CIYMS have put together what might just be one of the best club sides, on paper, in the history of the NCU - with a crucial cog in that machine all-rounder Jacob Mulder.
The 23-year-old has started the season in tremendous form, taking over 20 wickets along with some crucial innings for the reigning Premier League champions - none more so than his 59* last weekend in a seven-wicket victory over Waringstown.
Mulder, who usually bats in the middle-to-lower order, was promoted up to number three to play just that sort of role and it further illustrated just how deep and powerful the current CIYMS team are as they look to put their name on the Irish Senior Cup for the first ever time.
Led by Nigel Jones, the Belmont side have the chance to win four titles this season but Mulder says the whole squad are calm ahead of what appears a busy couple of months - starting with today’s Premier League clash with Muckamore.
“There was always going to be pressure on us after last season and the signing of Mark Adair,” he said. “We are chilled about it and we come out pretty relaxed. There is a good energy in the team and good vibe, the boys rock up and just play - we don’t think about any external things.
“I know it sounds very cliché and boring, but it’s literally about who we play next and go out and attack it, it’s a flexible team and a serious side.”
Born in Perth, Mulder made the move halfway across the world to Northern Ireland in 2013 and joined up with CIYMS, where he spent two seasons before making the switch to North Down and then returning to CI in 2017.
“Growing up through school, we came all the time as kids and we loved it here,” he adds. “As soon as I finished school I wanted to come over here and this is my seventh season now, it was better for me than going to university or working.
“It was the first time that I had played cricket all year round, I was living with my mum and sister in Bangor, so they were here for five months - it was very different.
“I had never played with hand-warmers before and Taimur Khan was captain, so I told him he had to give me three or four overs’ notice before I was going to bowl.”
Mulder immediately impressed and over the next couple of seasons would start to lay down his claim for Irish international honours through his performances at club and inter-provincial level with the Northern Knights.
His debut came in September 2016 in a Twenty20 against Hong Kong at Bready, and from there Mulder went on to play 14 times in limited-overs games, taking 22 wickets with best figures of 4 for 16 against Scotland.
“I remember waking up to a call from Alan Lewis, I didn’t realise there was a game on really,” he recalls. “(Doug) Bracewell (former head coach) had invited me to a couple of sessions at Stormont as a bowler and I had been doing pretty well in the Inter-Pros.
“Alan rang me at 8am and it was a call I was very happy to take!
“It was pretty surreal meeting guys like Kevin O’Brien, who I had watched before but was now sitting next to in the changing room.
“I found out in the morning of the game that I was playing and that helped because I was pretty nervous whether I was going to play or not.
“I had to speak in the team meeting about Hong Kong batsmen and I can’t tell you what I said! (William) Porterfield got me into the attack in the seventh over and I went for three or four and that calmed me down.
“I ended up with one wicket but Greg Thompson dropped one off me and the next ball went for six so I remember that! It was a good day.”
Mulder’s last Irish appearance came just over two years ago, and although his contract was terminated by mutual consent in November 2018, he has sights set on wearing the famous green again.
“I have started this season well with the Knights and there are so many spinners around like Harry Tector and James Cameron-Dow,” he said. “When you have competition for spots it makes you improve your game and that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Twenty20 is probably my best way back in, if any. I’ve been able to train with them when they’ve been at Stormont and got to chat to the coaches.”
He has played a major role in the Knights’ recent success, taking three wickets in the Twenty20 Festival at Pembroke before following it up with another three a few days later in a massive 50-over success against Leinster Lightning.
It feels as though head coach Simon Johnston has compiled a squad capable of winning silverware on a consistent basis, and Mulder says new captain Gary Wilson has played a massive role since returning from England.
“Gary Wilson has been huge for us,” he said. “There are a lot of boys that have lost to Leinster and been the whipping boys, myself included, so it’s always hard and Leinster are a serious team.
“Gary said after we beat them in the Twenty20 that we don’t want it to be a surprise to beat them, but we want to win every game and we backed it up beautifully in the one-day game on a flat wicket.
“We have boys like Graeme McCarter, Mark Adair, Shane Getkate and others that have seriously improved their game in the last couple of years.”
Mulder’s attention will be firmly focused on helping CIYMS fulfil their potential in 2019, and he has his targets set on a clean sweep.
“We are after every trophy this year,” he said. “We have started the season really well and have only lost one Twenty20 match against Waringstown, and we have improved in that format since then.
“It sounds a bit greedy but we are after everything and we are on the right track.”