The Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup holds a special place in the hearts of Millpark Cricket Club. Back in 1999 they famously tied the two day final against Bangor.
So, last weekend’s Quarter Final against a very strong Lisburn Seconds was keenly anticipated at Banford Green.
Following the previous Sunday’s tremendous win over Drumaness, Captain Paul McCart and his men were understandably feeling confident of giving their big name rivals a run for their money.
That the visitors’ first team were without a fixture was a worry for Millpark, and indeed a small number of Premier League players were, quite legitimately, drafted into the Lisburn team, making things even more difficult for the hosts.
Millpark won the toss, and elected to bat on what turned out to be a superb batting wicket.
It was as hard as the road, the ball coming through fast and true, a real credit to the ground staff, as was the rest of Banford Green.
This was reflected in the solid start openers Glover (21) and Stu McCart (49) gave their side.
The two played watchfully from the beginning, and then opened up cautiously as they reached 71 without loss at the 17 over drinks interval.
That break contributed to the end of the partnership, concentration failing Glover as he tried to drive a good ball from McConkey (4-39) that knocked back his off stump.
Ryan McCart, who recently made his maiden century was next in, but his stay was short lived as he was run out for a duck.
Ben Talbot, who has been in such good form, then fell for just one, and next ball skipper McCart was caught behind.
All of a sudden, Millpark had slumped to 111-6, and the big day was threatening to subside in a major way.
Andrew Woods provided some resistance, playing a couple of nice shots in his 14, but the major contribution from the top order batsmen had been that of Stu McCart, who played fluently and responsibly for his 49 runs.
The key partnership was that between Saeed Ali and Johnny Breen.
Coming together at 134-7, they put on almost 100 runs, making sure Millpark had a total they could hope to defend, but also putting the visitors somewhat on the back foot.
Both men rode their luck from time to time, but dispatched the aggressive and pacey Lisburn attack to all corners of the ground, and occasionally beyond.
Ali was out shortly before the end of the innings for an explosive 45, while it was fair to say that Breen’s 50 not out, scored in just 13 overs, was his highest score in a number of years.
Millpark retired to the tea interval having recorded a competitive 235-9, against excellent opposition, and were in good spirits as they resumed determined to defend their hard fought total.
Saeed Ali took up with the ball where he had left off with the bat, and had McConkey caught behind for a third ball duck.
Ali bowled aggressively, and with very little luck, or return from the umpires, during his two spells. Good figures of 2-46 from 10 overs do not reflect just how well he bowled.
Lisburn began to pace themselves well, and while they had opener Ricky Finlay (88) at the crease, had good control of their scoring rate.
He and number three Halliday (55) batted well, and took advantage the one bad ball that seemed to be bowled in almost every Millpark over. They were rarely significantly behind the scoring rate, and managed their innings well.
Finlay could have been out when Breen dived to his right to attempt what would have been a cracking catch, and a couple of other chances also went a begging.
In general, though, barring one or two early lapses, Millpark fielded well.
They were not helped by what they saw to be cautious umpiring, as a number of LBW shouts fell on deaf ears.
These things happen, however, and the umpires’ decisions are final, but unfortunately one or two of these decisions could have changed the complexion of this match.
Most of the Millpark bowlers went for more runs than they would have liked, on what was a beautiful day for batting.
Stu McCart recorded 0-50 (10 overs), Paul McCart 0-20 (4), Stevie McCart 0-39 (4), Roshan Jose 1-23 (6) and Ryan McCart 0-14 (2).
Davy Glover was the pick of the bowlers from an economy point of view, picking up 1-28 from his ten overs.
In fact, he bowled two of only three maidens in the whole Lisburn innings (there were only two more in the Millpark effort) as the visitors got their eye in and reached the target with overs to spare.
So, the dream of another semi final in this famous old competition will have to wait for at least another season.
Millpark however, had given a very competitive performance, and shown once again the excellent team spirit that is getting stronger every time they take the field.