Step too far for Waringstown
When Waringstown look back and reflect on Saturday's Irish Cup final defeat by Merrion, they may feel that too much had gone wrong for them in the build-up to the showpiece at Clontarf.
There was always the sense that, after a slump in league form in the weeks ahead of the final and injuries to key men, Waringstown were probably too reliant on a small group of players if they were going to overcome the Dubliners.
The batting had become far too dependent on Greg Thompson and captain Lee Nelson over recent weeks and on Saturday it showed as Waringstown’s run chase effectively ended when the former was given out caught behind off the excellent Dave Langford-Smith.
At 113 for four, chasing 253 for victory, that shouldn’t have been the case and Waringstown should still have been well in it, but without his partner-in-crime from the semi-final win over Instonians, you sensed from Nelson’s body language as Thompson walked off that he was worried the game was already almost up.
The skipper followed soon after for a fine 48, fortuitously caught off his own bowling by Langford-Smith, and from there Merrion’s grip on the trophy was almost complete, along with their revenge for last year’s final defeat by Waringstown.
With in-form Adam Dennison injured and on the sidelines, opener James McCollum playing through the pain barrier with badly damaged ankle ligaments and Cobus Pienaar and James Hall struggling to find their best form, Waringstown were too reliant on two players with the bat in the pressure cooker of a cup final run chase.
You could, of course, make a similar argument about Merrion and their reliance on Dom Joyce, the captain, and the brilliant John Anderson, and it is true that they were two of only three batsmen in the Dubliners’ ranks to reach double figures.
The pair added 108 for the second wicket after Nelson opted to bowl first on a pitch tinged with green. It was a 50-50 call and Merrion too were debating whether to insert Waringstown but, for the move to work, the villagers needed early breakthroughs and only one came.
They will rue the decisions first to reprieve Joyce on 46 as he appeared to edge James Mitchell behind and then, importantly, Anderson looked perilously close to lbw as he was hit in front by Kyle McCallan shortly before he reached 50.
Had the latter of those decisions gone for Waringstown then who knows how few Merrion would have scored. It was obvious from the rest of their brittle batting why they are in trouble in Leinster, but while Anderson remained at the crease - hitting 15 boundaries and making 109 from 128 balls - Merrion were building a big total.
At 142 for two in the 32nd over a total of around 300 was very much on, but Waringstown battled back valiantly. Pienaar was particularly impressive, taking 2-39 in his 10 overs, but if you are being critical, then you would say the villagers didn’t bowl as straight as their opponents on a pitch that wasn’t as good as many thought.
Anderson, who is a magnificent club cricketer, made it look easy but no-one else on either side ever really truly came to terms with the surface. That only two players all day reached 50 indicated as much.
Waringstown will be back and the fact that they and Instonians both reached the semi-finals is more evidence that the gap between the NCU and once-dominant Leinster is continuing to close.