It goes some way to explaining how good Waringstown have been over the past five years that you look back on their 2019 season and consider it a disappointment despite reaching two finals.
The Villagers have been the standard bearers for some time now, dominating the local and Irish scene by reaching five straight Irish Senior Cup finals and they came into the 2019 campaign as defending champions in four competitions.
Greg Thompson’s side lost out to a talented Pembroke side that could go on to reign supreme for years to come in the Irish Senior Cup decider while CIYMS defeated them in a nail-biting finish in the Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup.
They eventually finished sixth in the Robinson Services Premier League table, and Thompson looks back on the season with disappointment.
“If I’m being honest, it was a disappointment,” he said.
“Largely in the league we were poor and in the end the league table has us sitting in sixth. If we hadn’t been forced to play meaningless games at the end of the season in the middle of September with depleted teams, I think we probably would have finished third or fourth.
“Regardless, that’s not a good enough result in the league. Cup wise, the highlights were the two finals. To get to those finals for the fifth time in a row for the T20 and fifth Irish Senior Cup final in a row was a great achievement.
“I wouldn’t look at it as a successful season despite those two achievements, which aren’t to be overlooked. On the whole, there would be a fairly negative reflection on how our season went.”
Constantly rising to the challenge year after year at the business end of every competition isn’t easy to maintain, and Thompson feels that may have affected the squad for the first time.
“It definitely is (tough),” he added.
“We have won four trophies in two consecutive years and that was a huge achievement. That was built upon other successes throughout the four years or slightly longer before that.
“It’s tough at the top and we definitely didn’t have our best season. There were a lot of factors in that.
“To be missing James McCollum as much as we did and I don’t think we played a single league game with a full strength team. James missed the vast majority, I missed a couple and there was the odd injury or unavailability.
“To be missing James, your number three batsman and while our professional performed well with the ball, he didn’t match our or his own expectations with the bat. That left us quite short when it came to runs on the board.
“The commitment that the guys have given to the last few years has probably took its toll for the first time this year and we will have to refocus and reassess our aims. If we want to remain in the top, we will just have to redouble our efforts again.”
Lee Nelson (531), Adam Dennison (702) and Thompson (759) all passed the 500 run mark for the season but it often felt that Waringstown were short of runs in 2019.
Any team will struggle missing a player of the calibre of Irish international James McCollum and there was also a gaping hole left by the departure of Shaheen Khan to Pembroke.
“Adam Dennison had a strong year again,” reflected Thompson.
“Lee Nelson was back in amongst the runs, I scored runs so we still had the batting talent. You’re missing two guys in the heart of the team there with James McCollum and a professional scoring 600/700 runs.
“You can tell from the statistics in the Premier League that there are a lot of teams who benefit from overseas guys scoring runs.
“As a club, we have made a decision that it isn’t a route we want to go down which makes it tougher again to compete with these teams who are willing to put their hand in their pocket and go out and buy players. Every club is entitled to run in their own way.
“I spoke after the Irish Senior Cup loss to Pembroke about the fact they had won with a very talented overseas in Shaheen Khan who performed extremely well in the final, but other than that they had 10 local guys.
“I don’t think they all totally played their whole careers at Pembroke, but largely speaking that was a Pembroke team who if they weren’t totally homegrown, weren’t far off it.
“We would like to follow that and I know it’s probably a bit rich coming from me because I’m not born and bred in Waringstown. I think that would be a good model to follow for all clubs to be producing that amount of talent consistently and that is where our club would like to be.”
Thompson was Waringstown’s best performer, averaging 44.65 and his efforts were enough to break back into the Ireland squad again for a Twenty20 series against Zimbabwe during the summer.
He was very unfortunate to be left out of the touring party that departed for the T20 World Cup qualifiers (via a five-team series in Oman) on Monday.
“It was a bit of a purple patch at the start of the season,” said Thompson, who scored 149* and 153 in consecutive days back in May.
“The weather was good and the wickets were flat and my own batting form was good at the right time. I scored enough runs to force my way into the Ireland team again.
“If I’m being critical, it was all too brief. I didn’t score the volume of runs I was capable of having gave myself such a head start.
“A lot of guys will say it was a disjointed season given the weather and the breaks with Inter-Provincial cricket, so there are factors there but overall I would be quite happy scoring the runs I did but I would prefer to be winning trophies.”
Thompson has a variety of commitments away from the cricket field, including his role as hockey coach and he is set to become a father later this year.
He has had a very successful run but will his stint as skipper continue into 2020?
“That isn’t something I have discussed,” he added.
“For the past few weeks there I had the World Cup qualifiers in my sights but I didn’t get picked.
“I needed to then refocus and I have a lot going on outside of cricket in terms of being back to work, I do a lot of hockey coaching and we are expecting our first child in November.
“There’s a lot of other factors and it isn’t a conversation I have had with the club yet.”