Now that the 2019 Robinson Services Premier League season has officially came to a close, it’s time to decide who should be named in Team of the Year.
It was quite the season for CIYMS who picked up four trophies from a possible five while Waringstown reached a fifth consecutive Irish Senior Cup final.
North Down improved leaps and bounds this season from their 2018 campaign and Instonians rounded the season out in fine style, going unbeaten in their last five matches.
With all competitions taken into account for the Premier League sides and one overseas professional being selected, here is my 2019 Team of the Year.
1. Chris Dougherty (WK)
Dougherty had a sensational season at the top of the order for CIYMS, scoring 916 runs and he played such a crucial role for the Belmont side as they went on to have a record season.
His tally means he was the only local player to go past 900 runs and having also played a part in a league-best 43 dismissals behind the stumps, Dougherty will don the gloves for this side.
2. John Matchett
Matchett and Dougherty have a superb opening partnership and are the perfect combination at the top, with Matchett’s attacking style complimented by the calmness of Dougherty.
This was a huge season for Matchett, scoring 838 runs at a strike rate of almost 100, notching up eight half-centuries in the process.
3. Andre Malan
Malan was again the best player in the NCU this season, scoring 1238 runs at an incredible average of 65.16 and also combined that with 41 wickets at a strike-rate of 23.02.
It’s a pleasure to watch Malan and only once this season did I not witness him score at least 50 (a score he went past 11 times in 23 innings). He played one of the best knocks this season in the Irish Senior Cup, scoring 145 against North Down.
4. Marc Ellison
Ellison usually opens the batting for CSNI and the Northern Knights, but with that combination of Matchett and Dougherty at the top of the order, he slides in at number four after another impressive season.
He scored 699 runs in the Premier League alone (second highest of any player) and averaged 49.93, hitting five fifties and one century in 17 innings.
5. Greg Thompson (C)
While Waringstown were nowhere near their best for large parts of the 2019 season, they still reached two finals and captain Greg Thompson really led from the front.
Very unfortunate to miss out on selection for Ireland’s T20 World Cup qualifying campaign, he scored 759 runs this season and who can forget that weekend where he hit 149* against Instonians before following it up the next day with 153 at Stormont against CSNI.
6. CJ van der Walt
A player that had a superb maiden season in the NCU, van der Walt proved himself with both bat and ball after scoring 653 runs at an average of 38 and taking 30 wickets for a Carrickfergus side that reached their first ever Irish Senior Cup quarter-final.
With Jacques Snyman and Jamie Holmes, van der Walt helped form a formidable middle order for Carrick who again finished in the top three of the Premier League. Could they be forming a group now capable of winning some silverware? One to watch.
7. Peter Eakin
Eakin is more than capable of batting higher than this position but such is the quality in this XI, what can you do!
The North Down all-rounder had a brilliant campaign and his form was one of the major differences between the Comber men finishing sixth in 2018 and challenging for the title this season. He scored 366 runs in the Premier League at an average of 45.75 while also collecting 32 wickets in all competitions.
8. Jacob Mulder
Mulder picked up 47 wickets for CIYMS in all competitions this season and didn’t just knock on the door of Irish selection but smashed it down.
Only a back injury has stopped him from taking part in the T20 World Cup qualifiers next month in the UAE, but he will certainly be back and will be eyeing a busy international schedule in 2020 once he recovers.
9. Graeme McCarter
McCarter is maybe the best fast bowler in the NCU on his day and he is able to provide control as well as being a genuine wicket-taking threat every single ball.
At the start of this campaign, his performances for club and the Northern Knights were absolutely superb and he ended the season with 31 wickets in 19 matches.
10. James Cameron-Dow
Cameron-Dow won my Player of the Year award and his 47 wickets is the best of any player in the NCU in over a decade (along with Mulder).
Cameron-Dow got his wickets at an average of 14.32 and strike-rate of 22 and he is another one that will have an eye on Ireland selection next year with Test matches in spinner-friendly conditions.
11. Josh Manley
Manley didn’t play as many matches as the rest of this team but such are his statistics and impact that the fast bowler deserves to be included.
He announced his arrival at Instonians by picking up four wickets against Rush in the Irish Senior Cup and then collected another four in the Challenge Cup quarter-final against Waringstown before being selected in an Irish Academy side to cap off a special first season. Manley had the best bowling average in the NCU top-flight (11.09).