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Cricket: Johnston to lead ymca charge

CRICKET: Leinster clubs start their quest to regain the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup today with YMCA, boosted by the arrival of new player-coach Trent Johnston, tipped to enjoy their best year in the competition.

Despite being ever-presents in the first 30 years of the All-Ireland competition, YMCA have reached the semi-final only twice, the last time in 1998. But, if they can get past a difficult first-round hurdle, away to last year's beaten finalists Instonians, the former Ireland captain can inspire his new side to an extended run.

Merrion, the 2010 winners, also head to the NCU, to face Ballymena, as do 2009 holders Leinster CC, to play Lisburn. Of the five Leinster teams at home, The Hills should be too strong for Bready, but the other two north-west visitors to Dublin today, Limavady and Donemana, will be confident of taking a place in tonight's second-round draw after their games at Terenure and Pembroke respectively.

Today also sees the first round of the inaugural RSA National Cup for second-tier clubs. Rush and Malahide, who contested the 2002 final of the Irish Cup but were demoted to the subsidiary tournament this year, will be among the favourites.

Malahide head to the cricket-mad village of Donemana to play Newbuildings but Rush have the chance of progressing without leaving their clubhouse -- their scheduled game against NCU side Dundrum will be decided by a remote bowl-out at 10.0am the Dundrum ground being under water.

Irish Independent