Cregagh looking to go one step further in 2020

Cregagh captain Aaron Johnston is hoping this will be the year where his side can get over the line and pick up some Twenty20 silverware after narrowly missing out in previous seasons.

They have reached a final in three of the last four years, losing out on all three occasions to Downpatrick (2019), Saintfield (2017) and Cliftonville (2016) but managed to win the Section Two league title in 2017.

The Gibson Park side will kick their LVS Twenty20 Trophy campaign off against either Armagh or Cliftonville Academy while the league, which has been renamed the Robinson Services Trophy for 2020, will also be contested in the Twenty20 format.

With their recent success, Johnston’s men are confident entering the shortened season and have their targets set on glory.

“The goal is to win the league,” he said.

“We do see ourselves as a strong Twenty20 outfit so we have the Twenty20 Cup to challenge for again.

“We’ve managed to get to a final in three of the last four years without winning, so that’s something we want to do.

“It’s going to be sweeter when we do achieve that after suffering three defeats.”

Cregagh have one of the youngest sides in the league and have been making steady progress, improving their league position by two places from 2018 to finish in fifth last season.

With the likes of Johnston, his brother Mark and Jay Hunter in their ranks, they are well set-up to take that further, but the skipper is also keen to give even more young players a chance.

MarkJohnston1
Mark Johnston celebrates a half-century in 2018. ©CricketEurope

“I think the young squad helps in throwing yourself around the field,” he added.

“We do have a few young players that we think this year will be a good chance to bring them into the team and get them some First XI experience.

“I know there’s no promotion or relegation so with that comes a little bit less of competitiveness, so maybe it’s a good time to get some of the younger guys a go in the first team.

“When we go out there, we want to win and will be playing to win regardless of no promotion.

“At the end of the day, it does take a little bit of pressure off so it’s going to be a good time to express yourself as a batsman and maybe try a few things for the bowlers and just build on what we have been doing.”

Cregagh will take to the field against Cliftonville Academy this Saturday with the same set of players that they had last season.

The end goal for the club is to reach the Premier League, which will potentially change to a 12-team competition from 2022 onwards.

That could involve bringing some new faces in but for now, Johnston is happy with the squad as they take another step towards that dream.

“We have a few things in mind of where we want to get to as a squad,” he said.

“We aren’t quite there yet and there’s probably a few positions in the team that we could look to improve on.

“We have this season and next to try and get to where we want to be before hopefully having the chance to go up a league.

“We are going into the season with the same squad but it’s definitely something we are looking at over the next couple of seasons to improve the squad.

“As long as I’ve been at the club, there are very few players that I can think of off the top of my head that have left the club.

“Over the last three or four years we have had quality players come in from some Premier League clubs and every one of them seems to be enjoying their cricket.

“I’m biased, but it’s a great place to play cricket and the environment is great. When people join this club, it seems to be a club for life.

“We are hoping that will attract a few more before the possibility of moving up. At the minute we are just enjoying playing together and being competitive on the pitch.”

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