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.”
The 2019 season is drawing to a close and it has been four months of exciting,
dramatic action in the Northern Cricket Union.
CIYMS picked up four trophies, Muckamore were ultimately relegated from the Robinson Services Premier League and Woodvale secured promotion to the top-flight for the 2020 season.
It is that time of year again where we hand out the JM Sport End of Season
Awards in a range of categories. Let’s begin.
NCU Player of the Year
Winner – James Cameron-Dow
Honourable mentions: Jacob Mulder, Chris Dougherty
This was maybe the toughest category to decide out of all that you will see in this
article due to how well CIYMS played this season and how many contributed to
Cameron-Dow, just like Mulder, picked up 47 wickets throughout the season in
all competitions while Dougherty scored a wonderful 916 runs while playing a
part in 43 dismissals behind the stumps.
With overseas professionals excluded from this (their own category coming up), I opted for Cameron-Dow who picked up his wickets at an average of 14.32 in 29 matches with a strike-rate of 22.
His economy was also 3.91 and he rated just slightly better than his spin twin
Mulder in those categories, but there was barely anything in it which is further
illustrated by the fact his best figures were 4-10 and Mulder’s were 4-11.
Cameron-Dow also chipped in with some important runs down the order – none
more so than in CIYMS’ first league meeting with North Down that had a big say on the title even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Innings of the Year
Winner – Greg Thompson (153 vs CSNI, 12 May)
Honourable mentions: Andre Malan (145* vs North Down), Jacques Snyman (190* vs Instonians)
I can only judge this on the innings that I witnessed personally throughout the
season and because I wasn’t present at Middle Road when Snyman blasted190*
against Instonians, I can’t go with that although I’m sure it was brilliant.
At Stormont in early-May, three of the seven highest run scores throughout the
whole season were complied with Greg Thompson (153) and James McCollum (140) scoring centuries in the first innings before Andre Malan (136) notched up his own in a 50-run defeat.
Thompson was fresh off hitting 149* the previous day at The Lawn against
Instonians and was in superb form, hitting 153 from 118 balls with 16 fours and six maximums.
I tweeted very early on that Thompson was going to go big on that sunny Sunday
because of how good he looked from ball one and that proved to be the case as
Waringstown motored to 347-7 despite being 25-3.
Thompson has had an impressive season so far, hitting 757 runs at an average of
47.31 with Waringstown scheduled to face North Down on Saturday.
Bowling performance of the Year
Winner – Josh Manley’s first spell against CIYMS – Challenge Cup final
Manley had a wonderful debut season in the NCU and his run in the Gallagher Challenge Cup was something special.
After dismissing four of Waringstown’s top five in the quarter-final to knock the
reigning champions out of the competition, he fired in the final to dismiss CI’s top three and leave the favourites reeling at 12-3.
It took some special batting from Jason van der Merwe and Obus Pienaar to get
them out of it before Mark Adair took over late on, but that opening spell from
Manley was incredible.
In the end, he picked up figures of 4-42 from 9.2 overs which doesn’t tell the
whole story and he is set to have a big impact in the coming years with the
Northern Knights and potentially Ireland.
Overseas professional of the Year
Winner – Andre Malan
Honourable mentions: Jacques Snyman, Ruhan Pretorius
Copy + paste from the 2018 season.
Malan was brilliant last season but somehow found a way to be even more
impressive in 2019, hitting a league-high 1,238 runs at an astonishing average of
65.16 with six fifties and five centuries in 23 innings. Truly insane.
If that wasn’t enough, he would also take 41 wickets for CSNI with a strike-rate
of 23.02 before jetting back to South Africa where he is set for another busy
He has been the best player in the NCU for the past two seasons and I’m sure he
will have no shortage of offers to come back in 2020.
Snyman smashed 1,085 runs in his first season for Carrickfergus and also took 24
wickets while Pretorius averaged over 50 for the fourth consecutive season and
made his mark on the Inter-Provincial game with the Northern Knights.
Captain of the Year
Winner – Nigel Jones
Honourable mentions: Alistair Shields, Adam Berry
I feel like this is a straightforward answer considering how the season unfolded
with Jones leading CIYMS to four trophies.
He has the best squad of players at his disposal but he is the one that holds
everything together at Belmont and it is clear to see he has created a real team
culture there and they’d been building up to a season like this.
Jones has also tried to give youth a chance when possible with the likes of Zach Solomon and Carson McCullough playing on a regular basis and when it comes
time for him to leave the club, they are going to have an almost impossible job
replacing him which pretty much sums his impact up.
Alistair Shields turned North Down from a sixth-placed side into title contenders
in the space of a season and he will be looking to add one or two more to his
squad for 2020 as they look to take that next step.
I know Lisburn lost their last eight in a row, but staying in the Premier League
after being promoted isn’t an easy task in this day and age, so Berry deserves
credit for that and Lisburn’s early season form.
Winner – John Matchett
Honourable mentions: Ollie Metcalfe
Matchett has been opening the batting for CIYMS for a few years now but this felt like the season where he really broke through and showed what he is all about.
Over the past month he has shown incredible form to end up with 838 runs at the top of the order at an average of 34.
He played a massive part in winning the All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup, sharing two
century stands in a day with Chris Dougherty and was named man of the match in the final for his half-century.
Matchett will be on the verge of Northern Knights selection if he can carry this
sort of momentum into 2020 and seems to be the future of CIYMS.
Ollie Metcalfe is the best teenage batsman in the union and has scored 543 runs so far with his highlight being an Irish Senior Cup century against Cork County.
Winner: Ryan Hunter
A new category for this season and it is awarded to someone that had a big say in
even bigger matches but perhaps was overshadowed by the performances of
those above him.
Hunter didn’t have as many opportunities this season for CIYMS but always stood up when his side needed him in the games that mattered.
Just this past weekend, he scored 30* of CI’s 113 to set a reasonable total against
North Down in a game that all but secured the league crown and was there at the end against Instonians in the deciding match as they reached 192 for a tie.
Hunter also scored 39 in the Gallagher Challenge Cup final in a 110-run sixth
wicket stand with Mark Adair .
Best signing of 2019
Winner – CJ van der Walt
Honourable mentions: Josh Manley, Murray Commins
Van der Walt kicked his 2019 season off by picking up a five-wicket haul for
Carrickfergus in the opening Premier League game and didn’t really look back
Batting in the middle order, van der Walt scored 653 runs at an average of
almost 40 as Carrick reached their first ever Irish Senior Cup quarter-final and
rounded the league campaign off by winning six in a row.
He also took 30 wickets to cap off what is the ultimate all-round season and with
the likes of Snyman, Jamie Holmes and van der Walt, Carrick have a team going
forward that should be capable of winning trophies.
They have all the potential and have added firepower, so a couple more additions during the winter could see them take that next step.
Umpire of the Year
Winner – Alan Neill
Honourable mention: Michael Foster
When deciding this category I looked to who officiated the biggest matches, and
Neill was in the middle for both the Irish Senior Cup final and Gallagher
Challenge Cup final alongside Phil Thompson.
It has been a big season for umpires with four of them (Neill included) receiving
contracts from Cricket Ireland and the standard is seemingly increasing and
participation also healthy enough in the NCU.
Foster stood in his first Irish Senior Cup final alongside Neill at Milverton this
season between Pembroke and Waringstown which is a fantastic achievement.
It is a great advert for our officials that two of them were doing the biggest club
game of the season while another, Jareth McCready, was on third umpire duties.
The women’s game has continued to improve year upon year and the Challenge Cup final at Stormont between CSNI and Muckamore was a great, exciting spectacle that went down to the final ball.
Captain Abbi Leckey held her nerve in the final over as CSNI secured their first
cup title after falling at the final hurdle against Lurgan last season while also
picking up the Premier League crown.
Cowan has been the star of CSNI’s team throughout the season, finishing not out
in five of the six league matches that they played, scoring three half-centuries in
She also scored another half-century in the Challenge Cup against Waringstown
while registering 42 in a semi-final success against Lurgan in what was a special year for CSNI’s women’s side.
Coach of the Year
Winner – Simon Johnston
When you talk to any player that has spent any amount of time in the company of Johnston, they are so enthusiastic about his love for the game and how brilliant he is as a coach.
The Knights haven’t had the luck with injuries or the squad to truly compete on
all fronts before this year, but everything seemed to click in the Twenty20 side of things and they also showed a lot of promise in the 50-over competition, beating Leinster in Dublin.
A true reflection on a coach is how the players improve in their company and it is no coincidence that Mark Adair, Shane Getkate and James McCollum are now
established Ireland stars while Jacob Mulder, James Cameron-Dow, Greg
Thompson, Harry Tector and David Delany have all been involved/are set to be involved.
Johnston has a very exciting squad at his disposal now and it’s going to be interesting going forward to see how they perform.
(Fun fact: Johnty was once my coach at NCU Under-15 level and dropped me at the final stage before the Inter-Pro’s. I’m not bitter. I promise. I’m fine!)
Section One Player of the Year
Winner – Stephen Bunting
Honourable mentions: Wayne Horwood
Woodvale were by far and away the best side in Section One this season and
were able to take that leap from contenders to champions.
Without having access to any statistics for the S1 campaign and having watched
limited action in the competition, I am relying a lot on scorecards and statistics
for this selection.
I played in two games for my home club Armagh this season against Holywood,
where David Kennedy took 8-29 in the first innings before Ross Adair smashed
70* from what felt like 30 balls, and a comfortable win against Ballymena.
Bunting features on almost every scorecard in some fashion, be that with bat or ball, with a couple of six wicket hauls scattered in there while Horwood played a great role at the top of the order setting a platform for the Ballygomartin Road men.
It is a big jump to the Premier League but they’ve two proven performers already
in their side and will need to recruit smartly.
One thing I would change for 2020?
Answer: White ball Premier League
Not really an award as such but it was included on Twitter so thought this was as good a place to answer it as any.
I am a big advocate for a 10-team Premier League but I don’t know if I want it put in place for the 2020 season because the team coming second in Section One didn’t know they were playing for that and mightn’t be ready, but if they are happy to be promoted then I’m all for it.
If we have 10 teams who all play each other once and then the league is split into two groups of five, I believe it would produce more competitive cricket with the last four games of the season being played between teams of the similar standard and could also help the need to spend big money knowing those teams who are looking to survive will be playing against each other in the remaining weeks.
One thing that I would really love to see tested is a white-ball, coloured kit
I don’t know if it’s just me, but turning up to watch a white-ball game is more exciting and it feels conducive to better games, more runs and a better spectacle.
The best times of the season are always big cup games (which are all white ball)
and I would be interested to see if that would translate into the league.
Ireland international James McCollum joined me to play some FIFA 19 in episode two while discussing his Irish debut a few months prior including a Test match against Afghanistan.
At the time of recording, he was looking forward to the possibility of playing at Lords against England – a game in which Ireland created some history by bowling their hosts out for 85 before lunch on the first day.
McCollum has been one of the most impressive young stars in the country for the past few years and we spoke about his journey to where he is now, playing for the Northern Knights, Waringstown and more.
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.