Brigade are the 2016 O’Neill’s Ulster Cup champions after they beat Ardmore 3-2 in a bowl-out at a soggy Bready on Sunday evening. It was a match that was very much in the balance before the rain came shortly after the start of the second innings with the Bleachgreen team 14-1 after 5.1 overs in reply to Any Britton’s men’s 163 all out.
The first innings was all about Ryan Hunter as the Beechgrove batsman held things together with a really impressive knock. As wickets tumbled around him Hunter stood firm, posting a 59-run stand with Iftikhar Hussain (28) after a slow start.
In the end though the Brigade man fell just 5 runs short of a deserved century; Hunter the last man out having hit 8 fours and 2 sixes in his 95.
Elsewhere it was a really ordinary card as the rest of the order struggled to make an impression- David Barr (10) the only other player to make double figures. Ryan Brolly and Decker Curry both claimed figures of 2-25 with Stephen Dunn adding 2-32 as Ardmore reached half way in a decent position.
The reply was only in its early stages when the rain arrived but there was time for Andy Britton to have Paul McDowell caught behind for 4 just before the delay.
Teams, officials and a dedicated band of spectators hung around for several hours in the hope of battle being re-joined, but more in hope than expectation. The inevitable call was made that we would have a bowl-out at 6pm, and the hearty soles braved the elements to witness the shootout.
Ryan Macbeth was first on the mark to put Brigade 1-up but that was quickly cancelled out by Decker Curry. “Never a doubt…” mumbled Brigade skipper Britton as Curry returned to the huddled ranks and he must have feared the worst when Marlo Jardine put Ardmore 2-1 up.
Straight away it was level again however as that man Hunter was on the money and ironically it was former Ardmore man Iftikhar Hussain who had the final say as he struck the final blow in a 3-2 win.
Not a great way to win any game, and to be fair Hunter’s innings deserved better, but Brigade will take it all the same.
The result means that the Limavady Road men keep their record intact as well; they have now been in four Ulster finals, and won them all.