The Ger Siggins Column
Inside Edge: 23 May
The Ger Siggins Column: Previous Articles
Cricket Ireland has missed a trick, even if for the best of motives.
The hottest sporting brands in the country at the moment are Leinster and Ulster, with tens of thousands of shirts in circulation. But what does CI do when it organises two squads of the 23 best cricketers from Leinster and Ulster?
It goes and spoils it all by calling them something stupid like ‘North’ and ‘South’.
‘It’s important to keep Munster involved’, says Pete Johnston, coach of the South side for the new interprovincial series.
‘If they have anyone good enough they’ll be in, and in the future there’s no doubt that Munster will be involved in the first-class structure’.
CI hopes the new interpro series, which kicks off with in Cork on 3rd June, will lead to a first-class competition.
‘It’s a great idea’, says Johnston, who has been Phil Simmons’ assistant with Ireland since 2007.
‘These games will act as a kind of pilot, but they’ll go from strength to strength in the years ahead. Their success will depend on ICC funding of course, and it could lead to bigger things’.
Johnston heads the new South structure, with Trent Johnston (assistant coach), John Hoey (manager) and Mark Jones (assistant manager).
Half the squad is uncapped, but all are players that Johnston and his selectors – Alan Lewis and Brian McNeice – consider to be strong contenders for a career in a green shirt. ‘I worked a lot with the Under 19s this winter’, says Johnston, and they’ve come on in leaps and bounds.
‘Guys like Barry McCarthy, Adam Coughlan and Tyrone Kane have lots of talent. Working with and around the senior squad has helped.’
The two squads include the likes of Paul Stirling, Boyd Rankin and George Dockrell, but Johnston knows they are unlikely to feature in the series.
‘The county guys might be able to come over for the odd game, but they’re all keen to be involved anyway. Only Ed Joyce and Tim Murtagh are tied up with their counties’.
Niall O’Brien was named in the squads too, at the behest of Cricket Ireland.
‘We’ll try to get a couple of training sessions in this summer’, said Johnston, ‘and we’ll be active over the winter too.’
His namesake, Trent, admits he’s coming to the end of his playing career and Pete was delighted that he agreed to be number 2.
‘It’s brilliant, and important for him too to start getting good coaching experience.’ There will be four interpros, with the rest of the games at Stormont (22nd June), North-west (12th August) and Dublin (26th August).
Performer of the week: Andrew Balbirnie, back with Pembroke after captaining Cardiff University to draws against Somerset and Warwickshire, made 141* and 49* at the weekend.
Tweet of the week: “Can't believe they ran out of Heineken after 45 mins at the Heineken cup final!!#80thousandirish” @Stirlo90 (Paul Stirling) finds another reason to regret going to Twickenham.
The RSA Challenge is now a month away, and Cricket Ireland have teamed up with Irish Rail to get Dublin-based fans to the game. For €26.99 (children €13.49) supporters will be taken from Connolly at 7.35am to Belfast, and then on to Stormont by coach. After the Ireland v Australia ODI they will be bussed back to Belfast Central Station for the final leg back to Dublin.
Emigration has started to bite in all sports, and cricket is no different in losing some talent young men and women. Phoenix CC has suffered more than most with the departure of their captain and ex-Ireland star Dave Langford-Smith. But the popular fast bowler – soon to be a father for the second time – is on the way back. Last weekend ‘Lanky’ won a raffle in his new home in Australia – and first prize was a holiday in Ireland.
Kudos to Brían O’Rourke, whose tireless commitment to coaching has seen many of his charges go on to glorious careers in the game. On Saturday at Lord’s he picked up the prestigious ICC Europe Coach Award for 2012.
'There’s a real buzz in the country about cricket, he said. ‘The numbers of coaches and participants are growing significantly, and there’s still a lot of talent out there to be unearthed.’