This Sunday will see the fourth Gallagher Women’s Challenge Cup final take place as Muckamore and Civil Service Northern Ireland face each other at Stormont (2pm). Both sides go into the match looking to win the competition for the first time since its inception back in 2016.
However, CSNI will be looking to go one better than last year having finished runners-up to two-time champions – Lurgan – in a low scoring thriller. Sitting at the summit of the Gardiner Brothers Premier League table, CSNI have had a solid season with a few key players chipping in at various points. Ali Cowan has been one to watch with the bat, having notched three league fifties this season. Her form was rewarded by earning representative honours with the Northern Cricket Union and the Tyhoons in Cricket Ireland’s Toyota Super Three series. Abbi Leckey has starred with the ball throughout the season causing problems for many batters across the country. She too has earned representative honours with the Northern Cricket Union.
CSNI’s cup run has seen them defeat strong Waringstown and Lurgan sides on their way to the final. As for Muckamore, they too have had a strong season – winning three of their five league games and have brushed aside both Carrickfergus and Instonians on their road to Stormont. Amy Caulfield, Suzanne Morrison-Keates and Nikki Niblock are three Muckamore players to have earned representative honours with the Northern Cricket Union this summer. Caulfield and Morrison-Keates have both scored half-centuries this season while Niblock has had fun with the ball taking plenty of wickets.
Speaking at a media event, Muckamore captain Helen Breet said: “Sunday is going to be massive for us. This has been the first season that we have gone beyond the opening round. Whether we win or lose, the fact that we have reached the final is a big achievement for the girls,” she added. Speaking about her opponents, Breet explained: “The final isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Civil Service are in form and it should be a close match. All of the Civil Service girls have their strengths but we will be keeping a close eye on Ali Cowan and Abbi Leckey.”
Chatting about her own side, she said: “For us, Suzi Morrison-Keates and Amy Caulfield are our strongest batters and Nikki Niblock will be looking to shine with the ball. “If we were to win the match, I wouldn’t be able to put into words what it would mean to us.”
Civil Service captain Abbi Leckey said: “Because we lost out in 2018, this year will be even bigger for us. “We will use that defeat as motivation to come out stronger against Muckamore. We’ve learnt our lesson and we’ll just need to stay calm and if things don’t go to plan, then we must focus on the next ball or the next over.
Talking about the opposition, Leckey explained: “Muckamore are a strong outfit and it’ll be a challenge for us, but for neutrals it should make for a great match to watch. “Suzi Morrison-Keates and Amy Caulfield are two players that our bowlers will be focusing on.”
Shane Matthews from Gallagher UK said: “This is our third year supporting the women’s game and we are always looking to develop our relationship. “Having watched the final least year, I noticed a huge jump in standard from the 2017 final and from what I gather the competition has gone from strength to strength so Sunday should be a great contest.”
Muckamore: Zoe Baysting, Helen Breet (captain), Amy Caulfield, Jo Davis, Rachael Douglas, Becky Hall, Jodi Jones, Sarah Keates, Suzanne Morrison-Keates, Nikki Niblock, Jaqi Robinson, Becky Simpson.
CSNI: Andrea Adair, Ali Cowan, Aoife Fisher, Jemma Gillan, Nikita Gondhia, Ash Healy, Abbi Leckey (captain), Sarah Rountree, Emma Scott, Jemima Thomas, Sophie Thomas, Camille Wood.