IT’S been nine years since an NCU side has even been in the final of the National Cup but tomorrow, they are certain to have a third winner of the competition when Derriaghy meet Cliftonville Academy at The Lawn (1.00pm).

For the Premier League rivals, it is the first of three meetings in the next three weeks with Derriaghy currently propping up the table and hoping to avoid an immediate return to Section One.

Arguably, today’s league game at Carrickfergus is the more important of the weekend for the Queensway club but the final gives the 1st XI the chance to win a knock-out trophy for the first time.

The closest they have come was in this competition 10 years ago when they lost to Malahide in the final and Ross Bailey, Craig Lewis and Wayne Hughes are survivors from that day.

After being bowled out for 119 in the semi-final against Rush, they were not expecting to be in the final but Lewis and skipper Curtis Moorhead each finished with three wickets as the three-time winners of the Cup were skittled for 104.

“After our innings, that probably took a lot of the pressure off us going out, we got a few of their big names (Nathan McGuire and Neil Rock) out quickly and we had amazing backing from the crowd. It was just one of those days when everything seemed to go right in the field,” says Moorhead.

Cliftonville Academy won the opening league clash but games between the teams down the years have invariably been close.

Victory will also be a first knock-out success for the club formed just five years ago after the amalgamation of the two teams who were relegated together from Section One in 2017.

“Cliftonville didn’t have a ground and Academy were struggling in the same area so you’ve got to take your hat off to the guys who made the decision that ultimately merged the two clubs,” says current skipper Max Burton.

Professional Abhishek Raut and new Director of Coaching Jared Wilson, Newbuildings’ Premiership winning captain in 2022, have both made a huge impact on the field, with Wilson’s unbeaten 67 seeing them home in their difficult semi-final against high-flying Muckamore.