Donacloney Mill II will be looking to lift their third consecutive Intermediate Cup title when they take on Ballymena II at Laurelvale tomorrow.
After winning the trophy in controversial circumstances in 2017 when Carrickfergus II fielded an ineligible player, they again won the competition last season with a 38-run victory over Cliftonville Academy II.
Donacloney are currently third in Junior League Two, which is a league higher than this weekend’s opponents. Ballymena sit second in their division and have made an unlikely run to the final, beating Bangor II, CIYMS III and Lisburn II, who have won nine of their 10 matches in the league above.
Captain Paul Black will be sticking with the majority of the side that got Ballymena to their first final in almost a decade with the exception of 74-year-old Harry Cook, who comes in after a fine bowling performance at the same venue two weeks ago.
“You don’t really hear of Junior League Three teams getting through,” he said.
“We expected the Junior Two teams to really make mincemeat of us to a certain degree, but this season has been the best one I’ve played for the second XI.
“We are nine wins from nine at the minute and are on a run that we haven’t seen in years.
“The team we have out is predominantly the same team as the semi-final, except I’m bringing in Harry Cook.
“We got to play down at Laurelvale two weeks ago and I wanted to take a similar team to what will be playing this weekend.
“Harry bowled a brilliant spell and I knew I could use him.
“He is the only one that hasn’t played for me in the cup this year, but he deserves his place.”
Black will also be able to call on the experience of Jeff Martin and Neil Fullerton while there are also some impressive young talents in their squad.
“We have three 18-year-olds and they’ve been performing all year,” he added.
“Matt Spence is opening the batting and scored 75 in the first match against Bangor.
“Sam Henry has been pushing to get onto our firsts quite a bit and Callum Crease who came up this season from our thirds.
“He is so consistent with the ball and can score me quick runs with the ball.”
It will be Black’s first final for Ballymena in his maiden season of captaincy and he admits that excitement is building for the occasion.
“Neil was captain for three years between 2009-2012 and I was his vice-captain back then,” he said.
“I fell away a bit and played midweek league before coming back last year. We got relegated last year and I was asked to be captain and I could see the potential and that we were driving in the right way.
“I’m more than happy with the way the team has played this year.
“I can’t wait for it (the final). I’ve been thinking about it all week and I just want to make it special for the guys.
“I open the bowling so once I get the ball in my hand I’ll be raring to go,” added Black.