Irish Senior Cup Final heartache for holders Waringstown

Shaheen Khan scored 101 for Pembroke
Shaheen Khan scored 101 for Pembroke

Pembroke lifted their first ever Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup crown after a comprehensive 135-run victory over defending champions Waringstown at Milverton on Saturday.

Waringstown, entering their fifth consecutive Irish Cup final and bidding to win the competition for a seventh time in total, won the toss and elected to field on a sun-drenched early afternoon at The Hills and made an early breakthrough when Haseeb Azam had Jack Balbirnie caught behind – his 36th wicket of the season.

That brought Irish international Andy Balbirnie to the crease and while not looking at his fluid best early on, reached 22 before driving James Mitchell straight to Adam Dennison in the covers to leave Pembroke sitting on 44-2 in the 12th over.

The situation got even better for Waringstown when opposition captain Fiachra Tucker (22) and Ireland wicketkeeper-batsman Lorcan Tucker (33) were both dismissed by an impressive Phil Eaglestone, but that brought former professional Shaheen Khan to the crease who would play an innings that will go down in history as one of the finest in Irish Cup final history.

Batting with Theo Lawson (63), the pair put on a partnership worth 148 for the fifth wicket in just over 20 overs to propel Pembroke into the ascendancy, reaching 244 before Lawson was bowled by the returning Azam.

Making the most of a short boundary, Khan bludgeoned 101 from only 75 balls against his old club to set his new one well on the way to silverware in their very first All-Ireland final.

After smacking 11 fours and three sixes all over the ground, the South African was eventually caught off the bowling of Lee Nelson (2-57) and walked off to a well-earned standing ovation from both sets of supporters.

Late cameos from Ryan Hopkins (21) and in particular Barry McCarthy (37*) pushed Pembroke beyond the 300 mark and into what felt like an unassailable position on 316-7 after 50 overs.

It would require a mammoth effort from a Waringstown batting order that have struggled for runs for a large majority of this season and when McCarthy bowled both James Hall (7) and Kyle McCallan (1), the Villagers were on the back foot.

Lee Nelson and captain Greg Thompson came together with the score at 32-3 and piled on the runs at a quick rate, and with those two at the crease you began to wonder if something special could be achieved.

Their partnership reached 53 before another Irish international in Josh Little bowled Nelson (20) in his second spell before Jack Balbirnie (4-52) ripped through Waringstown’s middle order.

Thompson stood up to the pressure superbly and raced to 45 with a mix of strike rotation, clubbing blows and his trademark sweeps before he mistimed one off Balbirnie.

Marcus McClean (2), Azam (6) and David Dawson (2) all followed in quick succession and it was only a matter of waiting for Pembroke to lift their maiden crown, but Waringstown went down swinging and in style.

James Mitchell battered 29 from just nine balls while Gary Kidd (28*) struck four boundaries in some late order hitting.

Phil Eaglestone was the last wicket to fall and fittingly, it was Khan (3-32) who finished the game off to cap a man-of-the-match performance and one of the best in an Irish Cup final in recent times.

This will be the first season in quite some time where Waringstown finish without winning any silverware, but they must be given massive credit for their run over the past five years.

To reach five consecutive finals in an age where Irish cricket is continuing to improve at the highest level is some achievement and the challenge for them now is to rise to the challenge the likes of Pembroke and undoubtedly CIYMS will come with again next season.