Opponents prove too strong for Fourths in final

BALLYMENA Fourths were unable to complete a trophy double for the club on Saturday when they lost by 85 runs to Academy Thirds in the final of the Minor Qualifying Cup.

Colin McClean’s side travelled to Newforge with confidence and enthusiasm and a perfect pitch and outfield set the scene for what promised to be a well-fought final.

Academy Thirds, however, were a mature, strong and very experienced team who belied their position in a league below the Braidmen.

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Bowling first Ballymena battled well, some excellent fielding coupled with exceptional bowling from the mixture of experienced Paul Smith and the youthful fifth former Matthew Bell saw Academy at 58 for four off 20 overs.

However, Academy's strength in depth saw them post a total of 173 which posed a real challenge to the Ballymena team.

Mark Monteith ended with figures of three for 34 off eight overs and Matthew Bell two for 28 off his eight.

Special mention must be made of Charles Deane who kept wicket impeccably and was unlucky to have a great caught behind chance ruled out.

After tea Ballymena started well with Ali Gibson and Michael Caithness putting on a steady 27 in 11 overs before Michael was run out in freakish circumstances.

Ballymena eventually were all out for 88 with only Ali Gibson, with a patient 28, scoring with any authority, with the Academy attack putting pressure on the youthful Ballymena side.

Despite the defeat, the Fourths should be proud of making the final and showing the true strength in depth that the Ballymena Club now has.

Defeat will hopefully spur this close-knit team to a league victory and now almost certain promotion.

This week the Fourths travel to Holywood for a league encounter.