Larne 1st XI almost managed to pull off a big upset before losing by just seven runs to Laurelvale at Sandy Bay in the first round of the Junior Cup.
With Larne missing three of their top five batsmen, no-one gave them much chance against a team from the league above but it turned out to be a thrilling game.
Skipper Chris Dempsey elected to bowl first and it paid off when Willy Graham claimed an lbw in the opening over. Aaron McKinley may not have taken a wicket, but he conceded just three runs from six overs. Cameron Ruys and Gareth Alexander kept up the pressure with Laurelvale reaching just 51 runs at drinks, but they had lost only one wicket.
Dempsey claimed two quick wickets but the visitors had a long batting line-up and were able to keep playing their shots. Graham troubled the visitors, claiming three more victims - one a superb one-handed catch behind by Darren Stanton, to finish with 4-36, while Dempsey struck again at the end and also had a direct hit run-out as Laurelvale finished their innings on 194-8.
Alexander and Ruys opened the innings and navigated the first 10 overs fairly comfortably, keeping the scoreboard ticking along at two or three runs an over. Ruys was beginning to find his feet in his first innings of the year before he was then trapped lbw for 18. Eddie Wilson soon followed for four.
Dempsey joined Alexander and there were no more scares before drinks as they took Larne to 75-2. Alexander had been knocking the ball around picking up singles and twos and was just starting to look to put pressure on the bowlers when he chased a wide one and nicked it to the wicketkeeper for 39.
Chris Keenan hit a four and a massive six before he was dismissed for 20. Dempsey, meanwhile, gave Larne a great chance of winning with 50 needed off the last eight overs.
He passed 50 and just when it looked as though he would win the game he was yorked for 61 and the game swung back in Laurelvale’s favour. Larne had a very inexperienced tail but Stanton and Lough played little cameos before thr team was dismissed for 187.
Although disappointed at losing, Dempsey was delighted with the performance of his team in all aspects on the game. He now has a real new ball threat with Graham and McKinley’s bowling is improving. This Saturday sees Larne face more strong opposition when they travel to Cregagh in the league.
Laurelvale 194-8 (W Graham 4-36, C Dempsey 3-40).
Larne 187 (C Dempsey 61, G Alexander 39).