Larne Cricket Club captain Gareth Gaw says the newly-promoted squad is chomping at the bit to get started in the Northern Cricket Union’s Section Two, and he’s hoping his side can cause a few surprises along the way.
The new campaign kicks off this afternoon and the Sandy Bay club are putting the final touches to their preparations for a the season curtain-raiser - a trip to Millpark.
Gaw, 30, says the mood in the camp is upbeat and revealed survival is the side’s number-one aim. “The squad is pretty positive, but we are under no illusions of how tough a job we’ll be faced with this season. However, we’re confident in our abilities and reckon we have enough talent within the squad to cause a few upsets and get the wins required to keep us in the league.
“Realistically, our target this season will be to avoid relegation. Even though we have four or five really high quality players, we are a fairly inexperienced side and Section Two is a very tough league.
“For instance, Bangor, who won the Premier League less than 10 years ago, will be visiting Sandy Bay in our first home game (May 4), which gives an indication of the level we’re now playing at. But I am more than confident that we can get the wins required to keep us up.”
Gaw picked out Gareth Alexander as one of the key men for Larne, ahead of the 2013 season.
“Gareth has been our best players for many years now and, on his day, is one of the best batsmen in the league,” he said. “We’ll definitely need plenty of runs from Gareth’s bat if we’re to have a good season. His opening partner this year will be former skipper Ronnie Baxter, who is a vital part of the side, not only with bat, but also with ball.
“Even though I’m slightly biased, I really do believe that we have one of the best opening pairs in the whole league. With Chris and Trevor Dempsey to follow, I feel we have some real quality in the batting department.
“On the bowling front Chris Dempsey has the ability to take a bucketload of wickets and add some more Ulster Bank awards to his growing collection, while one to look out for is Aaron McKinley. He broke into the squad at the end of last season and bowls with genuine pace and has great control. At the age of 16, he will be a first-team regular for many years to come.”
While Larne will be content to consolidate in Section Two, Gaw reckons one of a quartet of sides could be pushing for promotion come the business end of the campaign.
“I think it could be any one of four teams,” he said. “Both Bangor and Holywood were relegated from Section One last season and will have obvious class in their sides. But Cooke and Armagh are always there or there abouts every year, and both have very good squads.
“I really do feel that one of these sides will win the league.”