With North County and The Hills level on points going into the last series of games in the Sports Hub League Cup, the situation regarding the second qualifying place could not have been more finely poised. Both teams knew that it was not going to be sufficient to win their respective games because the place in the semi-final would be gained by the team which gained the higher number of bonus teams. This gave rise to a range of dilemmas for captains if they won the toss; would it be preferable to field and hope that the opposition would be bowled out cheaply or opt to bat and score so many runs that the opposition would be batted out of the game? Tomás Rooney-Murphy, The Hills Captain, chose the second option, and The Hills batted first.
The first Hills’ wicket (McLoughlin-Gavin) fell when 28 runs had been scored, and the second wicket (Kavanagh) fell 4 runs later. There was then a stand of 31 runs between Mark Donegan and Dylan Blignaut, which ended when Mark was out for 8 runs. Dylan and Levon Shields gave momentum to the innings and were particularly severe on any loose bowling. A stand of 125 ended when Blignaut had scored 73 runs, but Levon continued imperturbably to score his maiden century (112) for The Hills. In his magnificent innings, he faced 104 balls, and hit 14 fours and two sixes. Tomás Rooney-Murphy and Levon had a stand of 35 runs, and allied to 24 Extras, The Hills’ final score was 259 runs.
There was a consensus among Hills’ supporters and some of the Terenure players that the par score was in the region of 270 runs, in view of the lightning -fast outfield and the superb wicket. Predicting a par score is a very hazardous activity at the best of times, and it is often wiser to reserve judgement because the only score that matters is the figure that the chasing team manages to achieve. The Hills had a dream start in the second innings with a wicket being taken by the Tomás Rooney-Murphy /Donegan combination when Terenure had only scored 9 runs; the second Terenure wicket fell to a caught and bowled by Levon Shields when the score was 57. Athar Farooqi took a wicket with the first ball that he bowled, and that was thanks to a magnificent catch by Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin. Ashley Bain took the next three wickets, but Henry Dall, the Terenure opening bat, was batting beautifully, and the more pessimistic Hills’ supporters were thinking that the chances of qualifying for the semi-final were becoming progressively more remote. Matthew Weldon had struggled to a certain extent in his first spell, but when he came back to bowl for his second spell, he took the key wicket of Dall. Tomás Rooney-Murphy and Dylan Blignaut wrapped up proceedings with the last two wickets, and The Hills’ margin of victory was 36 runs. The bowling honours were taken by Tomás Rooney-Murphy (3 for 33), Ashley Bain (3 for 34), Athar Farooqi (1 for 21), Dylan Blignaut (1 for 35) and Matthew Weldon (1 for 39). Had The Hills done enough to qualify? No. North County won its game by 7 wickets, and thus qualified for the semi-final.
From a Hills’ perspective, it was a question of what might have been, and the loss to North County in the first game meant that the team was on the back foot for the rest of the campaign. There are many positives however because the team is responding well to Jeremy Bray, the Club Coach and Tomás Rooney-Murphy has engendered a good spirit among the players. The batting has been brittle at times, but the bowling is solid, and some wonderful catches have been taken in the field, with the wicket-keeping of Mark Donegan being especially noteworthy. The Hills’ next outing is on 2 June against North Kildare in The Maws. Until then, it is onwards and upwards.