Instonians suffered from a plethora of injuries during the 2018, with many key personnel missing at different points throughout the campaign, but they still finished fourth in the Premier League.
The Shaw’s Bridge side also reached the Challenge Cup semi-final before losing out by 72 runs to CSNI.
Here, captain Andrew White reflects on his first season in the job.
How do you look back on 2018?
I suppose I have mixed feelings, as do many of the guys in the squad. Generally at the start of every season you set out to try and win trophies, and we were certainly no different this year. Those best laid plans were quickly changed from an early part of the season when injuries to key players happened.
When you sit back now and reflect on how your season has gone, you look at the opportunities it gave to young players, and in some cases very young. When you see them do well, it gives you a good lift and all the senior guys really enjoyed watching the young players perform in the way they did.
It was your first season as captain. Was it tough with all the injuries?
It was my first season as captain and I couldn’t have done it without Gavin Rogers, who was a strong man behind the scenes and the support from the committee was outstanding.
They were fully supportive of playing the young guys. We could have kept turning to the likes of Eugene Moleon, who has been a great servant to Instonians over the years, but it got to the stage we knew there was a long-term benefit in playing the young lads, and they certainly didn’t let us down.
It feels as though you will be much improved with these young players getting a season under their belt?
The great thing about the guys who are pushing for representative honours, and that’s not just at senior Knights level – you have the likes of Oli Metcalfe, James Hunter and younger guys, and that’s really exciting to see them pushing themselves to achieve those targets.
The environment that we are trying to breed at Instonians is one that we want to see our club players achieve their potential, and that is at representative level as well. We are mindful of that.
The competitive edge of all of us wants to win trophies though, and that won’t be any different next year.
Nathan Smith returned to action late in the season. I’m sure as an Ireland selector and also Instonians captain you’re delighted to see him back?
He had a nasty injury, but the Irish medical staff and Nathan himself in terms of his attitude to getting back fit were great.
He went through a lot of hard yards behind the scenes with the medical staff and he certainly has the right attitude. Hopefully he can winter well and come back stronger next season.
You were the only team in the Premier League without an overseas professional this year. Would you look to get one in next year?
The last two years we have done it. We were in winning positions against Waringstown twice, we were in a good position against Civil Service North in the Senior Cup semi-final, and it’s in times like those that teams rely on their professional. We have been no different in time gone by in terms of those critical moments where the experience of a professional can be the difference.
I don’t know what the plans are in terms of looking ahead to next year and a professional. That decision might be dictated by the number of players we have lost through injury or representative honours.
You want stability, especially around the coaching side of things. A lot of guys who are in the Knights do a lot of coaching, so if they are missing midweek for one reason or another, it puts a strain on the coaching side of things. Those are all areas we will have to look at.
Looking to 2019, it sounds like you want to get back to winning trophies?
I suppose that is why we play at the level we do. We want to be competitive and we want to win. If anything, this year has probably demonstrated to us that when we are at full strength, we are more likely than not to be at the challenging end for trophies.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still quite a lot of pressure on the Knights guys to deliver in the club game and make sure they are putting in match-winning performances. There should always be a pressure on those guys to help us win trophies, and nothing will change from that point of view.
There was a lot of good cricket played around the country this year. The batting was certainly stronger than the bowling across the country, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that CIYMS won the league because they have the most well-rounded bowling attack.