The captain of the cricket team awarded a trophy on Saturday just hours after they had lost a cup final says they will be accepting the cup.
Paul McCart, whose Donaghcloney Mill seconds team lost by four wickets to Carrickfergus at The Meadow in Downpatrick only to be effectively awarded the trophy later that night, said he and his team-mates felt real sympathy for their distraught opponents.
He said: “We are accepting the trophy but we don’t take any pleasure in it. There’s nothing we can do, the rules are rules, we have to accept the trophy.”
A whistle-blower contacted the NCU within minutes of Saturday’s final ending, claiming that 16-year-old Luca Johnston was ineligible because he had moved from Academy to Carrickfergus after the deadline for cup registrations had passed,
McCart told the News Letter he was “in total shock” when he was contacted by the NCU around 8pm on Saturday.
“When I told the lads they thought I was trying to wind them up, people were phoning me left, right and centre asking me was it a wind-up, but they know I’m not a wind-up man,” he said.
“Roger Bell (Carrickfergus official) telephoned me five minutes later to explain the situation and so did Alastair Burton (Carrickfergus captain). They apologised and said there was no deliberate attempt to cheat, they were concerned that people might have thought that. I passed on my sympathy, I feel very sorry and disappointed for them and I take no pleasure in what has happened.
“Our fourths lost a match at the start of the season because one player’s name had been left off a spreadsheet so we know it can happen.”
There has been a social media storm since the story broke, but McCart said it was important that people did not blame the NCU.
“I can understand how some of the Carrick lads feel angry, but it’s not the NCU’s fault, some of them are frustrated but the senior ones like Roger and Alastair were the ones to phone me and they were just really sorry about it, we know it was a genuine error.
“Alastair was keen to give us the trophy as soon as he could.”
McCart, who emphasised that no-one at Donaghcloney Mill knew anything about Johnston’s ineligibility, pointed out that the youngster’s performance could have been a factor in the final result.
“Carrick are a really good side, they had a lot of Premier League experience in their team, whereas we only had Bruce Topping who had played there before. There was a gulf in class, we pushed them close enough, but they were too good. But the young lad bowled at the death and bowled six overs for 25, he bowled very well. Another 20 runs and we would have won the game, his bowling at the death could have made a difference.
“We wish Carrick all the best, Saturday’s game was played in a great spirit, they are going to win Junior Two and get some silverware.”
It has been a brilliant first season for Donaghcloney Mill, who only formed over the winter as the result of a merger between Donaghcloney and Millpark.
McCart added: “We checked and double-checked everyone before the final (to make sure they were eligible) but we adopted the adage that the team that won the semi-final deserved to play in the final.
“The thirds now have a cup final to look forward to on Saturday, it’s been a great first season for the club, the merger has been a real success,”