Instonians are big winners but there is plenty to ponder for villagers and North Down

The 2016 Ulster Bank Premier League season might not be officially over yet, but all the big issues have been decided.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 3rd September 2016, 1:16 pm
Updated Saturday, 3rd September 2016, 2:21 pm
Nikolai Smith with the Ulster Bank Premier League trophy
Nikolai Smith with the Ulster Bank Premier League trophy

Instonians have been crowned champions for the third time in four years while Derriaghy return to Section One after relegation in their first season back in the top flight.

Here we assess all the winners and losers from the summer.

CARRICKFERGUS - Winners. TOP PLAYER: Pat Botha. The South African professional has been a revelation, averaging over 56 including five fifties and a hundred. Most importantly, he got his runs quickly, with a strike rate of 104. VERDICT 8 out of 10. They might not have won any trophies but the Middle Road club were dangerous throughout the campaign, taking the scalps of Instonians, Waringstown, North Down (twice) and CIYMS. The only disappointment for Iain Parkhill will be their cup form. They lost in two semi-finals, in the Challenge Cup and Twenty20, and those will niggle over the winter. PROSPECTS; They should be genuine contenders in 2017 if Botha and Jamie Holmes return. As his 40 wickets indicate, they need veteran Ryan Eagleson to keep going.

Pieter Malan of North Down was the best professional in the league by a distance

CIYMS - Losers. TOP PLAYER: Johnny Thompson. The fast bowling all-rounder has claimed 33 wickets, but will he be back at Belmont next season or return to his native North West? VERDICT: 6 out of 10. The league campaign started disastrously and at one stage they were rock bottom of the table. The Challenge Cup final offered a route to redemption but a calamitous start with the bat caused their demise against CSNI. Justin Kemp, Thompson and Nigel Jones entertained but there wasn’t enough depth. PROSPECTS: Like death and taxes, so upheaval is certain at Belmont over the winter.

CSNI - Winners. TOP PLAYER: Shane Getkate. The Dubliner’s return with the bat might look modest, with just over 400 runs at a shade under 30, but he reserved his best for the crucial moments. He savaged Waringstown in the Challenge Cup semi-final and then turned the final on its head. VERDICT 7 out of 10. Andrew Cowden has the Challenge Cup in his possession for the second time in three years and who wouldn’t be jealous of that? The league form was ordinary. PROSPECTS: The name on everyone’s lips is Gary Wilson. The Ireland man won’t be at Surrey next season and if he returns home, Stormont will be the destination.

DERRIGHY - Losers. TOP PLAYER: Craig Lewis. The captain started the season like a train with match-winning efforts against CIYMS and Donemana. Selection for the Northern Knights followed. VERDICT: 5 out of 10. They might have been relegated but the Queensway men were a breath of fresh air. The loyalty to Kaushik Aphale might have been their undoing. Where would Derriaghy have finished had Pieter Malan been the professional? PROSPECTS: Section One will be no walk in the park next season, but Lewis and young players like Curtis Moorhead should prosper in the second tier.

INSTONIANS - Winners. TOP PLAYER: Andrew White. His most consistent season in a while but this was a real team effort. VERDICT: 9 out of 10. Champions and they were close to an Irish Cup final. They lose a mark for early cup exits. PROSPECTS: Keep the squad intact and they may be unstoppable next summer. They will want to start integrating more youngsters in the first team.

Greg Thompson receives the man of the match award in the Twenty20 Cup final

LISBURN - Winners. TOP PLAYER: Adam Berry. The Lisburn captain battled back from a horrendous injury to score more than 400 runs. VERDICT: 7 out of 10. The season was almost a mirror image of many that had gone before. It started with a familiar pattern of league defeats and some cup exits but they then embarked on a mid-season winning run. But for arguably the innings of the season by Greg Thompson, Berry would have got his hands on the Twenty20 Cup. PROSPECTS: Lisburn have undoubtedly improved and a better youth structure means the future should be bright in the next few years. The choice of overseas professional for next season is important.

NORTH DOWN - Losers. TOP PLAYER: Pieter Malan. The South African was majestic, plundering over 1,000 runs at almost 100. Without him North Down would have been in the relegation mire. VERDICT - 5 out of 10. One place off the bottom and they didn’t feature in the cup competitions. PROSPECTS: Malan is probably not returning so choice of pro is key. There is a lack of depth down the club that will concern the Comber hierarchy.

WARINGSTOWN - LOSERS. TOP PLAYER: Greg Thompson. A blistering season has been rewarded with a deserved Ireland recall. Where would Waringstown have been without him? VERDICT - 5 out of 10. At high summer, they were threatening to sweep all before them but four defeats in their last five league matches followed and an Irish Cup final defeat. Twenty20 Cup triumph was a highlight but even that was exclusively down to Thompson. PROSPECTS: Plenty of young players waiting in the wings and next season might be the time to blood them.

Pieter Malan of North Down was the best professional in the league by a distance
Greg Thompson receives the man of the match award in the Twenty20 Cup final