It's senior cup final weekend and the great and good will hopefully travel to Magheramason in their numbers on Friday and Saturday as Bready roll out the red carpet for the very first time in this competition. I have been up to the ground a few times this week already and have to say I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far. Paul Fleming, Bob Rankin and that hard-working committee are leaving nothing to chance and it's looking like all the bases are already covered.
And every time you look out the bay windows from the clubhouse across the picturesque view of the Foyle's banks and the distant hills, the only thing in your line is the sight of Davy Caldwell going up and down on a roller every couple of minutes. The groundsman is fiercely proud of his work and rightly so as Mrs Caldwell has started getting his mail re-directed there over the past few weeks. Because while the cup final is obviously the biggest weekend in North West cricket and Bready are intent on doing it full justice, they do have other motivation for ensuring that everything is in good order.
Hours before the start of play on Friday the club will be visited by an ICC grounds inspection posse whose number includes former New Zealand Test player Jeff Crowe and former Australian Test batsman Andrew Hilditch. While both men are highly respected in the game world-wide the latter is best remembered as the player given out in a Test match against Pakistan for picking the ball up and lobbing it back to the bowler, Sarfraz Nawaz. I have no doubt that DW will have a word for him on the subject come Friday morning. Anyway, the inspectors are the first step in the process of working towards full ODI status for the Magheramason venue and kudos to Cricket Ireland for initiating the move. While maybe a little way off just yet there are now at least genuine hopes that the club will get the chance to host one of the world's top sides in the not-too-distant-future.
Staying with the parent body and it appears that Donemana have had their probationary period in the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup extended by 12 months after an issue over their Ulster Cup defeat at Stormont earlier this season. Although not an official report it is believed that CI asked the club for their comments after a letter was received from one of the umpires on duty during their tie with Civil Service North. Donemana investigated the matter and agreed that there had been one or two minor indiscretions of verbal discontent from supporters after what they felt were disputable decisions.
The club were apparently able to provide testaments from independent parties at the game offering their version of events but both parties agreed that it was disappointing that the official felt concerned enough to put the issues in writing. While there appears to be little evidence of any smoking guns, CI ruled that Donemana's concession warranted an extension of their current sanction in the competition.
A spokesperson for the club suggested that while they were “disappointed by the sequence of the events” they accepted that “one or two minor misdemeanours may have occurred”. “The problem we face is that we have a support that is unprecedented in Irish cricket; regularly attracting 250 and more supporters to their game and it is impossible to police every one of them all the time. The club has had several meetings aimed at ensuring that supporters know what is required of them but it isn't easy. Reactions to decisions happen at every ground and they are more pronounced when there is such a big following. In many ways Donemana are a victim of their own success and as players leave the Holm, the club's “secondary” following gets bigger, a fact highlighted by the number of players from other clubs who regularly attend their games”.
No doubt this is a shot across the bows of the Tyrone club and the timing of it is such a pity as they are just two games away from another All-Ireland crown and were just as close to their three-year ban ending completely.
And to finish on a positive note it appears that the demise of Crindle Cricket Club may not be imminent after all. The Roe Valley team had failed to fulfil fixtures during the season leading to a suggestion that they had pulled out of the league however while it appears that all had not been well, the members have re-grouped and are committed to carrying on.
Fixture Secretary Gregory McDaid confirmed that “Mervyn McGinnis has taken over as General Secretary and Gareth Martin is determined to continue to lead the team in competition this season starting at Ardmore next weekend. The club is still dealing with the issues which led to these problems in the first place but that will not affect the fact that we are looking forward to finishing this and many more seasons in North West cricket”.