Muckamore indebted to Parkhall Integrated College
David Holmes - Total Cricket
In recent weeks those who follow this column will know I have been charting the progress of Muckamore Cricket Club first eleven in the various cup competitions. Impressive reading it makes too, beaten in the semi-final of the Challenge Cup by Instonians; into the semi-final of the Irish National Cup and already through to the final of the Ulster Shield.
Muckamore over the years have had many stalwarts who played as veterans on the Senior stage however in the more recent years when the 1sts have fluctuated between the Premier League and Section One; a feature has been the number of teenagers that have featured in the squad.
As the Ireland Under 19 squad travel to the World Cup in Australia, probably the best known is Jason Van de Merwe who scored a hundred against an MCC side to follow his 141 and 93 not out for the club. He already has over 600 runs this season; including another ton against Downpatrick at the weekend. Jason has featured in all the Irish under age squads from under 13 up.
So what can we attribute this surge in popularity to? Is down to the game of cricket becoming more of an entertainment spectacular, with the growing interest in the shortened 20/20 format? Perhaps; but this is only part of the reason why Muckamore have steadily produced quality senior cricketers from their junior ranks. The other contributing factor in this success rate is the ongoing work of schools in the Antrim area and in particular one; Parkhall Integrated College.
It seems astounding that just over a decade ago, Parkhall College did not have cricket on their list of after schools activities, yet today they boast the largest number of junior club cricketers in the Antrim area and have had several pupils represent Ireland at different age levels.
Real credit though must go to Parkhall cricket master Glenn Martin. Glenn a footballer by confession introduced cricket at the school just over 10 years ago thanks in no small way to the persistence of the then 14 year old Neil Gill.
Current captain, Gill learned to play the game thanks to the school. His talents bloomed further when he joined Muckamore and he went on to play for Ireland at several age groups including featuring in the under 19 World Cup squad in 2006 and more recently for the Ireland A team.
Glenn runs cricket teams at every year level and had boys in for practice before school started some mornings. Although not a traditional cricketing school; not playing in the Saturday schools league Parkhall has in the past ten years produced many fine cricketers. Aided and abetted by the coaching of Andy Gleghorne plus the professionals at Muckamore and now from the club's recently appointed Development Officer, Andy McCulloch.
It is indeed a tribute to Martin, that the school is about to have their second pupil play in an Under 19 World Cup cricket finals.
Players like Craig Drummond just turned 19; Van der Merwe’s opening partner has scored over 500 runs this season. He also is probably the fastest bowler outside of the top flight and last season in his debut season took 25 wickets in the Premier League.
Sunson Stephenson has also played regularly in the firsts although currently out of the side he has loads of natural ability. The latest teenager to secure a place at Moylena is 16 year old wicketkeeper Jamie Magowan. The club expects big things of Jamie and hope that he can get under age representative honours soon.
Others who have played this season include Gary Nicholl a left arm quick who has two eight wicket hauls in the 2nds under his belt including one at The Green. Gary is a more than useful bat, as is 18 year old Jordan Mairs. Jordan broke through to the 1sts at 16 but then was lost to the sport for a season while he pursued a career in Mixed Martial Arts. Now back batting and bowling on the 2nds, he has made a couple of senior appearances in recent weeks.
The club are sure that it won't be long until Jason, Craig, Jamie, Sunson, Gary and Jordan are turning out together in the 1sts.
Apart from the seven players mentioned Ivan McCombe the veteran 2nds skipper believes there are a few more ready to come off the Parkhall cricket production line:
"I think Calum Weir son of Campbell will break on to the 1sts in a couple of years . Still only 14 he is taking wickets in the 2nds and like his dad before him he bowls good areas, can bat and loves the game.
Young players at Muckamore benefit from the work that is done at Parkhall by Glenn but also from playing in our lower teams with experienced players like myself, Simon Thompson, Campbell Weir, Jonathon Gordon, Ian Marsh etc.
One other player highly rated by the Muckamore faithful is Sam Gordon who has played under age representative cricket. Still only 14, Sam has already played in the 2nds and was given a taste of senior cricket on one or two occasions as part of his cricket development. Sam is a pupil at Antrim Grammar and it is hoped that over the next few seasons that the Grammar school will have a cricket development strategy similar to Parkhall Integrated College.”
It is not just the 1sts, who are going well, the second eleven under McCombe are through to the finals of the Intermediate Cup and the Ulster Plate and this weekend the thirds play in the semi-final of the Minor Cup. As the season unfolds the young and not so young players throughout the club have a busy couple of months ahead.