The Gallagher Challenge Cup returns this weekend with Waringstown’s quarter-final clash at home to Instonians undoubtedly tie of the round.
Greg Thompson’s side eased past Holywood in the previous round by seven wickets, while Instonians continued their fine run in white-ball cricket with a comfortable victory over North Down at The Green.
Since then, both have picked up Irish Senior Cup wins and will now meet in the quarter-final on July 14, but Waringstown captain Greg Thompson is fully focused on Saturday’s clash as the Villagers aim to defend their crown.
“When the draw came out, Instonians are a tough team, but we always say in the Challenge Cup or Irish Senior Cup that we just want a home draw and we ended up getting them in both!” he said. “We will go into that confident and their league form isn’t reflective of what they can do. They are on a decent run of form in white-ball cricket and it’ll be a good game between two good sides.”
It is just one of three big games this weekend for Waringstown with a Twenty20 Cup semi-final at North Down tonight before another huge Premier League fixture at Belmont against reigning champions CIYMS. The Twenty20 match is a repeat of the past two finals and will be the first time Waringstown and North Down meet in any competition this season.
“Interestingly, we have played them a lot in Twenty20 cricket over the past few years but we haven’t seen them at all this year,” added Thompson. “Craig Young has joined them and there are a couple of other guys that have joined in Jamie Magowan and Nathan Burns, so it’s a slightly different team.
“They have proven over the past four or five years to be one of the best T20 teams in our league and it’ll be a good match.
“The Green more often than not produces runs so it should be a good one for the neutral.”
CIYMS currently sit top of the league and would open up a four-point gap with a further game in hand if they beat Waringstown on Sunday.
“It is still the first half of the season and we will be going into it like any other game,” said Thompson. “No matter the result, the league won’t be decided at this stage of the year.
“CIYMS proved this year and last that they are a force to be reckoned with in red-ball league cricket.
“We need to be on top of our game to beat them, but we have done that in various other formats and will go in confident that we can produce a good performance.”
Three victories would round off a perfect week for Thompson, who is celebrating being recalled to the Ireland national team for the first time since 2017.
“I wouldn’t say I’d written off playing for Ireland again, but the last time I was in the squad I felt that probably hadn’t given it my best in terms of performances,” he told Cricket Ireland’s official website. “Looking back now, those last caps were against a rising Afghan side featuring Rashid Khan - who has proven himself to be one of the top T20 bowlers in the world - so I’m just delighted to get another chance, and excited to get going and hopefully produce what I know I can.”