Joe Doherty: North West Chairman & Cricket Ireland Chair of Cricket
David Holmes (News Letter)
Without doubt the 21st century has been a period when we have seen the emergence of Ireland as a cricketing force on the global stage. One man who seems to have been at the top table throughout this historic period is Joe Doherty.
When I spoke to Joe it was not Ireland we began talking about but his first true passion for the game Strabane Cricket Club:
“Without doubt I am a one club man, since I came into the boys team at Strabane at the age of 10 probably one of the youngest ever to play. If you don’t have a good grounding and basis in club cricket then as far as I am concerned you have no mandate to operate.
I played for 33 years on all the club sides and finished up playing for the thirds. I would describe myself as an off-spinner who could bat a bit. I finished up playing on the thirds with Michael Bannigan who was President of the Irish Cricket Union and I was Chairman of the North West, the lads referred to us as The Mafia. Everyone reckoned we drove around in the car making all the big decisions!”
When we look at his rise within the administrative side of the game the word youngest seems to play a large part. Despite seemly being around forever Joe is still only 62, but he first became a delegate to the North West when he was 27.
He is equally modest about this and attributes it again to the work on the committee at Strabane, indeed alluding to the fact that he lived in Derry and that it was practical for him to go to the board meetings rather than have other guys travel.
He was voted vice chairman of the Union in 1998 and became Chairman in 2000, stepping down in 2004 to become Chairman of the ICU. When his successor Bob Kerr died tragically whilst at the World Cup in 2007 in Jamaica, Joe was there as a spectator and received a call from back home asking if he would take up the reins again:
“To be honest I had no wish to return but given the circumstances I believed it was the right thing to do and here I am five years later still in the job. In the North West we have no limits to how long you can be Chairman and I don’t think that is a good thing. Other Unions limit it to two years, but I think that for us it was more a necessity as we did not seem to have as many candidates.
The Union are currently looking at bringing in a two year limit, so I am trying to vote myself out of the role, I can assure you I am not looking for reasons to cling on to power. We have just recently had a Board restructure and I suppose technically I am now President with three committee chairman now in place.”
So what of the changes he has seen in the North West over the last decade or so:
“Two things; one which I think is good and one not so. The advent of the overseas professional, I am a massive advocate; I believe that they have lifted the standard and most of them are a class apart.
Historically in the North West, you were like me a one club man, but not so much anymore, loyalty is not encouraged, we see lots of transfers and players being enticed to other clubs. I believe this is short termism, the lure of instant success and not producing your own talent in the club.
Look at the Strabane team on the pitch today; all are local guys, bar the professional. Look at Donemana; all local talent indeed their development system has been so good that there is probably another eleven of their players now at other clubs.
I asked Joe about the ultimate stage playing for Ireland:
“I remember only too well when the comment was that if you played in the North West you had no chance of playing for Ireland. Not so now; the younger guys can see a pathway through to the Irish team. Current captain William Porterfield started at Killyclooney and then Donemana, we have Boyd Rankin, young McCarter and Peter Gillespie is a shining example of coming right through the underage system and all the way to the top.
I have been Chairman of the ICU and am now Chair of Cricket; Roy Torrens is Ireland team manager. Anybody who says we are the poor relations is living in the past; indeed you might say you need to born in the North West to make it!”
So how about the last decade for Irish cricket:
“Totally transformational, starting with the appointment of Adrian Birrell, picking up from the foundations laid by Mike Hendrick and Ken Rutherford. He was organised and professional, really got the guys believing in themselves and turned them into a superb fielding unit.
Then along came players like Ed Joyce. We finally arrived in the 2007 World Cup qualifier in Jamaica. The boys blossomed and haven’t looked back since. Four ICC qualifying tournaments at various levels and now knocking on the door as a full member.
We are exercised by many things in Cricket Ireland at Board level but I believe the future is as a full member without test matches. We need more funding to develop the grass roots quicker, but we don’t just want to be seen as a feeder to the England team.
We want to retain our best players to play for Ireland; there are now 24 contracted players at differing levels. Look at Paul Stirling he is getting a lot of attention, rightly so, another is George Dockrell, the counties are now looking to our young players but we need to ensure we do everything possible to make it attractive for them to play for Ireland.”
I asked Joe about the future:
“Well I am still enjoying my cricket, I have just been asked to do another year as Chair of Cricket and I want to see more funding and more professionalism come in, I will strive for that. I also have a day job to consider.
Equally I am now a grandfather of three who live across in London. They were born in a hospital just beside Lords and one goes to school just around the corner.”
I cannot help but suspect that some of granddad’s visits may just coincide with cricket fixtures!