CSNI have confirmed the re-signing of South African professional Andre Malan for the 2019 season.
Malan made a massive impact in his first campaign in the NCU in 2018, hitting 940 runs at an average of 47 (including four centuries) and picking up 43 wickets.
The 27-year-old also played a major role in helping the Stormont-based side reach the Challenge Cup final, and hit a brisk half-century in what was ultimately a losing effort against Waringstown at Comber.
With the signing of Irish international Gary Wilson also confirmed for next season, CSNI will undoubtedly fancy their chances of competing on all fronts.
Malan has been captaining Western Province in his homeland in recent months, hitting two half-centuries in October.
Speaking to JMSport, Malan said: “I am very grateful to the club and Ivan McMinn for inviting me to join them for another season of top Northern Ireland club cricket.
“I am looking forward to being on the field with all of my mates at CSNI again and also looking forward to see the progress made by some of the juniors I have been coaching as well.
“I am also very happy to return to Belfast, the McMorran household and the beautiful surroundings.
“I’m very excited for the 2019 campaign!”
CSNI also recently held their end of season awards, where the club donated £4000 to three local charities – Northern Ireland Pancreatic Cancer (NIPanC), Sport Changes Life and Cancer Focus NI.
Marc Ellison was awarded 1st XI Player of the Year for his 1087 runs at the top of the order, which included three centuries.
Bowler Matthew Foster was named Young Player of the Year after an impressive season that seen him collect 20 wickets.
Carrickfergus again finished inside the top four in the Premier League in 2018, ending the season behind CIYMS and Waringstown in third.
Their record of seven wins, six losses and one no result seen them collect 28 points from 14 matches – finishing ahead of Instonians due to having a healthier run-rate.
A first round Challenge Cup exit to eventual finalists CSNI and a second round defeat to Leinster in the Irish Senior Cup meant they didn’t get much of a run going in either competition.
From a player perspective, captain Michael Gilmour top scored with 573 runs in 21 innings, while new signing Matthew McCord took 27 wickets.
Here, Gilmour reflects on the seasons that’s been and looks forward to 2019.
How do you reflect on the 2018 season?
Overall, I think we have to be happy. The main part of that is the finish in the league. We didn’t compete in any of the cups this year, which is something we would definitely love to improve on.
We want to have a couple of cup runs each year while also focusing on the league, but this year it was only the league that was very positive. Next year, we will try and focus on being more consistent throughout all competitions.
You have had a couple of top four finishes now in the league, so it seems you have established yourself as one of the top teams in red ball cricket?
I think finishing in the top four in the league has been the aim of ours in the last few years, and you want to make sure you keep that going.
The fact we didn’t slip away was very promising. At the same time, I don’t think we looked like challengers at any stage of the season. We want to really push on and compete for the title. It’s not very interesting just finishing in the top three or four each season.
At some stage we have to be ruthless and really push on to be competing for the league title.
You beat Waringstown twice this year. Does that show you have the potential to compete for the title?
When you look at how good Waringstown have been this year in all formats, to beat them twice and show that it wasn’t just a one-off gives us great confidence to see that’s the team we have the potential to be.
As I say, I don’t think we are consistent or clinical enough throughout the whole league season to push on at the minute. We definitely have confidence seeing where we are in terms of the standard.
We need to make sure we have a bit more self-belief and push on.
Matthew McCord signed from Cliftonville ahead of the 2018 season. I’m sure you’re happy with how he performed in his first season in the Premier League?
Yes, absolutely. I think he was pretty nervous at the start of the season to see how he would go, but that was quickly put in place.
He started off very well against Waringstown and has just grown in confidence the entire year. He has been one of the main players this season.
His bowling average and his contribution in the overall statistics this year speaks for itself, and I think he has really enjoyed it and he is now challenging for more.
When you get a player like him who isn’t only producing but is striving to get better as well, it’s outstanding for me as a captain to have someone like him in the team.
You scored over 500 runs yourself and got a great century against Armagh. Are you happy with the season you had?
Personally, I am pretty happy with my own performance. Maybe it was the pressure of having the captaincy as well made me knuckle down and focus more on my own personal game.
When you are captain, you try and lead from the front, so as long as I am able to contribute, it’s the least I can do. Hopefully it’s something I can build on to go even bigger next season or at least keep it consistent.
You captain quite a young side, with the likes of Max Burton, Jack Burton and Harry Warke all there. Are you happy with the season all the young guys had?
In terms of kicking on next season, when you look down the list and see you’ve such a young and exciting squad, it fills you with great confidence that we are building something.
When we talk about going on and trying to achieve something, it is a lot more realistic when you have the likes of Max, Jack and Harry coming through, as well as Matty McCord and other young players.
It’s the start of something exciting ahead of us hopefully.
Looking to 2019, what are you looking to achieve?
In terms of improvement from this year, we have to be more consistent throughout all the competitions.
As a young team, we always enjoy playing white ball cricket, and to not go on a cup run in that this year was disappointing.
Hopefully that is something that we can build on for next year.
CSNI captain James Kennedy is looking for his side to find more consistency in 2019.
The Stormont-based side reached the Challenge Cup final and Twenty20 Cup semi-final, but lost out on both occasions to Waringstown and North Down respectively.
They didn’t quite translate that form into the Premier League, and their poor start meant that it was decided pretty early on that they wouldn’t be challenging for the title.
A resurgence in the middle helped them move into third for a time, but they finished in 5th with a record of 6 wins, 7 losses and 1 no result from their 14 matches.
Here, Kennedy reflects on 2018, praises his star performers and sets out what he wants to achieve next year.
That’s another season over. How do you reflect on 2018?
There were a lot of positives that we can take into 2019. I’m very happy with how our Challenge Cup run went, but obviously disappointed we didn’t get over the line in the final. It’s been well-documented that we are just glad Grum (Graeme McCarter) managed to get through that game and get what was required. Hopefully we will have him fighting fit for next year which would help us as well.
In the league, we were slightly disappointed with the start we had. Throughout the course of the season, we lost four or five games that we probably should have won. Maybe we made bad choices at the time, or maybe some naivety.
I felt as the season went on that our younger players started to develop and learn, and hopefully they are in a better position going into next year.
You had Andre Malan in this year and he turned out to be one of the best players in the league. I’m sure you’re delighted with what you found in him?
Andre was brilliant. He wasn’t just brilliant on the pitch – that record speaks for itself. He did damage with the bat and ball, but he was just brilliant in the changing room. He was a great guy who got along with everyone, and we couldn’t have asked for more.
Hopefully he will be back next year as well, and will have an even better season than the one he has just had.
Marc Ellison also hit over 1000 runs. How important was he?
Elly is a superb player. We are running out of superlatives for him.
The argument can be that Elly and Andre did most of the work, and the rest of us need to step up and raise our game by another couple hundred runs. There was a bit of a tinkering period this year. We played around with the batting order to see who should go where.
We have learned a lot of things about a lot of people, and hopefully next year we will have something a bit more stable and will be able to support Elly and Andre much more.
The likes of Morgan Topping and Matthew Foster had good seasons. Are you expecting your array of young players will be even better with more experience?
Andre and Elly are the two guys that everyone will come away talking about because of the seasons they had, but our young guys developed so well.
Matty Foster and Archie (Johnston) were in the team for the whole season, and Matty in particular had a fantastic season. He could have bowled his 10 overs every week if it wasn’t for the ECB rule that he can only have seven at the start. He had a super season.
Archie made the gloves his own and hit a nice 50 against Instonians. The guys that came in like Morgan and Arny batted very well, and will hopefully push on next season now that they have more experience in the Premier League.
Looking to 2019, what are the goals?
CSNI for years have been known as a cup team, and we are a dangerous proposition for anyone on our day, but it’s just trying to find that consistency and get away from the tag that we are a cup team.
I believe that we can be more than that. We just have to raise our games for every single game, rather than the cup games that we have a good record in. It would be great if we can take that into the league and see if we can push up a bit.
There were a few games that we definitely should have won but lost, and that would have put us in a higher standing in the league if we got over the line. We are looking to win those silly games that we lost, and we will be a lot higher in the league.
In one of the first transfers ahead of the 2019 season, wicketkeeper-batsman Jamie Magowan is on the verge of completing a move to North Down from Muckamore.
The Comber side will be adjusting to life without captain Marty Moreland next season, with the veteran spinner stepping down after 23 seasons on the first XI.
He has been replaced by Alistair Shields, who was in charge of the Twenty20 side over the past two seasons, with the team reaching the final twice, where they were beaten by Waringstown on both occasions.
Magowan scored 311 runs in the 2018 campaign, with a high score of 72* coming on The Mall against Armagh.
He is widely considered one of the best wicketkeepers in the NCU, and was a regular for the Northern Knights in 2017.
Magowan, who will be heading to Australia over the winter months, sat sixth on the wicketkeeping dismissal charts last season with 13 catches and four stumpings in 18 matches.
While excited about a new challenge, Magowan says he has a lot of great memories from his time at Moylena.
“Reflecting on my time at Muckamore is difficult because I have so many good memories with some great people at the club,” he said.
“I would like to thank everyone at Muckamore and wish them all the best for the 2019 season.
“I am really looking forward to joining up with North Down as I feel it is the best place for me to improve my cricket, and hopefully help North Down improve as a team.”
2018 was another fantastic cricket season in the NCU, and it’s now time to hand out some awards.
Waringstown won another four trophies, while CIYMS picked up their first Premier League title since 2012.
Lisburn also had a fantastic season, sealing their return to the top flight at the first time of asking, and Templepatrick won 14 matches in a row to win Section Two.
Here, Johnny Morton picks winners from a variety of categories.
NCU Player of the Year.
I have to go with Adam Dennison.
The 21-year-old scored 1335 runs at an average of over 50 and a strike-rate of almost 100 in what has been a summer for batsmen to cash in on good wickets.
He hit four centuries (only Andre Malan had as many in the top flight), and the partnership he formed with James Hall was extraordinary.
Notable mentions: Allen Coulter, James Hall, Ruhan Pretorious, Andre Malan, Marc Ellison
Innings of the Year
Going on the batting that I personally witnessed this season, it has to go to Dennison.
His 145* to see Waringstown home in the Challenge Cup final was something else, with the score coming from 130 balls and including 12 fours and seven sixes.
Marc Ellison’s 139* on the same day deserves a mention, as does Andre Malan’s 140* against North Down and Michael Gilmour’s 135* on The Mall against Armagh.
Other notable mentions: Shadley van Schalkwyk (142 vs Muckamore), Chris Dougherty (122 vs NorthCounty)
Bowling spell of the Year
My bowling spell of the year turned out to be in the second match I covered all season, and it goes to Lisburn’s Mark Berry.
With Derriaghy cruising towards victory in the Challenge Cup first round, Berry returned to pick up three quick wickets to help bring Derriaghy from 125-1 to 144-8 in a chase of 172.
It was the tightest match I think I actually watched all year, and Berry’s 4-33 almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Notable mentions: Allen Coulter (vs CSNI, first spell vs Waringstown) Andre Malan (vs North Down).
Overseas professional of the Year
This answer was easy up until about a month ago, but I am still going to opt for CSNI’s Andre Malan.
Ruhan Pretorious has shot up the run charts in recent weeks with consecutive centuries, including 188 against Armagh, but Malan’s consistency and quality can’t be overlooked.
In his debut season in the NCU, Malan scored 940 runs (4 centuries and 4 fifties) at an average of 47, and was leading the wicket-taking chart with 43 before he left prior to the conclusion of the season, which is magnificent considering it has been a glorious summer with most wickets hard as the road.
Notable mention: Shaheen Khan
Captain of the Year
Waringstown’s Greg Thompson made some brave calls this year, and one that sticks out most is bowling first in the Challenge Cup final.
Most of the ground would have batted first, but choosing to bowl and winning the trophy shows he is a superb captain and has great judgement in pressurising situations.
He led his side to yet another Irish Senior Cup crown, plus two Twenty20 trophies in what was a superb campaign for the Villagers.
Notable mentions: Nigel Jones, James Kennedy, Michael Gilmour, Adam Berry, Ross Bryans
Club of the Year
Waringstown obviously had another fantastic year, but my club of the year is Templepatrick.
Their 1sts didn’t lose a single game all season (three trophies) which is quite remarkable, while their 2nds won Junior League 4 and 3rds were promoted from Junior League 7.
The youth also thrived, with the U-13’s and Under-15’s both winning their leagues. The future is bright at The Cloughan.
Other notable mentions: CIYMS, Lisburn
Young Player of the Year
If Dennison is Player of the Year, the 21-year-old has to be Young Player of the Year as well.
His performances and statistics put him so far ahead of any player in and around his age, and he would fit seamlessly into the likes of the Ireland Wolves right now and is definitely good enough to be a full international.
Second place for me would be Aditya Adey, while Morgan Topping makes up the top three.
Signing of the Season
Carrickfergus conducted a shrewd piece of business when they brought in Matthew McCord from Cliftonville.
He made his First Class debut for the Northern Knights earlier in the summer, and was included again in the most recent squad for the game against the Leinster Lightning, showing he is obviously highly-regarded.
The opening bowler took 27 wickets at a strike-rate of just under 30 and an economy of 4.63, with best figures of 5-36 in what was a solid season for Carrick.
Notable mention: Morgan Topping
Player to watch for 2019
I am going for someone from CSNI, and that player is Matthew Foster.
The teenager has been a regular this season and stepped up to open the bowling in Graeme McCarter’s absence after the Challenge Cup, and his spell against Carrick at Stormont was exceptional without much reward.
Taking 20 wickets at this standard at his age is brilliant, and with another season under his belt at the top level, I expect big things from him next season.
Carrickfergus’ 17-year-old Max Burton played one of the best innings this season with his 104 from 44 balls against Armagh, so he is another one to look out for.
Bold prediction for 2019
CSNI have impressed me this season, and if they keep their squad together I think they will win either the Challenge Cup or Premier League next year. You heard it here first.
They have a good record in the Challenge Cup, winning it twice in the last five years and got to the final in 2018, and they are a powerhouse in white ball cricket.
Their league form improved towards the end of the season, and if they can get Andre Malan back and Marc Ellison stays at Stormont (teams would be silly not to enquire about his services after a fantastic season), combined with their young players having another season at the top flight, they are capable of something special.
Add to that the odd appearance from Derbyshire and Ireland T20 captain Gary Wilson and the leadership of James Kennedy, plus any winter signings they bring in, CSNI could have the perfect formula to lift some silverware.
I also believe that James McCollum will play a part in the Lord’s Test against England for Ireland come 2019.