In the second of this season’s Thursday features, Gary Heatly talks to a couple of clubs ahead of the knock-out event starting on Sunday…
In the men’s domestic game the leagues and the Scottish Cup got underway for many last weekend and this Sunday the Challenge Cup is due to start.
The 50-over-a-side competition will be played throughout the season and this year’s final is scheduled for early August at Drumpellier CC’s Langloan ground.
Clubs from the Strathmore and Perthshire Union NE Championship, ESCA Championship, WDCU First Division have the option to play in the Challenge Cup or the Scottish Cup and, in the former event, are joined by other clubs too.
Currently a number of Challenge Cup first round ties are due to take place this coming Sunday – and Huntly will be heading south while Morton will be heading north.
Strathmore and Perthshire Union NE Championship side Huntly are away to Leith FAB in Edinburgh and skipper Jack Mitchell is looking forward to it.
“I think the club always enjoys playing in Cup competitions and the Challenge Cup puts us up against teams who we would not normally come up against,” Mitchell, who has returned to his club of origin from Stoneywood Dyce, said.
“As we have a number of players from the Moray region we could not play our opening league match last Saturday, but we did manage to get out for a T20 Scottish Cup match with Aberdeen Grammar away from home on Tuesday.
“We lost that one by seven wickets, but the guys were just delighted to be back playing again after what was a very ‘stop-start’ 2020.
“In our first XI now there is a good mix of youth and experience and we also have an exciting junior set-up which is growing all of the time, so we are looking forward positively.
“Away trips can mean long days when you play for Huntly, but we are all keen to go as far in the Challenge Cup as we can.”
Before Mitchell and Co travel to Edinburgh on Sunday they are due to be away to Kinloch on Saturday.
While Huntly are headed southwards early doors on Sunday, Edinburgh-based ESCA Championship side Morton will be travelling northwards to take on Gordonians at Countesswells.
The rise of Morton over the last decade or so has been remarkable and captain Senthil Nathan and others at the club should take huge credit for that.
They have gone through the ESCA Leagues to get up to the Championship which sits just below the Eastern Premier Division and in 2019 won five matches at that level to stay well clear of the drop.
Their opening league match of 2021 away to Edinburgh Accies last Saturday was postponed, but they will be playing at the famous Portgower Place ground against Gen!us Grange II this weekend before the trip to Aberdeen.
“The club has done really well and worked hard to get where it is,” Nathan explained.
“I have played for the club for many years since I was studying in Edinburgh and what has always been great has been the team spirit and sense of community that surrounds Morton.
“As a club we like to test ourselves against good sides and this weekend will be a chance to do just that.
“Playing at Portgower Place, where Scotland play most of their matches, is always a thrill and then on Sunday we want to get off to a good start in the Challenge Cup, but we are aware that Gordonians will be a good side, especially at home.”
Huntly are pictured before playing their T20 match on Tuesday