Cricket: Johnston upbeat ahead of Irish Cup final
TRENT JOHNSTON and Kevin O'Brien flew into Dublin airport yesterday morning with yet another big match to look forward to.
The Ireland captain and vice-captain in Canada are home for only a week before they head off to Zimbabwe for an Intercontinental Cup match and three one-day internationals but today their focus is solely on the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup final between Railway Union and Merrion at Balrothery (11.0).
For Johnston, in particular, it is a special occasion because he arrived at Park Avenue the year after Railway Union won the Irish Cup so this is his first chance to play in the club showpiece of the year.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Johnston, "and happy the game is at North County, a good wicket."
Railway -- with the LHW Senior Cup already in the trophy cabinet -- will be favourites to win their second final in eight years against the Ballsbridge side who have reached the decider for the first time, but Johnston knows they can take nothing for granted.
"We have lost to Merrion and YMCA in recent weeks so our form is indifferent, but the final is a one-off game and I hope the big players can rise to the challenge."
Johnston immodestly believes that he and O'Brien, who missed the two defeats, can be worth "a couple of hundred runs and 20 big overs" for Railway while at the top of the order he expects Kenny Carroll and Tom Fisher, the leading run scorer in the competition this year after his century against Fox Lodge, to be "instrumental in getting us off to another good start".
Merrion captain John Anderson, who scored 101 in the surprise semi-final win against Waringstown, is the player Johnston rates as Railway's biggest danger but "if we bowl in good areas we should have things covered".
Anderson concedes that Merrion are underdogs but he wouldn't have it any other way as the club approaches the biggest day in their history.
"We've been probably labelled underdogs in each of the four ties so far, and have prevailed, so it doesn't worry me or the team, to be honest. We've enjoyed not being under any pressure, so we're quite happy with that," said Anderson.
"We know their players and our team won't hold any surprises for them. Sometimes when you're playing a Northern team, rumours abound about certain players. This time there's no fear or surprise factor for us and we want to be remembered as winners, not just finalists."
Merrion: J Anderson (capt), A Joyce, B Ackland, G Clarence, D Joyce, K Beasley, D Poder, R Allwright, S Morrissey, R Keaveney, T Patel, P Blakeney, J Shortt.
Railway Union: T Johnston (capt), C Mullen, K Carroll, T Fisher, G McDonnell, K O'Brien, M Tariq, G Lambert, P Conliffe, S Farthing, D Kapoor, T Townend, C Rendell.