Donaghcloney are turning 125 this year, but it was the youth of the club that stole the headlines as they progressed through the first test of the Arthur J Gallagher Challenge Cup on Saturday at the Factory Ground.
Under new sponsorship from AJG this season, the Challenge Cup continues to be the priority cup competition for local teams despite the growth of T20 cricket elsewhere.
NCU Chairman Andy Clement chose Donaghcloney as the first location for his viewing this season and was treated to a great game that had teams swapping favourites tag throughout the day.
With the prize of a next round tie against Derriaghy, who humbled big spending CIYMS on Saturday, for the winners of this tie it was Academy who started the brightest, with the opening partnership taking them to 64 without loss early on.
Going off for rain with Academy at 113 for 2 off 27 overs it was too close a game to call, with early season pitch unpredictability, no one sure what would prove a par score. Wicketkeeper turned slow bowler Bruce Topping’s was to turn back the years and an impressive ten over spell taking three wickets for just 41 runs helped restrict an Academy side who had been targeting closer to 250 at drinks to just 205.
Donaghcloney came out a team on a mission with openers Matthew Lyttle (32 from 35 balls) and Mark Campbell (37 from 31) showing no respect for the Academy opening bowlers.
However, with their departure things slowed considerably for the home side, and when overseas player Rahul Desai departed for 49 on his debut they were still 37 runs shy of victory with just four wickets remaining.
Robert Lyttle had other plans, and within a few overs had steered the villagers into the next round, launching a huge six back over the bowlers head to finish the match shortly after, his 31 coming off just a dozen balls, and earn him the man of the match award.