NCU logo
Northern Cricket Union
Charity Registration Number: NIC 106791

NCU Facebook Page
NCU Facebook Page
Robinson Services Section 1 - Final Weekend Roundup

Johnny Morton Robinson Services

Cliftonville Academy have been confirmed as 2021 Robinson Services Section One champions after a dramatic weekend that went down to the final game of the season.

Max Burton and Shane MatthewsThe Castle Grounds outfit, who were beaten by Derriaghy on Saturday, already knew they were promoted but handed Cregagh the chance to lift the league title if they could record a quick victory over Saintfield in Sunday's rearranged Twenty20 fixture. Cregagh won by seven wickets, securing their own spot in the new 10-team 2022 Robinson Services Premier League, chasing their target of 134 in 16.2 overs, but that wasn't enough to leapfrog Cliftonville Academy into top spot.

A net run-rate difference of 0.024 was the only difference between the two teams after an 18-game season that started almost four months ago, but their gain was Derriaghy's extremely unfortunate loss. The Queensway side, who just like the two teams above them won 15 from 18, will remain in Section One after their net run-rate sat at 0.399 compared to Cliftonville Academy's (1.418) and Cregagh's (1.394).

Those three were well clear of the pack with Armagh finishing 20 points behind in fourth and Saintfield a further eight points adrift in fifth.

Max Burton's form was key to Cliftonville Academy's success with the 20-year-old scoring 992 runs throughout the season. We spoke to him after it was confirmed they had been crowned as champions for some immediate reaction:

On the season: "It was a great season. We had a few hiccups early on losing to Saintfield and then Derriaghy beat us in a game we probably should have won. We guaranteed our promotion last weekend against Bangor but wanted to go into this weekend and win the league. Not winning yesterday makes it a bit bittersweet because we were up but Cregagh could have won the league today, but it's good to get over the line."

On the pre-season goal of promotion: "Our goal ahead of the season was definitely promotion. We've made a few good signings this season and last year. We added Richard Hood which massively improved our bowling attack and Matthew McCord and I signed last year, so we knew we had the team to do it. I think we have the best bowling attack in the league. At the start of the season we were expecting to go up but the competition was so big between the three teams and we are all good enough to go up, so it was just a case of who could get the job done."

On the success of the club just 3 full seasons after amalgamating: "It's been four years since the two clubs amalgamated and talking to the boys who have been around longer, there was a five-year plan put in place. It was expected that in five years we would be aiming for promotion, so to do that a year earlier is even more special. I know when the two teams amalgamated that there were a lot of questions asked about if it was worth it and how it was going to work. I know a few people have said they are happy to be proven wrong that we are going up."

On the key to his own form: "I have never enjoyed cricket more than I have this season. I've been working very hard on my game and every week I'm just excited to go out there and play with the guys. It has been very competitive and it hasn't been easy. There have been weeks where it's been very tough. The pitches aren't as great in Section One compared to the Premier League which did play a part in how I went about my innings this year. I was definitely more reserved than I would have been in past years, but it's been very competitive and a really enjoyable season."

"I was eight short of the milestone of 1000 runs which I would have loved to have got, but if you'd offered me more than 900 runs at the start of the season I would have bitten your hand off for it. It definitely exceeded my expectations. We have a really good group who have been pushing each other. It's good to get runs myself, but it's even better to do it for the team and to help us win the league."

On a team effort: "You look back at some of the bigger games and there's some where I haven't done anything. You've had the experienced players step up. Robbie Moffett won us the game against Armagh, McCord and Tetley (Jonny Terrett) both won us the game against Cregagh when we were struggling away, Richard Hood against Ballymena – there have been so many players who stepped up when I didn't. It has made it easier for me knowing that if I don't do well that our team is good enough to do it. We lacked a bit of confidence at the start of the season but as it has went along it has grown throughout the team and now we are a proper squad."

On the Premier League challenge: "I'm very excited for it. The standard is way higher than what it was probably when I was playing two years ago, so we are all very excited. I'm looking forward to testing myself in the league again and as a team, I think we are excited to get going. There's already talk of indoor nets starting in November so it shows how hungry we are as a squad that even though the season has just ended, we are looking to get back going again and get better for next year."

Robinson Services Section 1