The two finalists from last year have both made changes to their teams for the 115th Dispatch Trophy, which tees off tomorrow at The Braids.
Thomas Beattie has dropped out of the winning Carrickvale side from 12 months ago as he’s no longer a member of the club.
His place has been filled by Paul Cunningham, who has earned his call-up on merit as the club champion.
Cunningham will join forces with Allyn Dick, Craig Deerness and Craig Elliot for Carrickvale’s opening test against Braids United Seniors.
“Paul has played for the ‘B’ team, but this is his first time in the top team,” said Carrickvale stalwart George Alexander.
“He will partner Craig Elliot with Allyn and Craig Deerness retaining their partnership from last year.”
Then, the Vale came out on top in a classic game of two halves against Silverknowes to claim the iconic trophy for a fourth time in seven years at the Braids.
In the top match, Dick and Deerness recovered from being two down after four to finish eight up on Tam Caldwell and Keith Reilly. Yet that just got them over the finishing line as the back pairing of Elliot and Beattie finished seven down against Paul Heggie and Graeme Robertson.
“It was good to get our hands on the trophy again and we are heading back up to The Braids feeling confident we can do well as defending champions this year,” added Alexander.
“Up there, though, anything can happen. We’ve had some easy games over the years but some tough ones, too.
“If we both win our first-round matches on Saturday, we’ll play Edinburgh Thistle on Sunday and they beat us three years ago.”
The change in the Silverknowes side from last year sees Craig Scott coming in for Heggie. Like Cunningham, it will be Scott’s biggest test to date in the event, though he’s no stranger to it both through playing for Cramond and supporting Silverknowes sides in the past.
“We can’t wait for the competition to start,” declared Reilly, who will take Scott under his wing when Silverknowes begin against Buckstone Golfing Society.
There will be no repeat of the 2013 title showdown after Carrickvale and Silverknowes came out of the hat in the same half of the draw. But, by the sounds of things, Reilly and his team-mates would relish a last-four meeting next Saturday morning.
“We feel that we have a bit of unfinished business after the disappointment we suffered in last year’s final and I get the feeling the team are really up for it,” he added.
A first-round win for Silverknowes will see them face either Kilgour Wealth Management or Braids United on Sunday.
By then, the representation of this year’s host club will definitely have been reduced as Harrison take on Harrison Seniors tomorrow.
On paper, Harrison appear to hold a strong hand, partly due to former winners Riccarton being absentees this year. In fact, it’s believed the Baberton club may no longer exist, which would be a shame if true.
It’s opened the door for Andy Laurence, a member of Riccarton’s trophy-winning team in 2005, to be pressed into action for Harrison along with Baberton clubmate Dougie Waugh. Laurence joins forces with Brian Byars while Waugh will partner club champion Stuart More.
As always, Harrison have one of the biggest entries, with their B team taking on newcomers Edinburgh Bar Association in the opening round. Lining up for Harrison in that one will be Justin White, Donny Munro, John Cafferty and Cameron Bruce. As mentioned by Alexander, Edinburgh Thistle could be lying in wait for Carrickvale on Sunday.
Thistle will start out tomorrow against the British Rugby Club of Paris with the same quartet from last year – brothers Donald and Barry Anderson, Simon Sumner and Ian Cropley. But they’ll be forced to utilise the substitution rule should they win that one as Sumner is unavailable to play on Sunday.
This year’s event features 59 teams – seven more than 2013 – with newcomers Gullane Comrades having the honour of striking the opening blow.
They’re up against Lochend B while UK Accident & Repair and Stinger Golfing Society, the other teams making debuts, face Edinburgh Western and Network Cooling respectively.