ON a weekend when local cricket was almost wiped out by the relentless bad weather, relegation-threatened North County gave themselves a lifeline by grabbing a narrow away victory over Railway Union.
Although Leinster have long since secured the Division 1 title and rock-bottom Terenure cannot escape the drop, the battle to avoid the second relegation spot has intensified following the Balrothery side's win. They now share seventh place with Merrion, who have an identical record, while four other teams - The Hills included - still aren't mathematically safe with two rounds of the league remaining.
After a 3pm pitch inspection, a decision was taken to play Saturday's match under the 20/20 format, starting at 5pm, and after being put into bat North County struggled to get runs on the board in conditions that favoured the bowlers. Captain Ciaran Garry made 26, batting at number four, but that took 42 balls and there was not a single boundary until Manmeet Singh (26 not out off 15 balls) and Conor Sheil swung the ball to good effect towards the end of the innings.
Still, a total of 100-5 didn't look to be enough against a potent Railway batting line-up, but the County bowlers had other ideas and Eddie Richardson, Sheil and Ian Bertram were quickly among the wickets as Railway slumped to a remarkable 31-6. A couple of dropped catches later, however, the home side were back in contention and at 87-7 they looked well placed to go on and win. Sheil and Richardson kept the bowling tight, however, and picked up two more wickets, and 12 runs off the final over proved too tall an order for Railway as County grabbed a crucial win.
Elsewhere, Rush suffered double heartbreak over the weekend as two defeats effectively ended their season. A 58-run defeat by Pembroke at Sydney Parade on Saturday effectively ended their chances of promotion to the top flight, and on Sunday they were on the wrong end of a nine-wicket defeat at the hands of YMCA in the Near FM Alan Murray 20/20 decider. Batting first, Iqbal's 46 off 40 balls and opener Jansen's 21 at a run a ball were the only contributions of note as Rush were bowled out for 120 in the last of their allotted overs.
And their bowlers then took something of a hammering as Ireland star Trent Johnson and Fingal cricket development officer Reinhard Strydom swung the bat to carry their side to a ninewicket victory. In Division 3 Balbriggan's promotion hopes were dashed when they lost a low-scoring game against strugglers Civil Service by six runs, and down in Division 13 Ring Commons took another huge step towards the title by defeating nearest challengers Halverstown 2nds by seven wickets.