Category: Feature Interviews

CIYMS look to take first step towards defending All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup crown

CIYMS captain Nigel Jones is looking his side to put the disappointment of last weekend behind them as they aim to defend their All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup crown, which starts with a semi-final against Donemana at Bready today.

After winning the LVS T20 Cup against North Down two weeks ago, the Belmont club booked their spot in another All-Ireland tournament, which they won last season after beating Malahide by seven wickets.

They come into this game on the back of a Robinson Services Cup semi-final defeat to Waringstown last Saturday in Comber, where they were edged out on fewer wickets lost with the scores tied after 20 overs.

With one trophy already secured, Jones is happy with the season to date, but he and his side are determined to round the campaign off on a winning note.

“We are probably in a situation at the moment where we are fairly happy with how the season has gone,” he said.

“We will probably look back at last weekend where the scores were level but the wickets weren’t and to get knocked out on that probably wasn’t an easy one to swallow.

“We have to take that on the chin and we tried to take the positives from the game.

“There are a lot of things that we didn’t do quite right but there was a lot we did right too.

“As I said to the boys, we have to take that and look forward to Saturday’s big game. We have had a great season so far so let’s keep it going.”

Jones batting in the T20 Cup final. ©CricketEurope

This is a repeat of last year’s semi-final where James Cameron-Dow and Jacob Mulder shared seven wickets before John Matchett scored 82* as CIYMS went on to win comfortably by 10 wickets at Belmont.

CI are on the road this time around and Jones is expecting a more competitive contest than the one from 12 months ago.

“That was a good day for us,” he added.

“We played well at home and we did a lot of good things. They’ll probably admit they weren’t at their best.

“I’m certainly not going into the game expecting us to produce anything like that or for it to be as straightforward as that, but we are pretty confident and clear on what we want to do so I think we will be keen to show our strength again after the disappointment of last weekend.”

The winner of this All-Ireland competition qualifies for the European Cricket League, which brings Twenty20 club champions from all over the continent together for a tournament that is held in La Manga, Spain.

CI missed out on their opportunity this summer following the tournament’s cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic so they have been handed two chances to qualify this time round for the 2021 edition.

If they were to lose today, they will play the eventual winner of the All-Ireland T20 Cup next Sunday at Belmont in a play-off, but Jones’ sole focus is winning it outright and not relying on the back-up route.

“It was disappointing not to get the chance with the ECL earlier this year due to the pandemic but we had to deal with it,” he said.

“For us looking ahead, we would rather just go and win every game in front of us rather than rely on a back-up.

“Hopefully we will get two games of cricket now but we need to make sure we hit our straps on Saturday first.

“Anyone playing for that (ECL) would be pretty excited about it.

“It looks like a cracking tournament and is a way of showcasing Irish domestic cricket but also for the boys, the experience of playing T10 and a chance to win another trophy out there would be great. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

Eight months after merging, Drumaness Super Kings go in pursuit of silverware

Drumaness Super Kings may have only been formed eight months ago but they are already into their first final.

Following the January merger between Drumaness and Belfast Super Kings, the club picked up four victories from six matches this season to book their spot in the Robinson Services Bowl decider against Bangor, which will be held at Upritchard Park on Saturday (1pm).

It has been the dream maiden campaign for captain Mohamed Ismail, who says there is already a family feel and real sense of community at the club.

“The entire team has gelled well within a very short span of time,” he said.

“Every member in the club feels like a family and are enjoying each other’s success.

“On and off the field all are very happy, which we strongly believe is vital for the success.

“It’s not only the players but Drumaness village community members who are making a huge difference with their priceless dedication to prepare the ground for matches & practice sessions.

“Most importantly, their support during match days at home and away is a big plus.”

They come up against a Bangor side that are unbeaten so far this season and made their way into the final after defeating Cooke Collegians, who also hadn’t lost a game up to that point, by 39 runs in the semi-final.

Ismail believes the experience that his side have been able to get under their belt could be pivotal.

“Bangor are playing good cricket this season and definitely are tough opponents to play against in the final,” he added.

“At the same time, we did really well too. The team has gained much needed experience of handling pressure situations and winning the crucial moments in the last two knock-out matches, which is very important for a shorter version of cricket.

“I am sure momentum is with us and hope it will play a bigger part in the final.”

It has been a great start to the Super Kings journey but this is very much just the beginning as far as they are concerned.

Neil Gelston will be returning for the 2021 campaign after spending five seasons with Armagh while the club are investing time and money as they look to improve facilities and create a youth section.

“Management is taking right decisions to move the club in the right direction,” said Ismail.

“We are investing time and money to improve the facility, practice bays, playing square, side screens and much more.

“We are confident that it will help the club move forward and attract youths to start playing cricket at the village.

“It’s not far away, soon we will have our youth teams.

“Mr Gelston coming back home is a huge advantage for the club. We are really excited and already started looking forward for the next season.”

Bangor looking to round unbeaten season off by winning Robinson Services Bowl

With an unbeaten record up to this point, Bangor captain Adam McCusker is hoping his side can end the 2020 season on a high by winning the Robinson Services Bowl on Saturday.

The Upritchard Park side, who will host Drumaness Superkings in the decider (1pm), have won all six of their games this season, including a 39-run semi-final triumph over Cooke Collegians last weekend.

They’ve been in fine form, picking up victories by margins of 10 wickets, 70 runs and 129 runs in Twenty20 cricket, and McCusker has been delighted to see the effort his side have put in during the shortened campaign.

“I couldn’t be happier with the form,” he said.

“The guys have stepped up in every department.

“We prepare to go into each Saturday with the goal to work harder than the opposition in every area, and I think that has shown in our performances so far.”

It’s the batting unit that has been particularly impressive, scoring over 140 on three occasions while chasing against Holywood (91) and Donaghadee (65) for the loss of one wicket.

Bangor were relegated from Section One last season after finishing two points behind Downpatrick, who beat Donacloney Mill on the final day to preserve their spot in the second tier.

McCusker believes his men have reaped the rewards for the hard work they have put in to improve.

“Last season our batting let us down a few times and it’s the one area we have worked really hard to improve, so to score as we have has been really pleasing,” he added.

“The real positive for me is how much work the boys have put in, their enthusiasm to get back to cricket and work hard at it post lockdown.”

The league system should return to normal for next season and Bangor will have their sights set on immediate promotion back to Section One.

First though, their attention is on Saturday’s final and McCusker says there is a positive energy around the club currently.

“The energy around the whole club at the minute is really special,” he said.

“It just feels like we are moving in the right direction and it has been a great momentum builder going into next year, where we fully expect to be challenging for promotion.

“We are really looking forward to Saturday to what would be a perfect end to an already successful season.”

North Down captain Alistair Shields hoping this is just the beginning after Robinson Services Cup triumph

North Down captain Alistair Shields is hoping Sunday’s Robinson Services Cup seven-wicket final victory over Waringstown is just the beginning of the silverware haul for his side.

In what is their first competition victory since 2013, the Comber outfit put in a dominant performance, limiting their opponents to 95-9 in 20 overs before successfully chasing the total down with 18 balls to spare.

Paul Stirling (4-18), returning from Northants duty to play in Saturday’s semi-final win over Instonians and then the decider, set the tone by picking up four quick wickets to leave Waringstown sitting on 39-5 after nine overs.

It was a position that they were never able to recover from as Ryan Haire (3-20) stopped Waringstown’s chances of posting any sort of defendable score when he bowled Greg Thompson (19) before it was over to Ruhan Pretorius (47) who broke the back of their run chase.

Pretorius, who scored 120* from 56 balls in the semi-final, put on a second-wicket partnership of 66 with Shields (25*) after Stirling (2) was caught in the first over.

Shields rounded the game off in style by hitting his third four and he was delighted with not just the final performance but the season as a whole.

Shields hits the winning runs. ©CricketEurope

“We are delighted to finally get over the line in one of these finals,” he said.

“Our bowlers really set that up. We saw how the wicket played yesterday and we adapted really well.

“The guys put us in a great position there and we would have been kicking ourselves if we didn’t get over the line but we are really pleased.

“We just didn’t get over the line last week (T20 Cup final) but I felt we played good enough cricket to win something this year so we are delighted with that.”

Pretorius will qualify to play for Ireland at the end of 2021 after deciding to permanently reside in Northern Ireland, and if he can continue to perform at the level he did this weekend, an international debut seems almost certain.

He has been one of the standout players in the NCU over the past five years and despite struggling with his strike rate at certain points in the 2020 season, he broke the shackles this weekend and took all the pressure off their run chase.

“It was a good weekend for him to come to the party,” added Shields.

“He played beautifully yesterday and was so destructive and then today he set it up and made it easy for the guys coming in.”

North Down dominated the local club scene between 2000-2010, winning seven Challenge Cup’s and seven league titles, but the following 10 years was a quieter period.

They’ve kicked this decade off by winning a trophy and with the likes of Pretorius, Stirling and Craig Young in their ranks, it could be the start of something special at The Green.

“I’m looking at this team and I’m hoping we can keep it together,” said Shields.  

“The guys have really bought in to everything we are trying to do and the numbers and effort at training is way up on previous years.

“Fingers crossed this is the start of something and it’s great to get over the line in one of these tight finals.

“Hopefully we can carry that momentum into next year.”

Waringstown captain Lee Nelson looking to hit peak form against CIYMS

Waringstown captain Lee Nelson believes his side still haven’t hit peak form this season but is hoping they can do just that in their Robinson Services Cup semi-final against CIYMS at The Green on Saturday (11am).

The Villagers qualified for the play-offs after finishing the league season in fourth, winning three and losing two of the matches that were contested on the pitch (two void games also).

That means they will take on CIYMS who finished at the top on net run-rate while hosts North Down will face Instonians before the two winners return to the Comber venue on Sunday for a final (2pm).

Waringstown are no strangers to the big occasion, reaching the Irish Senior Cup final for the past five seasons, winning three, and during that period have also picked up two Premier League’s, one Challenge Cup, one All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup and three NCU Twenty20 Cup’s.

That sort of dominance has only recently been challenged by Saturday’s opponents, who have won five of the last six competitions they have been involved in, including last weekend’s LVS T20 Cup, but Nelson is hoping that big game experience will help them in their quest for yet more silverware.

“Hopefully our experience of playing in these games will stand us in good stead,” he said.

“We have done OK this year but we probably haven’t played as well as we could have done.

“We have played to 70-80% of our capabilities if I’m being honest so I’m just hoping the boys will go out and express themselves on Saturday morning and see what we can do.”

Waringstown captain Lee Nelson . ©CricketEurope

Waringstown are the team that come into this game with the least match practice having missed their last two league fixtures due to bad weather while Instonians beat Carrickfergus last weekend and North Down were CI’s opponents in the Twenty20 final.

Their last game was an 18-run defeat to CIYMS at Belmont on August 15 and Nelson admits the weather and format has brought certain challenges with it.

“This is where the difficulty has been.

“It also seems to have rained every Tuesday and Thursday night at practice for the last few weeks too.

“The difficulty with having a season full of T20’s is a lot of guys don’t get a lot of batting or bowling bar a select few, so in pressure situations in big games there will be that element of rustiness from people that haven’t either batted or bowled much.”

One player that is very much in form is batsman James McCollum, who scored 79* for the Northern Knights against the North West Warriors on Tuesday at The Green.

The 25-year-old also started his innings against Leinster Lightning brightly in Dublin before he was caught for 17 but both matches showed just how much McCollum has improved and innovated in 20-over cricket.

A man for the big games, McCollum will play a crucial role alongside the likes of Adam Dennison, James Hall and Greg Thompson, who is one of the finest players in the NCU in this format, and Nelson believes the Irish international will be key to anything they achieve.

James McCollum. ©CricketEurope

“He’s a class player.

“People sometimes think he can’t play in other formats but he has shown at the highest level In this country that he can.

“If we are going to win trophies and you look back at the big games, he has always had a say in them. We will be relying on a big performance from him.”

This is just the latest in a series of these two teams meeting in the latter stages of competitions and they tend to produce classics, such as CI’s one-run T20 Cup victory last season and Waringstown’s final over win to secure a place in the Irish Senior Cup.

In 2018, Waringstown won by one wicket in the Gallagher Challenge Cup semi-finals and Nelson is expecting another close game this time round.

“They’ve always been close.

“The two teams have a lot of respect for each other because we have played against each other in a lot of semi-finals.

“I don’t expect this one to be any different.”

Paul Stirling returns for North Down’s Robinson Services Cup semi-final against Instonians

North Down will welcome back Paul Stirling for their Robinson Services Cup semi-final against Instonians at The Green on Saturday (3pm).

The Irish international signed for the Comber club ahead of the 2020 campaign and has made two appearances so far this season – one in the LVS T20 Cup semi-final against Waringstown and a league fixture against CSNI.

Stirling has been in England playing in the Vitality T20 Blast for Northants, where he started off by scoring 80* and picking up figures of 2/26 against Worcestershire.

It was thought he would miss the remainder of the NCU season but with Northants not in T20 action again until September 11, Stirling is able to return and take his place at the top of the order.

Captain Alistair Shields is understandably delighted to have him back but says they won’t be solely relying on their star player with so many others also in form.

“When we saw the Northants fixtures, we had eyed up that he might be available for this weekend with the way their fixtures fell,” he said.

“It’s great to have him back in and hopefully he can get a few runs on Saturday.

“We all know what he is capable of but at the same time, we have a lot of other guys in the squad who have contributed this year and plenty of guys that can step forward.

“If it doesn’t work out and he doesn’t get any and we need to rely on someone else, I think we have enough talent there to win matches.”

North Down are coming off an 11-run T20 Cup final defeat to CIYMS last Sunday but will be desperate to get back into another decider this Sunday, where the same opponents could await if they get past Waringstown at 11am tomorrow in the other semi-final.

Shields is looking to put it right this weekend and is aiming to finish the season on a high.

North Down captain Alistair Shields has led his side into the semi-finals. ©CricketEurope

“That’s probably the one blessing we have that we can put it right this weekend and we get an opportunity to bounce right back.

“If we had finished last weekend it would have been a long winter thinking about what we could have done differently.

“It’s a good opportunity to bounce back and finish the season on a high.”

North Down will enter the semi-final encounter as favourites having already picked up two victories over Instonians this season, but the Shaws Bridge side is packed with young talent alongside the experience of Andrew White, Shane Getkate and Nikolai Smith.

Given the nature of knockout competition, Shields doesn’t believe a favourites tag holds any meaning heading into Saturday.

“It’s a cup game so that favourites tag doesn’t mean too much.

“We played them in a cup game last year and they ran through our top order.

“They have plenty of talent in their squad and young guys who on their day can take the game away from you with bat or ball so we have to be wary.

“What I’ll be saying to my guys is that looking around our changing room we have enough talent to beat anyone on our day, regardless of who is on the other side.

“We will worry about what we can do, how we can impact the game and execute our skills as best as we can.”

“He has taken his white ball game to a new level” – Knights head coach Johnston praises McCollum after match-winning innings

Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston was full of praise for James McCollum after the batsman scored 79* from 53 balls in their eight-wicket victory over the North West Warriors on Tuesday.

Chasing 116 after Mark Adair collected figures of 4-14, Ireland international McCollum led the way, notching his highest career T20 score in the process as he shared partnerships of 53 with Harry Tector (22) and 62 with captain Gary Wilson (12*).

McCollum had started the season well with Waringstown, but this was on another level, striking nine fours and two sixes.

His innings, which included a number of creative and aggressive strokes, was a reminder of how much his game has progressed in white ball cricket and Johnston knew a performance like this was just around the corner.

“He had a bit of a rough time being left out in England,” he said.

“He has worked so hard for 18 months on his white ball game and has done everything asked of him.

“He has gone even further in the last six months and you won’t see anyone work harder.

“When someone tells him he can’t do something or needs to work on something, he does it and that was testament to him.

“That has been the way he has been playing for two weeks in the nets and he just needed a chance to showcase it.

“He has taken his white ball game to a new level today so it was brilliant to watch.”

It was the Knights second victory over the Warriors in the space of 12 days, leaving them second in the Trophy standings and trailing Leinster Lightning by just three points.

Mark Adair picked up four wickets. ©CricketEurope

The tone was set in the field and with the Warriors sitting on 90/3 in the 15th over, they were able to peg them back to 115 all out off the final ball of the innings.

Graeme McCarter (2-13), Jacob Mulder (1-28) and David Delany (1-20) were also in the wickets and Johnston was delighted with their efforts in the field.

“That was brilliant from start to finish.

“We really set the tone with the ball and in the field.

“That was as good as I’ve seen us in a while. I remember saying a couple of weeks ago that we looked rusty but we got rid of all of that today.

“I can’t say enough about Graeme McCarter, and Mark Adair was as impressive as you’ll see with the skills, knowledge and ability to get out of situations and then just dominate when he needs to.

“David Delany bowled three very quick overs in the middle and got them jumping a bit and put them on the back foot.”

They go into Thursday’s game with Leinster knowing that they must win in order to keep their hopes of retaining the title alive.

Leinster are also unbeaten after winning twice against Munster Reds and the Knights have been dealt a blow with the unavailability of McCarter.

That means Lisburn bowler Josh Manley is set to make his first Inter-Provincial appearance of the season and Johnston is excited for their trip to Sydney Parade, home of Pembroke CC.

“Grum is a big loss but hopefully someone can step up.

“The squad is a bit stronger this year. We are really excited for it and to see what happens.”

Instonians set up North Down semi-final clash after victory over Carrickfergus

Instonians booked their spot in the Robinson Services Cup semi-finals with a seven-wicket victory over Carrickfergus at Shaws Bridge on Saturday.

In the only top-flight game that was played, Carrick could only muster 81/7 before Instonians chased it down in 10 overs thanks to 28* off just 12 balls from Shane Getkate and Marcus Poskitt’s 25* off 18 deliveries.

They have now set up a semi-final with hosts North Down at The Green next Saturday and captain Andrew White was delighted to achieve their pre-season goal of play-off qualification.

“At the start of the year, that was our goal,” he said.

“We knew what we were trying to do with the players that we had.

“The 2s have won their league as well today which is fantastic and we have manged to get into the top four.

“For next weekend, it’s a case of never knowing what can happen.

“The boys are playing decent cricket. We have been a bit on and off but when we have been on, we have played really well.”

White has put an emphasis on youth development during this shortened campaign with seven players under the age of 20 in the side against Carrick while eight under-18’s helped seal the Junior One title for the 2nd XI earlier in the day.

It is a process that is working for them and White says it’s testament to the hard work being carried out by the whole squad.

“It was our target to see if we could get this team into the top four and we have done that.

“We have put in a lot of hard work. We have had 20+ players at training every night this year and it’s pleasing that the effort that has gone in off the pitch has been rewarded on it.”

Shane Getkate scored 28* on Saturday. ©CricketEurope

Lisburn’s home encounter with North Down and CIYMS’ game against Woodvale were both called off on Friday evening while Waringstown and CSNI’s winner-takes-all clash at The Lawn bit the dust due to a wet outfield.

With both teams receiving two points after no result, it ensured Waringstown’s qualification while CSNI moved up one spot into fourth, leaving Instonians needing to win and they did so comfortably, leapfrogging both sides into third position.

It means Waringstown will face off against CIYMS on Saturday in the other semi-final before the two winners return to Comber the following day for a final.

The bad weather has heavily impacted the final two rounds of league fixtures and White was just pleased to get some game time heading into a crunch weekend.

“A special thanks to the ground staff who worked tirelessly yesterday and all morning to get the games on.

“I know the weather has been tough but it has allowed us to get a win today and go into next weekend having played, whereas the others won’t have played in three weeks.”

North Down, who face CIYMS in the LVS Twenty20 Cup final at The Green on Sunday, will enter as favourites after beating Instonians twice already this season.

With the likes of Getkate in their ranks, you can never write Instonians off and White believes if his men show up, it could be a very competitive contest.

“North Down are a good side and have strength in depth.

“We have played poorly against them both times this year, but it’s a one-off game and we are good enough to turn them over if we play well.”

CIYMS full of confidence as they look to defend LVS Twenty20 Cup crown

Defending LVS Twenty20 Cup champions CIYMS enter yet another final full of confidence as they prepare to take on North Down at The Lawn on Sunday (3pm start).

The Belmont side won the competition last year with a one-run victory over Waringstown at the same venue, which was just one of four trophies they picked up in 2019.

Reaching finals and winning trophies has almost become second nature for CIYMS in recent times, now making it to the decider in four of the last five competitions that they have been involved in.

They enter this one having lost only one game so far during a shortened campaign, which came at the hands of Instonians in the Robinson Services Cup, but captain Nigel Jones believes that defeat could have helped refocus his side as they enter a crucial period.

“As I’ve said for the last couple of years, it’s very rare where you go through a season without losing a game,” he said.

“As long as when you lose you’re learning quickly from it and it’s not a knockout game or one that will derail you.

“That loss against Instonians wasn’t the worst thing for us because it certainly sharpens the mind again and reminds us that we have to be switched on. The form is good and the boys are confident.”

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Nigel Jones was named Man of the Match in last year’s final. ©CricketEurope

CI welcomed Irish international Mark Adair back into their side for a semi-final victory over Lisburn before he picked up three wickets in their last outing against Waringstown.

The 24-year-old tends to thrive in the big games and Jones expects that will be the case again this weekend.

“It’s great to have him back.

“You expect him to turn up in those big club games and put in a performance.

“He’s very keen to take on that top-order role with the bat for us and we know what he can do with the ball with his skill. It’s a big positive to have him back in the team.”

Adair will most likely share the new ball with Allen Coulter, who has picked up nine wickets in all competitions.

With the likes of Jacob Mulder, James Cameron-Dow and Ted Britton bowling in the middle overs, Coulter plays a vital role in setting a platform.

“He plays a big role for us,” added Jones.

“In T20 cricket, the biggest thing is taking wickets.

“Containing the score is great and helps put the pressure on but you want it to lead to wickets and you get that with Allen Coulter, who has been quality over a number of years.

“He nails his yorkers, hits a good length and is a key bowler for us.”

This weekend is set to be a great advert for the local game with three finals taking place in the NCU while both CIYMS and North Down have already sealed their spots in the Robinson Services Cup semi-finals after a league meeting between the two was cancelled last Saturday.

These sorts of games are the ones that get players and fans alike most excited, and for Jones, taking part in occasions like Sunday is a big motivation.

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Mark Adair. ©CricketEurope

“That’s what drives and motivates you as a club cricketer.

“I know all of the boys are the same. They want the opportunity to play in these big games.

“From a personal point of view, I know that helps me with the stage that I’m at in my career.

“It adds that extra spice and it’ll be a cracking weekend.”

North Down have been in great form this season and have a number of players performing at a high level.

CI’s philosophy under Jones has been to focus inwardly rather than look too much at what the opposition are doing and he admits the chance to qualify for another All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup is a driving factor.

“We are always trying to focus on what we can do but looking at them, there is quality in the North Down side but as I remind the boys, there are plenty of threats in our side too.

“We will have to be smart with some of their individuals and restrict what they can do.

“We are fairly confident that if we stick to our plans that we can come out on the right end of the result.

“We had a lot of success last year but that’s in the past.

“We want to start afresh, win this trophy and get back into that tournament.

“We would love to get there again and see if we can win it again.”

“It was something really special for me” – CJ van der Walt reflects on Northern Knights debut

After making his Northern Knights debut in their two-run win over the North West Warriors last Thursday, CJ van der Walt is determined to work harder than ever to maintain his place in the squad.

The 23-year-old marked his maiden NCU season with Carrickfergus in 2019 by being named Premier League All-Rounder of the Year, scoring 403 runs and picking up 20 wickets in the league.

He ended the campaign with 653 runs at an average of almost 39 and 30 wickets in all competitions, helping the Middle Road side to their first Irish Senior Cup quarter-final.

Since moving to Northern Ireland, van der Walt has dreamed of stepping up to Inter-Provincial level and that’s something that has now become reality but it came as a shock to him that he was even included in the 13-man squad for the game.

“We got the message saying who was in the 13-man squad and I didn’t expect to even be in that,” he said.

“I haven’t had the greatest start to the season at club level. It was one of those things I’ve been really waiting for since I moved here.

“We rocked up at the ground and there were 12 of us so it was most likely going to be between me and Josh Manley.

“I kind of knew that I would probably play with the rain and going with another spin option might be the way.

“We were warming up and Johnty came over to me and said I was playing. I was sitting by myself doing some stretches and I couldn’t believe it.

“It was something that I was waiting for and now it has happened. It was something really special for me.”

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CJ van der Walt batting for Carrickfergus. ©CricketEurope

Van der Walt, who is in the squad again for Thursday’s clash with Munster Reds, shared the field at Bready last week with eight internationals, including the likes of Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson who each spent the best part of a decade on the County scene in England.

For a young player like van der Walt, being around that sort of experience is invaluable and he’s determined to learn as much as he can from the more senior players in order to improve his own game.

“My mentality when I went into it was that every opportunity I get I’m going to have to grab with both hands and use it.

“All of the players have much more experience than me so being in a team like that you look at how they go about their game and what they are doing to improve.

“You look at scenarios that you might struggle in, for example maybe bowling in T20’s, and you get to see how players who are at an international level go about it.

“You want to soak everything in and see how they go about their game and how they maintain their level.

“I remember saying to myself that it doesn’t matter where I bat but if I get the opportunity to get into the middle I need to use it.

“Being in the squad around such class players, I was just telling myself to soak up everything I could, speak to the guys and just see how they go about their games.

“I want to use my opportunity. I’m going to have to work harder now.

“I’ve got to the point where I got what I wanted but I need to rebuild now and start from the bottom.

“Those guys play so well because they put in the effort and that’s something I want to do and maintain.”

It hasn’t gone quite to plan at club level during the shortened 2020 season with the bat for van der Walt, hitting 81 runs in six innings but signs have been more promising on the bowling front, picking up seven wickets for winless Carrick.

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Van der Walt goes long. ©CricketEurope

“First of all, I think everybody had the mentality of there being no cricket this season because it didn’t look like there would be,” said van der Walt on where it has gone wrong.

“We were caught on the back foot with not much work going into the preparation.

“We had a really good pre-season before Covid and we were all positive, all at training sessions and all going hard and there’s definitely a lack of that during the season.

“I think we have been caught on the back foot going into the season and we had two games at the start of the season where we didn’t play the best cricket but could have won.

“We don’t have the amount of T20 cricketers than some other squads would have. T20 cricket is completely different to 50-over cricket and I don’t think we adapted quickly to that.

“It didn’t go our way and we have just been caught on the back foot with that.”

You would have got long odds on Carrick not picking up a victory across the duration of the Robinson Services Cup and they have one more chance to put that right on Saturday against Instonians.

Van der Walt believes a win this weekend would help boost morale as they head into pre-season to get ready for another campaign in 2021.

“We had a chat and going into next season there will be changes and we will be going hard.

“We want to make sure we are totally prepared.

“We want to just get that one win under the belt because that would give everyone a bit of positivity when there has been a lot of negativity.

“There hasn’t been many great performances but it has been people chipping in here and there.

“At the end of the day, if you want to play Premier League cricket that won’t be good enough.

“We play our last game this weekend and we will be pushing forward trying to get a win. We want some points on the board and to change the perspective a bit.”