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Nigel Jones Interview after CIYMS's Gallagher Challenge Cup Semi Final win over Lisburn
Robinson Services

Jonny Morton  

CSNI's Luke Georgeson and CIYMS captain Nigel Jones pictured ahead of the Gallagher Challenge Cup finalCIYMS and CSNI will meet in the Gallagher Challenge Cup final in what is a repeat of the 2016 decider after both teams picked up semi-final victories on Saturday.

Defending champions CI beat Robinson Services Premier League leaders Lisburn by six wickets at Wallace Park despite 114 from Faiz Fazal while CSNI ran out victors by 70 runs against Section One outfit Derriaghy. It has set up a clash between two of the most successful teams in this competition during recent times with CIYMS entering a sixth final in the span of seven seasons (four wins, one loss) and gunning for a hat-trick of consecutive titles.

Meanwhile, CSNI have been in the final showdown four times since 2010 – most recently in a 2018 defeat to Waringstown – and were the team that handed CI that sole defeat when Jason van der Merwe (98*) – who now plays for the opposition – set up a five-wicket victory. CIYMS' consistency has been remarkable, churning out win after win, season after season while battling against increased standards and a target on their back that is generated by success.

Despite the regularity, the feeling of reaching this stage is never lost on Captain Nigel Jones and he's delighted to be back in another showpiece decider after a clinical display.

"The boys couldn't be happier and we target this one every year," he said. "That's been no different this year and we're delighted we were able to get the job done. The key message going into the day (Saturday) was to control as much as we could and be smart.  We know the quality of Faiz and it was important we tried to control him somewhat, even if that meant trying to get him off strike and try to squeeze the other end.

"Lisburn's strength this season has been that they've played as a team and they've had lots of guys putting contributions on the board so it hasn't been an easy task getting past them so we were conscious of that. We were focused on what we could control and think we did a pretty good job."

The Belmont club haven't been quite as clinical in the league, losing three of their nine pre-split matches which has resulted in them sitting fourth on net run-rate and eight points adrift of Lisburn at the top with five games left to play. They've once again thrived in the cup competitions however, setting up a LVS Twenty20 Cup semi-final versus Waringstown next Saturday before the winner progresses to a final later that afternoon and will face reigning Irish Senior Cup champions Pembroke in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

"This year we have had three losses and there have been different reasons for those, but sometimes they aren't the worst and gets you sharpened and focused," added Jones. "We generally come to life when it's back against the wall, must win games and we thrive in them. That will be the message going into the rest of the season because all these matches are must win if we want to win the league and cups. It's a really enjoyable part of the year and it's about finding a way.  As long as we're relaxed and able to shift gears when we need to that's the plan and you just hope it comes off."

When CIYMS rock up to The Green in Comber on Friday, 5th August, Jones will be entering his ninth Challenge Cup final having already played in five for his current team and three for opponents CSNI between 2008-2014. The 40-year-old has won six of the eight finals to date but isn't in any mood to sit and reflect on what has come and gone, but rather is putting his full focus into what can still be achieved.

"I've been fortunate to lead some strong teams going into these competitions and I'm grateful for that," he said. "It's an honour to do it and no doubt I will sit back at some point and reflect about the run of Challenge Cup finals, but for me it has always been about the game in hand. All of the boys are trying to give their best and there will be time to look back down the line and reflect on that."

This will mark the third consecutive season in which the two teams have met in the Challenge Cup after CIYMS beat CSNI in both the 2021 and 2019 semi-finals by 142 runs and four wickets respectively. The Stormont side will still enter full of confidence despite those results and CIYMS will be looking to get one back on them on the biggest stage six years down the line.

"We've had some good clashes with them and it'll be no different going into this final," added Jones. "We'll certainly feel like we want to get one back on them so I'm sure we will be focused and looking to bring it when the day comes."

Gallagher Challenge Cup

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