Gallagher Men’s Challenge Cup Final Preview

Aug 3, 2023 | General News

After the terrible July weather and a number of rearrangements, the finalists of the Gallagher Men’s Challenge Cup were decided and both Waringstown and Carrickfergus are all set for Friday at The Ward, Stormont.

Waringstown’s Captain Greg Thompson will be seeking another Challenge Cup title to add to the long list of competition wins for Waringstown dating back to 1914 and most recently in 2018. He is very much looking forward to taking his team to Stormont, “This season has been great as we’ve booked our spot in 3 cup finals. With the NCU T20 postponed last weekend, this is now our first opportunity to win some silverware and the boys are looking forward to hopefully continuing our good form.

A lot of hard work has gone in throughout the season by those in the squad to perform well on the pitch, and the club, in general, to ensure we’ve played important matches throughout some very wet periods this Summer, so victory on Friday will mean a lot to everyone involved.”

Injuries and unavailability have plagued Waringstown this season but their performances so far are a real testament to their squad depth and the key players on their roster, “It’s been a real squad effort this season as due to injuries and representative selections we’ve had a lot of changes to the playing XI from week-to-week. The arrival of James Cameron-Dow as coach and Pat Botha as professional has brought a renewed focus and both have added great value on and off the pitch.

I’d credit the arrival of JCD with the upturn in my form, as not only has it allowed me to focus on my game rather than leading training, but he’s also been very clear in communicating the role which I perform for the team, especially with the bat.

I’m not sure I’ll have much motivation to do ahead of the match on Friday. The boys have been excellent so far this season and are raring to go for what promises to be an exciting cup final.”

Waringstown’s Captain Greg Thompson

Team selections are never easy, especially for the major trophies like the Gallagher Challenge Cup Final, but it is a captain’s duty to select the best possible 11 players for the big day, “As I said, we’ve had to use a lot of players this season due to injuries and various other unavailabilities, more so than I ever remember, but it has allowed a lot of guys to come in and contribute to what has so far been an excellent season. Unfortunately, only 11 players can take to the field, and I’m sure there will be some disappointed to miss out, but we said from the start of the season we would celebrate each other’s successes and so we’ve aimed to involve all of those who have contributed to us reaching the various finals.”

Any match at this level has all the capabilities of being a close one but cup finals always have tension in the air and require players to step up and perform, especially in front of what’s hoped to be a packed Stormont “It would be unfair of me to single out one or two individuals as we’ve proven time and time again this season that in crunch matches we have got a team full of players who remain calm and composed with various players putting in match-winning performances or even just stepping up and executing their skill at a key moment. There is a lot of cup final experience throughout the team and in those tight moments it could come down to this.

I’m looking forward to playing at Stormont and the forecast seems to be OK. We played the 2018 Irish Senior Cup Final there and beat Merrion in a great team performance, so we’ve got great memories to look back on, and hopefully, we can add to those.”

The big cup final days are the ones that players remember the most once they’ve hung up their spikes and Friday will be no different for both teams, “We’ll look to travel together and wear a shirt and tie as I think it’s important to mark these occasions as special, but largely speaking things will be kept the same throughout the build-up and on Friday.”

Carrickfergus’s Captain C.J Van der Walt will lead his team to the club’s first-ever Challenge Cup Final on Friday and the excitement is building around Middle Road, “Like I said before I don’t think it has sunk in properly yet coming in as captain and achieving this in the first year is something I’ll remember forever. For the club, this is the biggest thing ever as they have never been in a Final of a 50 Over Cup.”

Many factors need to come into play for a team to get to a cup final and successful captains know how to motivate their players, “I think us having a coach like Stephen Smith coming in this year has played a massive part in our success. From my point of view, I always tell the boys to believe that you are good enough and when we go out on the field to give their absolute best.”

Carrickfergus’s Captain C.J Van der Walt

Touching on the important matter of team selection, especially for a cup final, it helps that a similar team can be put out each week, “Just because it’s a Challenge Cup final I’m not changing any approach going forward selecting my team. I will pick the best squad I have available and that is fit for the Challenge and I would let them all know going into a big game like this is to approach it like the way we have all season.”

With the Gallagher Men’s Challenge Cup final set for Stormont and the presence of international quality pitches it is no doubt that the players are revelling in the chance to play in a big cup final there, “ I’ve always loved playing at Stormont. The pitches are brilliant and so is the outfield. Going into a big game knowing that you will be playing on a top-class pitch and ground is always positive”.

Going into a cup final it is important to prepare correctly and professionally and stick to the pre-game routine that has worked up until this point, “Nothing would change before the game, our boys know what they need to do to get them ready for the 11 am start and we all cannot wait to get going.”


You can buy your tickets for the final through the following link