Something is going to have to give in Saturday’s Irish Cup final between Waringstown and Merrion at The Lawn.
The villagers, aiming to win the competition for a fourth time after victories in 1983, 1992 and 2011, have never lost on the biggest stage in Irish club cricket.
Meanwhile Merrion, the competition favourites and 2010 winners, have plenty of reason to believe that The Lawn has become a lucky venue for them in the NCU.
The Dubliners will be aiming for a hat-trick of modern-day wins at Waringstown, having beaten the NCU side there in the 2010 semi-final and in the last eight two years ago.
Because of their absolute embarrassment of batting riches, Merrion will start as favourites despite conceding home advantage.
Waringstown accept the underdog tag but the inclination is to believe Lee Nelson, the captain, when he states that the pressure is off after they effectively wrapped up the NCU Premier League title on Wednesday night.
“The Irish Cup final is a day everyone at the club can look forward to and enjoy, and now that we have got the victory against Lisburn, it takes the pressure off for Saturday,” said Nelson. “We are virtually over the line in the league now, which is great for some of the younger players who haven’t been there before in terms of winning trophies. We can go out on Saturday and hopefully play with freedom.”
Nelson played in both the previous Irish Cup ties between the clubs. Waringstown had Merrion reeling in 2010 as then professional Victor Mpitsang took four early wickets, but John Anderson’s brilliant hundred turned the match on its head.
Waringstown’s batting cost them in the quarter-final two years ago and crucial to their hopes will be openers James Hall and James McCollum blunting the formidable Ireland seamer Tyrone Kane.
Kane is apparently fit again after a side strain, and if Waringstown survive the new ball they could cash in against Merrion’s weaker bowlers.
“I think we are a better team now than when we lost to them here before,” said Nelson. “Our younger guys are more experienced and we certainly don’t fear anyone playing at home.
“Merrion are a very good side, but you expect to face that when you’re in an Irish Cup final. John Anderson is a very good cricketer and Tyrone Kane has come on in leaps and bounds. He is one of their big match-winners.”
Nelson has potential match-winners too. Hall is the middle of a golden batting season, Phil Eaglestone is the leading wicket-taker in the NCU while Kyle McCallan is bowling as well as he ever has in the twilight of his career.
With left-arm spinner Gary Kidd back to fitness and JP de Villiers of the Titans in for Ruhan Pretorius, Waringstown do have the bowling attack to potentially worry Merrion.
Expect the Dubliners, led by the aggressive South African Rob Smith to come out firing. Captain Rory Allwright has almost endless batting options including David Langford-Smith and Dom Joyce, but then Waringstown bat deep too and Nelson has promised a fearless display from his batters.
Conditions will be intriguing and the toss unquestionably a poser for both captains. Eighteen wickets fell at the Lawn in less than 50 overs last week and the pitch will not have seen much sunlight this week.
The only negative is the scheduling for a Saturday which will rule out many neutral supporters.