Larne 1st XI took on NCU Section Three leaders Ards at a glorious Sandy Bay on Saturday and drew level with them at the top of the league thanks to a five-wicket win.
With Ards first in to bat, Aaron McKinley bowled a good four-over burst but couldn’t get a breakthrough against the openers who looked in good touch.
Jonny McIlhinney, playing his first game for over a year, bowled an extraordinary eight-over spell which included five maidens and returned figures of 1-10, claiming the wicket of the impressive Ards opener thanks to a good catch by Chris Lough.
Gareth Gaw, bowling his usual accurate spell, was unlucky to have two catches put down, and after 20 overs Ards were on 50-1.
Dempsey bowled a good spell and had the batsmen in all sorts of trouble and took one wicket while Cameron Ruys (pictured) affected two wickets: one a plumb lbw and the other a superb run-out to leave Larne looking to restrict the visitors to under 140.
However, Ards added more than 80 runs in the last 10 overs before McKinley took two late wickets as the visitors closed their innings on 167-6.
In reply Larne posted 168-5. Openers Gareth Alexander and Jonny Baxter perished in quick succession for 10 and 9. Ruys soon took a bang on the knee and had to retire hurt which brought Dempsey and Chris Keenan together and they set about rebuilding the innings. They maintained a steady run-rate and Dempsey was looking very commanding before he was trapped lbw for 22.
Having recovered enough to go in again Ruys returned and at drinks Larne were on 80-3.
Keenan put the foot down and was taking the game away from Ards before he was dismissed for 45. His innings included two massive sixes and was unlucky to get a leading edge to a leg-side delivery which could have been a wide.
With only 30 runs required from the last 10 overs Ruys saw Larne home home, finishing unbeaten on 32. He lost Gaw lbw, but Phil Mawhinney was with him at the end to complete a five-wicket win.
This was a comfortable victory against a team at the top of the league and takes Larne to four wins from their five games.
The Sandy Bay men travel to Dungannon this Saturday.