Clear skies and even some sunshine greeted the players and supporters of the LCU&SA on arrival in Saintfield, and all seemed set fair for a fine day's play. The picturesque surroundings, warm welcome & superb lunch all helped to relax both teams and ensure a good contest.
The LCU&SA team showed several changes from the victorious team of 2006, with Willie Dwyer and Bala Kailash unavailable, and Jim Gallagher and Graham Mooney stepping into the breach. Further late changes meant an 11th-hour call-up for Martin Russell, something that proved to be very important to the match outcome.
The pitch looked excellent, hard and white, and most players pronounced it "a road". A certain glint was seen in the eye of one Tommy Mooney, however, which seemed to indicate that life mightn't be as easy for the NIACUS batsmen as they hoped...
NIACUS won the toss, and elected to bat. LCU&SA took the field with their captain's stirring team-talk ringing in their ears, and obeyed his further instruction to "spread out in a ring lads". With many of the team making their season debut, there were a few nervous faces around. The Mooneys, Graham and Joey, took the new ball, and both bowled well without achieving the breakthrough they sought, Graham limiting the batsmen to 10 runs off 4 overs, with Joey even more miserly with 7 runs off his 4.
A third Mooney took over from the Hill End, and Tommy was straight into his groove, giving the batsmen nothing, and bowling the dangerous captain of NIACUS, Alan Neill, with a beauty. Tommy finished as the pick of the bowlers with figures of 6-1-13-1. The bowling changes continued, with every one bearing fruit - Mike Carter and Urvin Desai both collected wickets, while Nigel Parnell again proved his Golden Arm status, producing two wickets in two overs.
Martin Russell produced the over of the day, however, when he had Noel McCarey, the local boy and NIACUS' top scorer, clean bowled with a superb delivery. There was distinct danger that Noel was going to run away to a good score and make life difficult for LCU&SA, so this was a timely intervention indeed. Martin's exploits as a close-in cover fielder were an example to all his team-mates too.
At the end of their prescribed 30 overs, NIACUS had made 113 for 6, a score that LCU&SA were quietly confident of overhauling. Mick Dwyer was once again peerless behind the stumps, with several top-class legside takes, and helping himself to three stumpings. The LCU&SA batting was opened by the skipper John Andrews and Joey Mooney, and after playing themselves in for about 8 balls they set about the NIACUS bowling. John scored 40 in his innings, hitting 2 sixes and 4 fours in that time.
Joey was slightly more circumspect, but his innings was the one that would hold the LCU&SA batting together. John's departure brought Urvin Desai to the crease, and he was determined to make up for last year, when he was out plumb LBW. This year he boxed a straight six off a good length ball, then played all around a straight long hop to be clean bowled. He was replaced by Jim Gallagher, never the most classical of batsmen but determined on this day not be found wanting.
Joey and Jim brought the target into sight with some clean hitting from the former and poked singles from the latter, before an inspired/desperate bowling change from NIACUS captain brought Joe Moore into play. His first ball may have bounced twice before reaching the crease, but there was no doubt that the batsman smacked it straight to point to give Joe a precious first wicket. Joey Mooney departed to the acclaim of all present, having scored 47 runs.
Kevin Gallagher then joined his brother at the crease, and seemed determined to stay the course. He dead-batted his first ball, then poked the next one behind point. Jim called for the single, and was 15 yards down the pitch when Kevin sent him back. Despite turning like a ship, Jim made it back to the non-striker's end safely. Kevin was then made to regret not taking the single, as the next delivery sent his middle stump cartwheeling, handing him the only duck of the day.
Mick Dwyer was the next man in, and he took 4 balls to score the 5 runs required, giving the men from LCU&SA a 6-wicket win, possession of the White Stick Trophy for another year, and most importantly the bragging rights.
Thus a happy band of cricketers assembled in the Saintfield bar, where a couple of pints were sunk, then a magnificent meal consumed. Various speeches were made, and all and sundry were thanked, particularly Saintfield CC who were so welcoming - they have definitely set the standard in White Stick hospitality!
Man of the Match was correctly awarded to Joey Mooney for his all-round excellence on the day, while Joe Moore received the Champagne Moment award for taking two wickets in the single over he was allowed.
After further conversations, and another sneaky pint or two, the LCU&SA band made their merry way home down the A1/M1. The value of this fixture was to be seen in the warm goodbyes exchanged between the teams, and the fun and banter of this occasion will long live in this scribe's memory.
Immense thanks are due to many people for ensuring this fixture was played: the Saintfield club for all their hard work & hospitality, both captains & all players for making themselves available and ensuring a good sporting game was played, the two umpires, Peter Thew (president, LCU&SA) and Paddy O'Hara (disgruntled former NIACUS captain), who umpired diligently (although some coaching was heard from the NIACUS end), the two scorers and all who attended, supported, cheered or even looked over the wall!
So 2007 brings a hat-trick of White Stick wins for LCU&SA. Paddy O'Hara was keen to point out, at some length, that the gold standard is in fact four in a row. With the 2008 match a home fixture for LCU&SA, it's a brave man who would bet against them...
|Match played at The Demesne, Saintfield|
|Result: LCU&SA won by 6 wickets|
|Series: LCU&SA 10 wins; NIACUS 8 wins.|
|A Neill||b T Mooney||18|
|J F McCall||st M Dwyer b U Desai||58|
|K McConville||st M Dwyer b M Carter||11|
|N McCarey||b M Russell||37|
|A Frater||b N Parnell||11|
|J Chambers||not out||3*|
|T Deegan||st M Dwyer b N Parnell||12|
|A Chambers||not out||2*|
|Extras (Byes 5, Leg-Byes 3, Wides 5)||13|
|Total (6 wickets, 30 overs)||113|
|J Andrews*||b N McCarey||40|
|J Mooney||c A Neill b J Moore||47|
|U Desai||b A Frater||6|
|J Gallagher||not out||7*|
|K Gallagher||b J Moore||0|
|M Dwyer||not out||5*|
|Extras b4 lb4 w2||10|
|Total (4 wkts, 20.3 overs)||115|
|Man of the Match: Joey Mooney|
|Champagne Moment: Joe Moore|
|Umpires: PL O'Hara, Peter Thew|