Ballinderry and Donemana: A tale of two villages
Ballinderry and Donemana: A tale of two villages
With Donemana once again defying the critics at the weekend, it got me thinking of what it is great clubs do to be successful year after year, it also got my creative juices flowing on what great clubs across different sports do to be successful and is there a common theme throughout.
The two villages mentioned in the title may appear at first to have little in common in a sporting sense at least, Ballinderry being a small village on the loughshore straddling the Derry/Tyrone border with a tradition of excellence in GAA; on the other hand Donemana has been a superpower in Northwest cricket for generations (its only other major claim to fame is that Davy Crockett’s da was said to be from the region!).
One common denominator between the two is of course there success on the field of play, indeed both clubs have claimed All-Ireland senior victories in recent times, Donemana in 2000 with Ballinderry’s success coming in 2002.
On closer inspection more similarities arise, the parochial aspect of the teams, the family atmosphere and indeed the generations of families playing, the McBrines and Dunn’s of Donemana mirrored by the McGuckins and Bateson’s of Ballinderry. The cornerstone of both clubs is of course their youth system which seems to have an unending supply of excellent young players coming through. The core value which both clubs share is that of volunteerism within each community. Coaches from within the clubs pass on the skills they have learnt to the underage teams.
The most important value which both clubs instil in all their players is that you get nothing without hard work and dedication, in life as well as sport. Looking at it in a broader sense, we within the cricket community in the Northwest may not be so far removed from our sporting colleagues in the GAA fraternity, indeed is there anything that can be learned by us from the Gaelic set-up?
Arguably the most controversial topic within recent GAA history has been the idea of professionalism. The most regularly put forward argument is that county players now train as professionals and should be rewarded as such. Professionalism has long been resisted within gaa circles for a number of reasons. As with most arguments it begins and ends with money. Where does the money come from? Who do you pay? County players? Club players? Coaches?
The greater GAA community have realised that the road to professionalism is potentially a slippery slope. In the same way perhaps the local cricket community needs to look at addressing the ‘Shamateurism’ that exists within the local union. Another topic always discussed within both codes is that of how the wealth is distributed to promote the game. Again on this topic the GAA seems to have the upper hand. The GAA appears to have a development strategy based on building from the “bottom up” with money reinvested in the grassroots.
However, Cricket Ireland seem to have taken a different approach with Chief Executive Warren Deutrom seemingly adopted a “Top down” strategy investing heavily in the Irish in the international squad and in a vision of One day and Test match status. Of course cricket is a professional sport with an international appeal so it is a little unfair to compare the actions of the governing body in comparison with the GAA’s. However if we compare the Gaa’s strategy to what is being done at grass roots level in local clubs there appears to be a lot left to be desired.
The money local clubs generate seems to be going to “mercenaries” while their own underage teams struggle to field. Perhaps looking at amalgamating underage teams from the same area could be looked into. The Development Squads have been successful, yet are these squads developing only the best within the North West. Well, yes and maybe that is their goal but it seems to be the same clubs represented very heavily year after year. What is being done to encourage players at every club? Is the Cricket Development Officer for the region speaking with each club and identifying their individual needs?
I digress, and to finish I come back to the core values shared by Donemana and Ballinderry. In his speech before the all Ireland semi final in 2002 Ballinderry Captain Enda Muldoon spoke to each player as an individual and in each player he found a connection with the previous Ballinderry team which got to an All Ireland final in 1982, whether it was a relative who had played on the team, who coached or managed the squad or indeed who had driven the bus, he described them as one big family and the team playing was a continuation of the family tradition and history.
Whether “Junior” will give a similar speech prior to Donemana’s date with destiny is a matter for him, although he might do well to find a connection of Davy Crockett’s sitting in the changing room before him.