In many respects, the opening round of the IBI Corporate Premier League resembles the quarter-final stage of the European Club Football Championships. All the preliminary jousting has now been completed, and the serious competition begins. It has been suggested in some previews that there are two distinct competitions within the Premier League with four teams competing to win the league and four teams competing to avoid relegation. The identity of the teams in each category will provoke much discussion, and over the coming weeks, a greater level of clarity will manifest itself.
The opening game for The Hills was against Malahide at the Village on Monday, and the ground at Malahide looked tremendous with preparations well underway for the coming international games. The Hills played without Jonathan Tall (injured while fielding for MCC in Romania), and Murray Commins (back spasms), while Malahide lacked the services of Fintan McAllister (guest at a wedding) and Matt Ford (injured). Having won the toss, The Hills opted to bat first, and the opening partnership of Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin (16) and Andrew Kavanagh (9) scored 42 runs, but then two wickets fell for only two runs. A stand of 48 between Athar Farooqi (10) and Dylan Blignaut settled the nerves of the visiting supporters, but with three wickets down and only 92 runs scored in 26 overs, the home team was beginning to sense an opening day victory. That hope was soon extinguished by a partnership of 97 runs between Mark Donegan (47) and Blignaut. Mark was very unlucky to be run out when he was batting beautifully, but Dylan continued on his merry way to score a brilliant 101 runs. A partnership of 32 runs between Tomás Rooney-Murphy (15) and Dylan brought the score nearer to the 250 mark, and 37 Extras were very helpful in this regard. The last pair of Sam Smyth (6*) and Matthew Weldon (8*) added a valuable 17 runs, and The Hills ended on 253 for 9.
The Hills’ supporters were very interested is seeing Ryan Hackney, the Malahide overseas player, because he had signed for The Hills before the restrictions of the Covid pandemic impacted on all cricket in Leinster a few seasons ago. Malahide’s opening partnership of Hackney and Muntha scored 41 runs before Muntha was caught by Tomás Rooney-Murphy off the bowling of Dylan Blignaut. The next wicket to fall was that of Callum Riches (7) when he was clean-bowled by Tomás Rooney-Murphy. Wickets then began to fall at regular intervals as The Hills’ bowling attack of Athar Farooqi, Levon Shields and Sam Smyth began to impose a stranglehold on the game. Hackney was out eventually in the 36th over when he was caught by Bhavesh Lakhotia off the bowling of Levon Shields. Hackney looked to be a competent player, but a strike-rate of 65.88% for his 56 runs is arguably too slow in limited overs cricket. Malahide’s final score was 143 all out, and The Hills had opened its league campaign with a victory margin of 110 runs to put 25 points on the board.
The Hills’ bowling attack continues to impress with Athar Farooqi, the undoubted star on this occasion when he took 4 wickets for 22 runs in 8 overs. It was good to see Matthew Weldon being entrusted with the new ball while Sam Smyth bowled very well and took 1 wicket for 17 runs in 7 overs. The more experienced bowlers (Tomás Rooney-Murphy, 2 for 42, Dylan Blignaut, 1 for 19 and Levon Shiels, 1 for 42 in 10 overs) are consistently reliable, and the next few weeks will show into which category The Hills will fall in the race for the league title. The next outing for The Hills 1 is against Phoenix at The Vineyard on Sunday, 12 June. Until then, its onwards and upwards.
PS For all members and supporters of The Hills and all cricket-lovers in Fingal, a video, “A Celebration of 50 Years” will be screened on Friday, 10 June in the Clubhouse. Starting time: 7.30 p.m. All welcome.