independent

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Champions still have same 'Wills' to claim silverware

Published 22/04/2014 | 05:32

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Three of The Hills' most promising young players - Jonno Andrews, Tomas Murphy and Cormac McLoughlin - celebrate with the Leinster League trophy last autumn. The Skerries-based club begin the defence of the Division 1 title next weekend.

PJ Murray

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THE domestic cricket season is due to begin next weekend and Leinster Division 1 is shaping up to be a nail-biting contest, with any one of four or five teams realistically in with a shout of taking top honours.

One of those sides is 2013 champions The Hills and first-team coach John Wills is relishing the competition. His team are rated as second favourites for the title and it's something which Wills laughs at.

'It must be a brave man to put those odds together as any side on their day can win anything and this is a tough league which any of four or five teams can win.'

The Hills will start the season on Saturday at home to Railway Union and Wills is expecting a tough encounter to start the season, but it's one his side will be targeting to get off to a good start. They will be confident due to the fact they will have at least a 13-man squad, bolstered by the return of two former players.

'Manu Kamur and Patrick Byrne both return, having taken sabbaticals from the game, and we also have a few people on the bench who would be at the right level to come in rather than dragging players into a game to make up the numbers.'

Wills was happy with his team's preparations for the season. They had their final friendly on Saturday against Balbriggan and two players scored centuries, while another retired at 80 not out and they put in a solid bowling display also.

But ultimately Wills is setting his sights high for the forthcoming season. 'We are aiming to be the best team in the country,' he said, but there will be a lot of pressure placed on their Irish star Max Sorensen.

'If the fixtures don't clash too much and we can have Max for an extended period this season then he will make a huge difference,' added the coach.

North County first-team coach John Andrews is very upbeat about his team's chances too.

'We are pretty confident that there's a trophy for us this season and I don't say that lightly. We have a good young side with a lot of experience.'

His team are boosted by the acquisition of overseas player Tim Affleck.

'He looks a decent leg spinner or off spinner and if he contributes at all we will have a good side.'

For Wills the home games will be key to deciding who eventually takes the top honour.

'It's the team who stamps their authority on the home games who will do well. You need to win your home matches and then look to pick up points on the road, but this is a tough league and there won't be much in it at the end. There's no easy place to go.'

County have a plethora of players at their disposal and Wills is revelling in the fact that there will be keen competition for places. He admits that the senior players know that if they don't pull their weight this season then there are several younger players who are more than able to step in.

It's a fact which makes them more competitive than maybe they have been in the last few years, but they will be travelling to YMCA next weekend absent two or three bodies, so immediately the depth of their squad will be tested.

'We have a tough start and we will be missing three first-team players, but as I said they are going to be tough games and we'll travel there with confidence.'

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