Mullingar Cricket Club kicks off shortened new season

All three of Mullingar Cricket Club’s teams returned to action last weekend for the beginning of the shortened, post-lockdown season.

The small time frame available to play games has meant the format for this season is the shorter, fast-paced Twenty20 version of the game broken into a group stages, where each team will play three home matches and three away matches, with the group leaders progressing to semi-finals and a final in September.

The 1st XI opened their campaign in the LHK Insurance Middle Cup the weekend before last with a rusty nine-wicket defeat to Laois Cricket Club at their spectacular grounds in Stradbally.

Last weekend however, they bounced back spectacularly with a comfortable seven-wicket win over Merrion Cricket Club in Anglesea Road, Dublin. A brilliant team effort with some tight bowling and wickets from Tomas Mount, Woody O'Neill and Neil Swaby, and sharp fielding – including an excellent catch by Craig Sweeney on the boundary – saw Mullingar restrict the Dublin side to 144 for the loss of five wickets.

In response, an outstanding 120-run partnership between Sam Murphy (75 not out) and Declan Ashley (30 not out) saw Mullingar chase down Merrion's score with two overs to spare and for the loss of only three wickets.

Some cracking hitting from the Mullingar lads saw them hit 60 runs in 4 overs to help close the game out. It was a brilliant performance to bounce back from the disappointment of last week against a team who if playing in a normal year would be two divisions ahead of Mullingar.

The 1st XI’s next fixture is this coming weekend against North Kildare.

In contrast, the opening weekend for the 2nd and 3rd XI was not as positive, as early-season rust was certainly on show.

The 2nd XI suffered a 92-run defeat to Adamstown on the grounds of St Finian’s College. Adamstown set Mullingar a total of 139 for the loss of six wickets, with a pair of wickets for Eoin Feely and Robert Ashley respectively.

However, in reply, Mullingar never got going as they consistently lost wickets in trying to force the run rate up and collapsed to end up all out for 47.

A young 3rd XI had a similar fate as they lost to Phoenix Cricket Club by 19 runs in St Finian’s. Sent into the field, they got themselves into an excellent position, restricting Phoenix to 84-5. Conor Kelly, John Webster and Eoin Feely all took wickets.

A quickfire 19 by 19-year-old Reuben Ninian set Mullingar off into an excellent position early on. However, as was the case with the 2nd XI, they struggled to form any partnerships and lost wickets too quickly. After their allotted 20 overs, they finished on 65-9.

This was a tough defeat but very good experience for a young team with seven players under 20.