Strabane Academy have reached the final of the Ulster Schools Cup where they will face a very strong RBAI side in the decider next week. It could have been so different as they prevailed in the first round against Down High School, winning a last ball thriller by two runs.

It was a totally different scenario in the second round at Wallace High School when a partnership of 160 between skipper Cody Mehaffey and Ryan McAuley set up a convincing win, topped off with a hat-trick by Johnny Orr.

A great fightback with the ball saw them win at Campbell, where although not at their most fluent, they secured a six-wickets win chasing 100. In the semi-final, Adam Britton hit 64 from 37 balls to get them to 210 against BRA. A century from the Belfast opener gave their side hope, but in truth Strabane were always comfortable in the defence.

The Strabane side contains a number of familiar names, with Cody Mehaffey – nephew of Marty and Dean leading the side. Bready’s Aaron Cooke is an off-spinning all-rounder with lineage from the McBrine’s, Longs and Cooke's. Adam Britton is a hard-hitting all-rounder from Donemana whose father is Paul, and a nephew of Irish all-rounder Andy. St Johnston regular Ryan McAuley has made some vital contributions this year, while Bready’s Jamie Mutch is an excellent seamer who has made crucial runs down the order.

Johnny Orr is a fine bowler who has been converted temporarily from rugby to cricket, while Killyclooney’s Bruce McCrea is an excellent wicket-keeper who isn’t afraid to improvise. He is a fine footballer and since turning his abilities from in front of the posts to behind the stumps has been a real revelation. Kyle Armstrong from Killyclooney is a nephew of James McBrine and he scored the winning runs in the quarter-finals.

Making up the rest of the team will be three from Aaron Brace (Killyclooney), Billy Robinson (Glendermott), Raghav Chibber (Strabane), Alfie Browne (Bready), and Harry Dougherty (Donemana), all of whom have featured this year.

Ireland A international Niall McDonnell is in charge of cricket at the school and is delighted by the character and commitment shown by his charges in reaching the showpiece final.

“The guys are in good spirits,” said McDonnell. “There are no real superstars but they are a real team. It’s one of the hardest working groups I’ve been involved with. It’s great for the school to be in the final, so fingers crossed we produce a good performance and the result can take care of itself.”