Malahide redevelopment presents wonderful cricketing experience
The awarding of an ODI between Ireland and England in September 2013 was the perfect present for those involved in the planning of Malahide Cricket Clubís redeveloped ground which had its reopening a couple of weeks ago on June 1.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of history in Malahide this summer as the new ground is finally ready for use after a decade of planning and sourcing funds to ensure it is worthy of hosting One Day Internationals. But for the timing of the current Irish economic crisis in 2008, it could all have happened a few years earlier, however, better late than never, as they say.
Like any new sporting arena, much has been written and spoken about the redevelopment in Irish cricketing circles and, while some clubs may be frustrated by the fact that it isnít their own ground which has received such financial backing and attention, itís fair to say that, as an outsider, the ground and the village have all the necessary ingredients to create a wonderful atmosphere and experience for international cricket fans to visit and enjoy.
I must say, of all the clubs and villages in the Republic of Ireland that I could have brought my young family to, Malahide has top be right at the top of the tree. The village itself provides a vibrant yet tranquil setting with its beautiful ocean views, quaint businesses, busy bars and restaurants and friendly aura. My family and I feel very privileged to be here for the summer and I have already recommended it is a perfect holiday stop over to my friends throughout the UK.
As a destination, Malahide has so much going for it, let alone the fact that it can now boast an international standard cricket ground to its list of pleasures. I have visited many international cricket venues back home in New Zealand and also in Australia and England and Malahideís Demesne certainly has what it takes to be a success.
Without question, the most important aspect of the clubís challenge is to ensure that that pitch and playing arena are up to scratch before worrying about the rest of the advantages the village provides. The 1st XI have now been playing and practicing on the wicket block for two weeks and I can report that while it is a touch on the slow side, as you would expect with every young grass development, it has the potential to be just as good, if not better, than the square at Stormont (having played for CSNI last season).
I am informed that the dimensions of the ground meet the ICC requirements for playing matches on the middle of the block. For those who donít know the ground, there is a tree in the eastern section of the ground that is protected by the Fingal City Council and cannot be moved. Itís presence means that club matches played on the eastern side of the block will endure a 60 meter boundary to that side which looks small when you compare it to the size of the other parts of the ground, but is in fact much larger than many of the small venues I have played at in Leinster, the NCU and in the North West.
Based on the temporary seating arrangements of Stormont and Clontarf, it is believed 11,500 spectators will pack the ground at full capacity. The plan for the ground involves some permanent seating and, in the long term, a new club house which offers another opportunity for the club and, ideally, Cricket Ireland to help gain further funding for an indoor facility because we do live in Ireland, after all. Importantly, the Castle Grounds, which the Demesne is situated on, has ideal access to ample parking for such crowds.
Another aspect of the Malahide experience is the proximity to the railway line, with the village train station no more than a 3 minute walk from the ground. The train line makes the ground accessible to fans from all over the country, including the cricketing populations from Ulster in the north down to Munster in the south. I am also told that on match days, the train from the north will stop at Malahide rather than continuing through to Dublin. I should also mention that Dublin International Airport is just a 15 minute drive from the village.
Now, it is up to the ICC, Cricket Ireland, the Government and the Department of Sport, the club, local councils and hopefully some generous philanthropists to ensure the planned clubhouse is of high quality and includes an indoor training facility.
As I have mentioned, the ingredients are all there, both with the quality of the pitch and ground, as well as the social benefits of the village, to provide patrons from all over the island, and those from further abroad, with a wonderful viewing experience.
Lets hope the boys in green can turn it into a graveyard for visiting international sides in the way they have knocked them off at major international tournaments.