On Sunday afternoon Coleraine’s 1st XI and their supporters travelled to Eglinton for the final of the Faughan Valley Premiership Cup against Senior Cup winners Donemana.
This competition is traditionally completed on the same day as the Faughan Valley Championship Cup final, with the two games in the T20 format in front of a large crowd enjoying the charity event. However the rain on Saturday had certainly put the games in jeopardy, with grounds throughout the region suffering from waterlogging. The sunshine on Sunday morning was encouraging and the initial Championship game did complete the first innings before heavy rain again interrupted play and eventually the teams and officials decided that the result would be determined by a bowl out.
Coleraine had hoped that their game would be started by 3.30pm but the rain was falling steadily by then and it was decided that both teams and umpires would wait until 5pm to see how conditions were at this stage. By 4.30pm the rain was easing but the ground was by then unplayable and it was inevitable that a bowl out would once again determine the winners.
Both teams chose their five bowlers who would bowl one ball each initially in turn, in the same manner as a penalty shoot-out. Coleraine bowled first, but by the end of five balls each the score was tied at 1-1, as only sixteen year old Matthew Smyth for Coleraine and the professional Kamran Sajid for Donemana had hit the stumps. After those five balls, the bowl out goes to sudden death with each side bowling one ball each until an outright winner is found.
The pressure was then firmly placed on Donemana when Coleraine’s Rishi Chopra knocked over the stumps with Coleraine’s seventh ball and as the Donemana bowler’s reply was a miss, Coleraine had won 2 to 1.
Whilst no game was played and a bowl out is, just as penalties are, an unsatisfying conclusion to a competition, Coleraine were delighted to win yet another trophy in this astonishingly successful season.
As the Club Chairman, Gareth Godfrey said after the game: “That was more nerve racking than any game, I could hardly bear to watch.”
It was the nerveless performances of two of Coleraine’s young bowlers who had sealed the victory. Matthew Smyth, 16, was making his debut for the team and no greater responsibility could have been placed on him, but as he has showed with his recent form for the seconds, Matty can certainly deliver in the most pressurised of situations.
Fellow teenager Rishi Chopra, 17, has played for the First XI for several seasons, but as an Ireland Under-19 player and captain of the Ireland Under-17s he is no stranger to playing with the expectations of others at the back of his mind, but neither he, nor Matty could have delivered a more composed finish to their season for 2013.
Coleraine first XI has had a memorable season. The team has now had success in the League, the Ulster Cup and the shortened form of the game, the Faughan Valley Cup. To win one of these would have topped off a wonderful season in any previous year, but 2013 has been a pinnacle, which they will aim to reach again, next season starting in April 2014.
The hard work on the field is over for this season, but after a well-deserved break, the training will recommence in the new year, with a number of Coleraine’s young players hoping to emulate the teenagers currently in the team and progress to the 1st XI next year.
In the Championship game Newbuildings batted first against Creevedonnell and posted a total of 139 for 5 in their 20 overs. Creevedonnell got themselves into a bit of a tangle at the start of their reply and had reached 27 for 4 after four overs when the heavens opened. So it was on to the dreaded bowl out Newbuildings felt aggrieved, as they might, but they hid their disappointment well to completely dominate the shoot-out.
Jason Browne, Stephen Wallace and Graeme Robb all struck for them while Creevedonnell didn’t manage a shot on target in a 3-0 reverse. Eglinton legend Hendy Wallace, in town on a short visit handed over the cup to skipper Wes Ferguson and there was every sign that it was to be the start of a long night of celebration.