Larne gladly reflect on sodden season after raining supreme

The Larne Cricket Club 1st XI. INLT 34-367-PR
The Larne Cricket Club 1st XI. INLT 34-367-PR

Larne Cricket Club Season Review 2012

So another local cricket season has come to an end and it was a very successful one for Larne 1st XI as they were crowned champions of the Ulster Bank League Section 3.

Esler Burke, Larne Cricket Club's President, gets whisked up in the celebrations as Larne cricket Club celebrate promotion to Section 2. INLT 34-375-PR

Esler Burke, Larne Cricket Club's President, gets whisked up in the celebrations as Larne cricket Club celebrate promotion to Section 2. INLT 34-375-PR

In another terrible summer weatherwise, Larne were glad they only had 12 league games to play and it was a relief to everyone to get their campaign concluded in August, with some clubs facing massive fixture backlogs.

A huge thank you goes to Esler Burke for getting a wicket prepared at Sandy Bay no matter what the weather threw at him and the fact Larne had no matches voided was certainly a big factor in securing the league title.

Of the 12 league games Larne won 10, only losing to a strong Cregagh side twice. Many of these victories were comprehensive but there were two close matches which proved pivotal in the success of the season.

Having posted 207 at Ards in May, Larne reduced the home side to 110-7 and were seemingly cruising to victory but the Ards No 8 had other ideas as he whacked 4s and 6s to all parts of the ground.

He was in the 80s and Ards needed just 5 more runs to win but Gareth Alexander bowled a treble wicket maiden to secure a fantastic victory.

At the tail end of the season Larne were again in trouble at Dungannon as they needed 68 to win off the last 6 overs. A cameo from Dean Hodge gave them a chance but 15 runs off the final over still looked like a tall order before Darren Stanton and Gareth Gaw did the job and it was fitting that skipper Gaw hit the 6 to win the match.

After a few turbulent years Gareth Gaw has managed to revitalise the team and this year it has been a very stable squad with eight players playing in nine or more of the games. The team has been made up of a nucleus of experienced players with some younger players coming in to bolster the squad.

Openers Gareth Alexander and vice captain Jonny Baxter began the season in tremendous form with Baxter scoring an unbeaten 50 in the first match and Alexander reeling off three successive 50s before injury ended his season.

So runs were required from the rest of the team and young Chris Dempsey and Richard Hood stepped up in the second half of the season, both playing important innings with Chris finishing top run scorer.

There was also a vital 50 from Trevor Dempsey in the penultimate game and the team could always rely on Gareth Gaw, Gary Moore, Dean McDonagh, Darren Stanton and Dean Hodge for useful contributions with the bat.

On the bowling front, the season was dominated by the team’s slow bowlers who bowled the bulk of the overs each week. Richard Hood took the new ball each week and never quite got the wickets that his superb bowling deserved. Willy Graham and Zach Weatherhead also contributed with the new ball and it was great to have Paul Ramsay back for the final few games after injury.

But it was the spinners who did the damage as Gareth Gaw led the way in taking 31 wickets at an average of just over five.

Chris Dempsey also took 25 wickets and will win two Ulster Bank awards for taking six wickets in an innings – his 7-15 against Ards being the best bowling figures in the club’s history. Jonny Baxter and Darren Stanton were the other two spinners and both chipped in all season with vital spells of bowling.

It was a more mixed season for the 2nd XI with the weather again wreaking havoc but they managed to finish the season in mid-table in Junior League 5. It was again Esler Burke and Mike Lyle who provided the experience along with John Hood and Derek McKinley, and the team was made up with young players with Aaron McKinley and Jithin Kuriakose ones to watch for the future.

On the representative front, Richard Hood was selected for both the NCU U17s and the Ulster Schools and performed very well for both.

Larne Cricket Club is kindly sponsored by the Curran Court Hotel.