Irish Cup victories each, the villagers are now out in front on six and celebrated a remarkable fourth trophy of the season.

Waringstown celebrate winning the Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup

Waringstown celebrate winning the Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup

With the Gallaghers Challenge Cup, the Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup and the all-Ireland T20 safely in the cabinet, the Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup is back at The Lawn for the fourth time in the space of eight years.

Half-centuries from James Hall, James McCollum and South African professional Shaheen Khan, man-of-the-match in probably his last Waringstown appearance, were instrumental in a daunting total of 264 for seven on a pitch that offered considerable assistance to the spinners.

This was a surface that Waringstown would have hand-picked and taken around the country with them, and their spinners then turned the screw on Merrion’s reply, Gary Kidd picking up the prize scalp of their talisman John Anderson just as he threatened to produce the kind of match-winning innings that has made him one of the finest club batsmen in Ireland for a decade.

At the halfway stage, with Waringstown having posted well above the expected par score, Merrion were second favourites and their predicament looked much worse when first Dom Joyce edged Phil Eaglestone behind and then Bhavesh Lakhotia was brilliantly run out by a James Mitchell direct hit.

Shaheen Khan, centre, celebrates taking the final wicket as Waringstown clinched an 85-run win

Shaheen Khan, centre, celebrates taking the final wicket as Waringstown clinched an 85-run win

But, to their great credit, Merrion adopted an aggressive approach that continued even when Anderson injudiciously aimed a sweep at Kidd’s third delivery and was lbw.

It was a hammer blow for the newly crowned Leinster champions, but the impressive Michael Lewis and Ireland international Tyrone refused to lie down, the former particularly threatening in a 45-run stand that kept Merrion up with the asking rate.

But it was one of those days when Waringstown took a wicket just about every time the village nerves became slightly frayed, and when Lewis departed to Kidd (2-35), you felt it was the beginning of the end for the Dubliners.

An injured Dave Langford-Smith raged against the dying of the light, much as he had done in the 2015 final between the sides at The Lawn, hitting two sixes, but he was the second run-out victim before, fittingly, Khan took the last wicket courtesy of a fine running catch from Eaglestone,

Phil Eaglestone taking the decisive catch. Picture: Colm Lenaghan, Pacemaker

Phil Eaglestone taking the decisive catch. Picture: Colm Lenaghan, Pacemaker

This was the third time the clubs had met in the final in the last four seasons, and in truth Waringstown were largely in charge after winning a crucial toss at a ground where high scores were at a premium this week in the ODIs between Ireland and Afghanistan.

Adam Dennison was lbw early on as Merrion began well with the new ball but Hall and McCollum both batted beautifully, adding 127 for the second wicket to put Waringstown in total command on 139 for one in the 34th over.

Hall never looked back after a towering early straight six off Jack Cardy, adding three boundaries in a productive 10th over. McCollum underlined his reputation as a big-match player, making 54 from 73 balls, before he was caught at deep mid-wicket over Anderson.

The leg-spinner took wickets in three successive overs, Hall following for 74 from 101 balls and then Lee Nelson edged behind as Waringstown lost three wickets for 12 runs.

Gary Kidd celebrates the wicket of John Anderson in Saturday Irish Senior Cup final

Gary Kidd celebrates the wicket of John Anderson in Saturday Irish Senior Cup final

At 152 for four Merrion were back in the match, but Khan and Greg Thompson, the Waringstown captain, added 66 in less than overs to give Waringstown crucial momentum for the closing overs.

Khan was at his imperious best, hitting five fours and three sixes in an unbeaten 71 from 54 balls. Absurdly, the regulations insist that next summer, as a non-first class cricketer, he cannot return to play in Northern Ireland. Waringstown will have some task replacing him.