Around 140 guests attended the North West Cricket Union’s annual presentation dinner at the White Horse Hotel on Friday night, among them former Irish International John Mooney who made an impressive debut on the ‘after dinner’ circuit as guest speaker.
Union Chairman, Andrew Fleming, addressed the gathering and paid tribute not just the individuals being honoured on the night but also those who had contributed to a year of progress in the region.
“While the weather made things extremely difficult in terms of playing administration we have made great strides in many other aspects,” Mr Fleming told the gathered auduience.
“There are a lot of people working very hard to ensure that cricket is able to flourish in the North West. There was a very healthy debate during our ‘open forum’ at this venue last week and delegates certainly bought into our plans to do everything in our power to grow and develop the game at grass roots,” said the St Johnston man.
“I believe we are on the right course and our focus will be the continued engagement with our clubs.”
Yet while youth development remains the thrust for the NWCU, many of the main prizes on the night were finding their way back home with a few more familiar faces.
For a record seventh time Decker Curry was named the ‘Radio Foyle Player of the Year’. The left-hander may be turning 50 next month but he stamped his class all over Ardmore’s brilliant summer with a string of superb performances.
Curry also won the Premiership batting award, only just edging out David Rankin but the Bready batsman deservedly claimed the Bannigan Players’ Player award after an excellent summer.
Andy Britton won the Premiership Bowling Shield as he came out marginally on top of a Brigade 1-2-3, ahead of Jonny Robinson and Ryan Macbeth.
In the Championship, Brian Allen - who became a father just 24 hours earlier - won the batting award by fractions ahead of Bond’s Glen’s Graham Boyd. Graham Kennedy fought off Aaron Heywood and David Anthony to win the bowling shield.
The ‘Young Player of the Year’ salver was also keenly contested but 17-year old Kennedy was a very popular winner.
The Ballyspallen teenager was outstanding, especially in the second half of the season, and the Bridge Park club must be thrilled that he will be staying in 2017 despite interest from many suitors.
And dad, John, made it a family double as he took home the ‘Club Person of the Year’ for the huge work he has over seen at ‘Spallen.
The ladies were honoured too as Strabane skipper, Hazel Magee, finished just two runs ahead of team-mate Julie Logue to win the batting award while Bready’s Steph Wilkinson was marginally ahead of clubmate Vanessa Buchanan in the bowling.
Another big winner on the night was Junior McBrine, the former Ireland all-rounder going home with Q1 batting, Q1 bowling and the CricketEurope/Readers Top Points Scorer awards.
Ardmore featured heavily as expected and as well as Decker, Paul Brolly (Q2 batting), George Brolly (Q2 bowling), Mark Gillen (Q4 batting) and Dean Chambers (Q4 bowling) all claimed awards.
The Q3 winners were Alistair Spratt of Ballyspallen (batting) and Drummond’s Damien Carlin (bowling) while Simon Killen (Glendermott) won the ‘Harry Henderson Fair Play Award’.
Andy McBrine was named Warriors Player of the Year while the Radio Foyle Team of the Year was also honoured.
The most poignant moment of the evening came as former Sion Mills pair Aubrey Finlay and Brendan Donaghey were inducted into the North West Hall of Fame.
Keith Finlay picked up the award for his late father after a touching citation from former Chair of Cricket Ireland, Joe Doherty, while Brendan raised the roof as he accepted his award from Decker Curry.