Yorkshire Inter District Union: Sheffield v Harrogate

WHEATLEY’S Ben Brewster has turned down Sheffield captain Richard Hodgkinson’s offer to be excused union league duty against Harrogate at Worksop on Sunday.

The reason Hodgkinson had ruled out Brewster from the reckoning was a schedule which sees the latter playing 36 holes for Yorkshire on Saturday – against Cheshire at Ilkley – followed by 36 holes practice at Moor Park on Monday for the 72-hole Tillman Trophy, held over Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I had a call from him Thursday morning that he wants to play,” said Hodgkinson. “I told him that with his schedule in mind he was not being considered for selection, but he wanted to play.

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“He’s young and he’s fit and he’s replacing someone who’s neither young nor fit.”

Hodgkinson was referring unfairly to himself given that his appearance at Ganstead Park against East Riding saw him win his singles 4&3.

He added: “I did debate whether to say to Ben ‘don’t be an idiot’, but it’s my job to pick the strongest team for Sheffield and if he’s keen to play that makes us stronger – so he plays.”

Against Harrogate he will be without his fellow Lindrick members and England internationals Jonathan Thomson and Joe Dean.

Rotherham’s Jamie Harrison will also be missing following an appearance for Yorkshire and ahead of a tilt at the Tillman Trophy, the latter also ruling out Nick Poppleton from Hodgkinson’s plans.

Coming in to the Sheffield line-up are Phoenix’s Michael McGuinness for his first YIDU appearance, Tim Brind, who replaces Abbeydale club-mate Richard Oades, and Ian Clarke (Wath), a former Sheffield Open champion who is Hodgkinson’s predecessor as captain.

Harrogate head into the match on the back of a 29-7 thumping of Teesside at Pannal.

“Teesside were depleted because a golf club in the region was holding a scratch event that weekend, but irrespective of that you’ve still got to do the business on the course and we did,” said Harrogate captain Kevin Ward.

“I’ve been involved with Harrogate Union or the YIDU for the best part of 25 years and I can’t remember Harrogate having a score of that nature.”

Nevertheless, he accepts it is a daunting task his side face on Sunday.

“They’ve got 50 clubs whereas we have 12 to choose from. That’s why York winning the title last year was such a great achievement. The solidarity they showed to take on all the bigger unions and defeat them in every game and win it was an excellent performance.”

The visitors at Worksop will show eight changes with only Josh Bassitt (Ripon City), Steve Whitwham (Rudding Park), Chris Henderson (Oakdale) and James Gaskell (Bedale) remaining in situ.

Ward will field four debutants: Paddy Young and Simon Bradley (both Otley), Craig Barrett (Pannal/Masham) and Mike Crack (Pannal).

Curtis Wilding (Ripon City), Sean Naylor (Romanby), Robert Nesbitt (Ilkley) and Ian Backhouse (Knaresborough) complete the line-up.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” conceded Ward “It would have been nice to have carried through with the 12 men, or nine or 10 of them at least, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

Harrogate came out 19-5 on top in their singles matches against Teesside, an impressive return – albeit four fewer than Sheffield managed against them last year when the south Yorkshire union won 11 afternoon matches and halved the other.