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John Busby (Templepatrick CC) Interview
Robinson Services

Jonny Morton  

Templepatrick FirstsAll eyes will be on today's crunch Robinson Services Section One clash between Derriaghy and Templepatrick which could go a long way to deciding who gains promotion to the Premier League.

Hosts Derriaghy head into the encounter four points clear at the top and with a narrowly better net run-rate, but if Templepatrick were to record a second league win of the season over their Queensway opponents it would set up a thrilling conclusion to the campaign with two games to play. Templepatrick have been the surprise package of 2022, mounting a title challenge after finishing in eighth position last season with only five wins in 18 games.

This term, they've only lost three of 15 to date and will be hoping to put a disappointing loss to Lurgan last weekend behind them to get back on track towards a goal they hadn't even been targeting when they kicked their season off in April.

"To be completely honest promotion wasn't something we talked about at the start of the season." said captain John Busby. "We've had an indifferent couple of years previously and a mid-table position was our realistic target. We were still unbeaten in the league at the end of June, and it was really only then that we started to think of promotion as a realistic aspiration."

"We're delighted to be fighting it out at the top the league come the end of the season. While there's been some standout performers for us this year, in particular Ross Bryans and Chris Taylor, every member of our side as stood up at different times and won us games throughout the season."

While Derriaghy have been in and out of the Premier League with their most recent appearance coming in 2016, Templepatrick are looking to reach the top-flight for the very first time. With third-placed Armagh six points further back, it has seemingly set up a two-horse race for one spot to join nine other teams at the top table of local cricket and it's hard to overstate just how big an achievement that would be for The Cloughan outfit.

"It would be a huge honour." added Busby. "We're a club from humble beginnings and being at the top table within NCU cricket for the first time would be testament to all the hard work that's gone on behind the scenes over the last 50 years. Most Premier League teams contain several professionals, many of whom have played international cricket, and the opportunity to test ourselves against those guys would be a great experience."

The two teams have met twice this season with Derriaghy winning by 49 runs on their way to being crowned LVS Twenty20 Trophy champions before the result was reversed earlier this month.

"Derriaghy are a very strong side, and a great club who have been knocking on the door of promotion for the last number of years." said Busby. "I've got nothing but respect for them as a club and they'd be worthy champions this year if results do go against us over the next few weeks. With home advantage, I think Derriaghy undoubtedly go into the game as favourites and I'm sure they'll be cheered on by a partisan crowd.  I'd see their batting depth as a major strength and we'll need a few early wickets to try and negate that as much as possible."

Elsewhere, newly crowned Premier League champions Lisburn will be presented with the trophy in front of home support following today's match against CSNI. Callum Atkinson's side secured the title with a 11th win of the season last weekend versus North Down, who travel to Waringstown in the only other top-six league encounter. At the other end of the table, Cregagh's relegation back to Section One was confirmed after a heavy defeat to Cliftonville Academy but they will be hoping to get a first win on the board against Instonians.

The NCU will also have two representatives in All-Ireland competition tomorrow as CIYMS and CSNI Women both enter their respective Twenty20 Cup finals in Cork. CI are looking to pick up a fourth trophy of the season against Cork Harlequins, while having already triumphed in the Gallagher Women's Challenge Cup and Premier League, CSNI take on Leinster-based Merrion.

Robinson Services Premier League
Lisburn v CSNI, Cliftonville Academy v Woodvale, Cregagh v Instonians (all 11am), Waringstown v North Down

Robinson Services Section 1
Ballymena v Armagh, Bangor v Saintfield, Derriaghy v Templepatrick, Dundrum v Donacloney Mill, Muckamore v Lurgan

Robinson Services Section 2
BISC v Holywood, Drumaness Superkings v Cooke Collegians, Larne v Dunmurry (12noon), Laurelvale v Belfast, Victoria v Downpatrick (at the Meadow, Downpatrick)