Nine and counting for Charlie McCrum
David Holmes (News Letter)
Millpark Cricket Club & Charlie McCrum
Local legend has it that Millpark Cricket Club was founded following a dispute between a group of local men playing marbles and that they were looking something more demanding to ease their boredom. Now we call it getting out of the house, different story same outcome!!
The club moved to its current venue at Banford Green in 1969. The attractive venue is situated in County Down in the village of Tullylish, between Banbridge and Gilford. By its own admission it is a bit of a yoyo club and last season they found themselves dropping down to Section Two in the NCU.
Amongst those who spent their formative years playing for the club and went on to bigger things were David and Robbie Dennison together with Noel and Alan Nelson. Current Waringstown player Lee Nelson also made his first senior fifty whilst playing for the club.
On the field the man charged with restoring the club’s fortunes is Jason Maxwell the first eleven captain: “We had a poor season last year and we knew we needed to do something to bring about change and keep the playing interest alive. Stuart Kidd had given us a boost when he played a couple of seasons ago and we knew we needed something similar. During the winter Davy Glover who had played with Charlie McCrum at Dunmurry suggested that Charlie might be interested, so we approached him and he has signed for the season with us. Have to say he has made an immediate impact on the field; his 75 was instrumental in us beating Armagh at the weekend.”
What can you say about Charlie McCrum that has not already been said? Well, he certainly is something of a cricketing nomad, has nearly as many clubs as Rory McIlroy, having played for 9 different sides, both in the NCU and North West.
He has left clubs and gone back and for the last few years has only been playing sporadically. What can never be doubted are his talent, ability and enthusiasm for the game. The only man who can boast 5 All Ireland winners’ medal with 4 different clubs and also with 22 Irish caps to his name. So what brings him to Millpark?
“I know Davy Glover well and it was him who approached me. I had played a few games last year and enjoyed it. To be honest I was missing the discipline and felt I could offer something here to the club. I cannot put the same commitment into the practice side as when I was younger, but I have had a few nets, we are not a bad side and I believe I can pass something on. Saturday was a good start but there is no point in putting any pressure on. We have a couple of decent bowlers in Darryl Martin and Stephen Leckey and some good younger guys; maybe they can learn something from me. The club are looking to consolidate and not slide further down; I know it is a well worn saying but we will take each game as it comes, let’s see where we are about the end of July and then we can talk about aspirations.”
I asked him about his knock on Saturday: “If I am completely honest I was disappointed and felt like I had let the opportunity for a big one get away. At the start it was kind of a strange feeling to be out there in the middle again but I grew into it. I had done the hard graft was playing reasonably well and then chanced my arm against the young spinner and was caught. I didn’t need to play the shot.”
Back to the skipper Jason Maxwell, what are he and club hoping for? “Positivity, you can see it straightaway, Charlie is a winner and that’s what he brings to the changing room. He spoke to us before the game on Saturday and it is great to have that sort of motivation around. If there is one key thing we can learn it is about pacing an innings, too often last season we did not bat out the overs, Charlie started slowly built the innings and was still around after 40 overs. It’s all very well getting 40 off 10 overs but if you are out the pressure is on the team. He’s full of good ideas and to be honest even for me as one of the older guys, I learnt a lot in terms of field placing. I am already starting to see more enthusiasm around the place and more guys turning up to practice. We are looking to get more activity involved in the youth coaching side of things shortly.”
Back to Charlie and his views about the standard of cricket over the years: “I still think the standard is good, I happen to think that the bowling is not as good as when I was younger, but certainly there are a lot of good batsmen about. Then I have to think that we had more helpful wickets back then, so better wickets should lead to better batsmen.”
Of the four All Ireland winning teams you played in what was the best? (A long pause followed that one!) “Great question... really the best answer I can give is to say bits of each, I think of Lurgan’s bowling with my brother Paul, Alan Johnston and myself; what can I say about a Waringstown team with the likes of the Harrison’s, the Nelson’s and the Dennison’s, Strabane was a great line up and North Down the second time round. I think I’ll duck that one!!”
So there you have it, at a club known for bringing back the legends; David Dennison, Alan and Noel Nelson all returned to finish their careers there; perhaps there is another chapter to be written, the question is will it be Charlie’s swansong?
>> Related article: Edward Liddle's biography of Charlie McCrum