Woodvale on crest of a wave
David Holmes (News Letter)
At the start of May I reported on Woodvale’s return to their home ground at Ballygomartin Road; so as the business end of the season approaches I thought it was time to give a progress report on the season to date.
As it turns out you would have to say it has been an extremely successful relaunch for the club this year celebrating its 125th anniversary. Since 10 June when they lost at Downpatrick the club have gone on an 8 match unbeaten run and it is very much a case of fortress Ballygomartin.
The fact that this run has occurred at a time some of the other more fancied contenders for the Section One title have faltered and culminating in Sundays 5 wicket defeat of closest rivals Lurgan means they now sit proudly on top of the league table.
So is this merely a hot streak or is there something more to it? I spoke to their young captain Stephen Bunting:
“It is tremendous to be back on the ground again, I think it has restored everybody’s faith, not just the players but everyone involved with the club. Whether it is for a match or just for practice it is great to be able to walk in and get changed in our home facilities.
So yes, I might think you can say we have been inspired. Also we have a professional, Lochlan Christian, not one that is going to set the world on fire by winning games single handedly, I have never really believed in that but one who brings experience from State cricket in Australia.
I think people forget that he is still only 20 but he has brought some great drills and a work ethic to the club. Every Friday night we have the elite squad of 8 to 12 players along, all basically under 23, we work on our ground fielding, throwing and catching for 2 to 3 hours and a by product of this is we are much fitter.
Also the fact that we now have two artificial wickets means we can have one set up for the slow bowlers and one for the quicks without having to move things around every time.”
All very positive but what about when it comes to the games themselves:
We have been doing well in the field, myself and Lochlan opening, he is quick and I try to swing it and we have been picking up wickets with the new ball. Then you have the likes of our talisman Timmy Browne and Johnny Burnside coming into form plus the experience of Paul Robinson and Simon Johnston. Simon is a thinking bowler a good man to turn to in power play situations.
Then with the bat again you have Simon and Paul guys who have done it at the top level, on the younger side we have Mark and Michael Irwin, coming through. I think we do have a good blend of youth and experience, throughout the season guys have put their hands up to be counted when we have needed it.”
When I look at the league tables it becomes apparent that it is not just the firsts who are benefitting, the second and third elevens are both sitting top of their respective leagues; so it is very much a club reborn.
I asked Stephen about the captaincy;
“I am a young captain, looking to make my mark in the game by getting results and this is the 125th anniversary of the club. I am very conscious of the history; of guys like Stephen Warke and Robert Wills, for me I just want to do the elder statesmen of this great club proud.
I think everyone in the squad brings something and perhaps I was at the outset worried about how I would handle the senior guys, but I feel that we all enjoy each other’s company so it has worked well.”
There is no doubt that those around the club probably could not have envisaged such a tremendous first season back , but that draws me to one final question; what about promotion to the Premier League?
“I have always been taught not to get too far ahead of myself when it comes to cricket, it may be a cliché but each game as it comes. When you start to think about the big picture you lose focus on the small details and they can be what win matches.”
Good reply from a young man with a mature outlook on the game. The next test will be Dundrum who have been something of a bogey team for Woodvale, but I am sure the squad will be working on those small details on Friday evening.