LURGAN have retained the Ulster Bank Section 1 title and promotion to the NCU Premier League, but it was not without a sweat last Saturday in the final game and they had Derriaghy to thank for a helping hand.
The joy of winning promotion was dulled somewhat on the day as neighbours Donacloney gave the champions a tough going away present, recording an emphatic 8 wicket victory at Pollock Park.
It was unfortunately an understrength Lurgan side that batted first and by the time 50 runs were on the board, the first four batsmen were back in the pavilion. It took a partnership of 120 between Stephen Chambers and Peter Haire to enable the home side build a challenging total. Chambers in particular was in fine form hitting a season’s best 90 out of a Lurgan total of 210 for 7 wkts with Peter Haire chipping in with 44.
Donacloney responded aggressively and after 30 overs were sitting at 142 for 2 wkts with professional Nigade and the experienced Bruce Topping at the crease. Nigade finished the match on 108 not out to add to the three wkts he took in the Lurgan innings to cap off a fine display. Martin had also scored 33 for the visitors and Bruce Topping was still there on 28 not out as the ‘cloney passed Lurgan total for the loss of only 2 wkts to record a deserved win.
Meanwhile at Queensway Derriaghy, the home side were putting up a spirited performance against Lurgan’s main title rivals Downpatrick.
The visitors entered the game having to win to retain any hope of pipping Lurgan to the title. Batting first they set a target of 164 for victory and with Derriaghy’s reply at 50 for 3 wkts, Downpatrick looked to be in a winning position. However a 79 not out by Drew Kenny steered Derriaghy to victory by 4 wickets to ensure Lurgan couldn’t be caught at the top, no matter what the outcome of the game against Donacloney.
Stephen Johnston’s team won 14 of their 17 matches played with one game being declared void due to the weather. Preparation for playing in the Premiership will begin immediately with the club aiming to stabilise its position in the top flight of cricket for years to come.
Indeed over the last two seasons, the town side have shown excellent consistency winning 29 out of 34 league games played, but the step up to the top level in NCU cricket has become more of a leap over the past few seasons, and no-one at Pollock Park underestimates the task ahead.