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Aaron Johnston Interview

Jonny Morton  

It has been a tough start to the season for newly promoted Cregagh but they'll be hoping a change of competition can help bring a first win today.

Aaron Johnston's men are the newest additions to the Robinson Services Premier League after finishing second to Cliftonville Academy in Section One last year and have suffered five consecutive defeats. The step up in competition is vast with the top-flight packed full of internationals and first-class players, but Cregagh aren't letting it get them down and certainly won't be going anywhere without a fight. There were signs of improvement last weekend against Woodvale and Johnston is hoping to build on that in the Clear Currency Irish National Cup when they host North West-based Killyclooney.

"It has been a tough start and we would have liked to have some points on the board at this stage, but we knew coming into the season it wasn't always going to go our way," he said. "We worked very hard during the winter indoors and did as much work as we could to prepare. It has been a bit disappointing the start we made with a few low scores and we know as a group we can play much better than that. We can't dwell on it too much and we need to look forward, enjoy it and learn as much as we can."

A tightly-knit group has been formed at the Cregagh Memorial Recreation Ground and Johnston believes that could be a big advantage as the season progresses towards a mid-season table split in early July.

"It's very easy to get down on yourself after a few heavy losses but we have a great group in the changing room," he added. We spoke ahead of the season and were well aware that it wasn't always going to go our way this year, but we went into it with the objective of learning, especially before the league splits at halfway. We knew we would be coming up against some really good cricketers and we have tried to embrace that and take away the positives that we can. We know come the end of the season we will be better cricketers for it."

The National Cup is famous (or infamous) for the long-distance encounters it can set up as Cregagh well know after an eight-hour round trip to Limerick CC in 2018 while Muckamore take on County Kerry CC today – a 10-hour round journey. It will also provide Johnston's side an opportunity to get up and running in this campaign and it's one he's looking to take.

"The Irish National Cup has been a cup we've really enjoyed playing in over the years," he said. We've been fortunate – or maybe some would say unfortunate – to get a few away trips over the last five years, but we're hoping to get a good run in that. We're looking to pick up our first win as well which will boost the spirits even further."

Clear Currency Irish National Cup fixtures (involving NCU teams):
Ballyspallen v Templepatrick
Cliftonville Academy v Terenure
County Kerry v Muckamore
Cregagh v Killyclooney
Derriaghy v Ballyhaunis (Sunday 29th May)
Rush v Saintfield

Clear Currency Irish National Cup (full draw)