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Gallagher Challenge Cup Final - North Down preview

The biggest day on the local cricketing calendar is upon us as North Down and CIYMS meet in the Gallagher Challenge Cup final at The Green on Friday (11am start).

CIYMS will be looking to retain the title they won two years ago while North Down – the most successful club in the history of this competition – are chasing a first title since 2011.

Here, we look at North Down with team news, quotes and more.

North Down

Road To The Final

First Round
Cliftonville Academy 101 (D Reid 23, M McCord 25, C Young 2-25, T Mayes 2-26, P Davison 2-24, P Eakin 2-1)
North Down 103-5 (A Chore 49no, T Mayes 23no, M Burton 2-26)
North Down beat Cliftonville Academy by 5 wickets

Lisburn 155 (R Rankin 58, A Berry 26, M Humphreys 23, C Robinson 2-35, P Eakin 2-32, R Haire 5-23)
North Down 157-1 (A Shields 46, A Chore 69no, G Maneeshan 34no)
North Down beat Lisburn by 9 wickets

Instonians 209-9 (O Metcalfe 35, J Hunter 46, S Getkate 21, A White 29, B Rose 24no, T Mayes 2-38, P Davison 3-45)
North Down 213-3 (A Shields 20, A Chore 85no, G Maneeshan 46, P Eakin 39, B Rose 2-40)
North Down beat Instonians by 7 wickets 

Team News
North Down will be without Irish international Paul Stirling who is currently playing for Southern Brave in The Hundred. Outside of Stirling's absence, the Comber outfit will be at full strength with at least eight players set to play in their first Gallagher Challenge Cup final. Craig Young will likely share the new ball with Tom Mayes – who was training with the Ireland squad in England this week – while they'll be backed up by the impressive Peter Davison and dangerous spinner Carl Robinson. Peter Eakin played in the 2012 final against Instonians and will have a crucial role to play. He's been a standout performer once again this season, scoring 358 runs and picking up 16 wickets.

One To Watch

Aniruddha Chore

Chore has been an absolute revelation since joining North Down ahead of the 2021 season, scoring 854 runs in 15 innings at an incredible average of 106.75. The 29-year-old has gone past 50 on seven occasions – including three centuries – and posted 140* when these two sides met in the Robinson Services Premier League earlier this season. He has developed a superb opening partnership with captain Alistair Shields, who has amassed 571 runs in the current campaign, and the duo will be absolutely key to North Down's hopes on Friday. Chore clearly loves the Gallagher Challenge Cup. He hasn't been dismissed in three innings so far, hitting 203 runs and picking up two Man of the Match awards!

What Did They Say?

Captain Alistair Shields has progressed through the ranks at his boyhood club and will now lead his side out in a Challenge Cup final.

He spoke this week ahead of the big occasion:

On the day: "It's a big occasion for the club. It's a first final for 9 years and you can't ask for too much more than to be playing in a cup final at home. Fingers crossed it's a good occasion and hopefully it'll be an enjoyable day."

On the wait to play in a Challenge Cup final: "We've probably targeted it too much. There has always been talk of how great it would be to play a final at our place and we've probably put too much pressure on ourselves. We've tried to avoid any chat about that until we won the semi-final and it seems to have worked because we've had a good run this year! We have come unstuck at various stages in recent years and we only have ourselves to blame but we are excited to be in a final. Nobody remembers who came second so we will be doing our utmost to win. Hopefully we can put in a good performance and it's a final so anything can happen on the day."

On pride of being captain: "We won't be getting ahead of ourselves because it's going to be a tough game. It's a proud moment for myself. I've played for the club since I can remember so to captain the firsts in a cup final is going to be a proud day for me and I'm really looking forward to it."

On Aniruddha Chore: "His July must have been some sort of record-breaking month. He has been in great form and long may it continue. Being at the other end and watching the way he goes about his business – I think a lot of players could take a leaf out of his book with the way he applies himself and builds an innings. You can tell he knows his game inside out and sticks to that. He's really benefitted from the hard work he's put in to get to this point. He never gives his wicket away cheaply and makes the most of it when he gets in. He really deserves it because he works harder than anybody."

On CIYMS as opponents: "They are a good side. Anytime you come up against CI you know you'll be in a tough game. There is no obvious weakness there. They have all bases covered in their bowling attack with seamers and guys who can spin it both ways. Their batting line-up is strong with Mark and GK coming back into it. It's going to be a tough game but we've had a good 50-over win against them already this season and we will be looking to take the momentum from the past few weeks into the final. If we can turn up on the day and play close to our best then we are a match for anybody."