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Eight days after the Gallagher Challenge Cup concluded, the scene is set for another iconic final in the NCU as Lisburn II take on CSNI II in the GMcG Junior Cup decider.
Lisburn have won this competition eight times – the most recent being a triumph over Cliftonville in 2016 – and will be hoping they can add to their tally after falling short in last year's final to Laurelvale.
Gavin McGill's side managed to get revenge on their County Armagh opponents earlier in the current campaign by beating them narrowly in the quarter-finals and Laurelvale will also play host to today's final. It has been a special year for Lisburn as a club with the first team reaching a maiden Irish Senior Cup final while they could lift the Robinson Services Premier League title this afternoon if they beat North Down and CIYMS fail to get past CSNI at Belmont.
Their third team have also booked a spot in the Minor (Lindsay) Cup final later this month and McGill is looking to get the party started by bringing home the first piece of silverware in what could be a historic month.
"Last year we had a great league season and cup run but we stumbled at the last hurdle against a strong Laurelvale outfit," he said. "Overcoming them earlier in this cup run has given us extra incentive to go on and win it this year. We haven't quite reached the same heights in the league so the cup final is our main focus. The club is on a real high at the moment.
The success of the firsts has created a real buzz about the place and this has trickled down throughout the senior and junior teams and burgeoning women's section. Coupled with an excellent support base, dedicated volunteers and an aspirational management committee there is no reason why that success cannot continue into the future."
Lisburn have had to navigate their way past senior opposition at every stage of their 2022 run, beating Victoria by six wickets in the first round before further victories over Laurelvale and Ards & Donaghadee. Their bowling unit has set up the majority of success as they dismissed Victoria for just 37 and Ards & Donaghadee for 64 in the semi-finals and McGill knows they will have to be just as clinical against a talented CSNI outfit.
"The guys have been excellent," he added. "We were clinical with the ball against Victoria and Ards & Donaghadee and held our nerve in a tight game with Laurelvale. Having played and won at Mullavilly Road already should stand us in good stead for Saturday. I'm very proud of how the lads have gone about their cricket so far this season. They (CSNI) have a very young side with lots of emerging talents so we're under no illusions that we will have to be at our best to beat them. We've had two good competitive matches so far and are in a similar position in the league so it's all set up for a great final!"
Just like Lisburn, CSNI II will be looking to carry on the wonderful season of cup form at their own club after the women's side won the Gallagher Challenge Cup and the men reached the final of the same competition last week. The Stormont outfit have long had a reputation for developing young talent and the latest batch of stars will play a key role in today's encounter. From their victorious U15 Graham Cup winning side, the likes of Adam Leckey, James West and Seb Yeates have all impressed during this Junior Cup run while Harry Dyer and Finn Lutton – who have earned call-ups to the first team despite still being U17 – starred in the semi-final win over Cooke Collegians. It's an exciting time for CSNI and they're delighted to be able to give opportunities like this to their youngsters as they develop their game.
"As a club we have always tried to develop a pathway for our younger players and there are always U-18's playing in every team throughout the Club every week," said a club representative. Playing in finals brings a different kind of pressure but it is just another learning opportunity for them."
Today will mark CSNI's third Junior Cup final since 2015 and they'll be looking to go one better than their two previous appearances which ended in defeat to Armagh and Instonians II respectively.
"The entire squad cannot wait to play in the Junior Cup Final," they added. "We have played a number of Junior Cup finals but as a club we are yet to win this famous trophy so hopefully we can get over the line this year."
The two sides have met twice already this season in Junior One with CSNI winning the first by three wickets before Lisburn ran out victors in the second by four wickets last month, which suggests we could be set for another tight contest.
"Lisburn have probably been the strongest and most consistent 2nd XI over the past number of years and as a club they are having a fantastic season," they said. "We are expecting a really tough match against a strong and very experienced team."
Play starts at 11 am on Saturday at Laurelvale CC.
Follow the game live on NVPlay: NV-Play GMcG Junior Cup Final
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