The new ICU President
North Fermanagh clubman Robert Kerr steps into the highest office in Irish cricket on 1st February, when he will be installed as President of the Irish Cricket Union, at its Annual Meeting in Dundalk.
A native of Fermanagh, but now living in Co Tyrone, he will be the first Fermanagh man to hold the position, and just the ninth from the North-West Cricket Union area.
Known to most of his friends in the game as Bob, he has also served as Chairman of the Irish Union, and is currently the Vice-Chairman of the North-West Union.
Introduced to the game in his time at Portora Royal School, he has been a lifelong adherent ever since.
A member of the teaching staff in Enniskillen Model Primary School, and later as Vice Principal of Jones Memorial Primary School in the 1960s and 1970s, he was instrumental in the organisation and running of the then thriving Tyrone and Fermanagh Cricket Association, which ran midweek cricket in the two counties.
Kerr served as Secretary of the Association for several years, and it was from there that he and a few others conceived the idea of forming a Saturday team to play at a higher level in a longer version of the game.
So it was that a team, known as Western Counties, was born, and accepted into the Intermediate ranks of the North West League. Vital in this was the availability of appropriate ground and playing facilities and these were found at Omagh Academicals and on the Army ground at nearby Lisanelly Barracks. The key figure at both locations was Colin Smith, now President of the Tyrone and Fermanagh Association, whose attention to detail, and work on both grounds, ensured that conditions met the standards required by the North-West authorities.
The team competed well, and soon started to move up the North West ranks, with players drawn from the Academicals, Kesh, Enniskillen, Clogher and the local army regiments in Omagh.
It was around this time that the Kesh club was developing its own ground and premises, and changing its name to North Fermanagh. The new club offered a permanent home to Western Counties, and the merger soon took place with North Fermanagh taking over the Western Counties mantle. Kerr was at the heart of all this, both as the main organiser of Western Counties and as a leading member of North Fermanagh.
From the outset he represented the club as a delegate to the North-West Union Executive ö a position he has held since, and which eventually led to him representing the North West at Irish level, and from which his offices in the Irish Cricket Union originated.
Kerr has also served as Secretary of the Northern Ireland Cricket Association, and was Chairman of that bodyās management committee responsible for the appointment and supervision of the provinceās first Cricket Development Officer, Garfield Harrison.
He is proud of the fact that this background has led to the Presidency, and its reflection on cricket in his local area, but he is quick to point out, and acknowledge, the support of his club and fellow committee members, and the fact that he also happened to be in the right place at the right time.
He is proud, too, that North Fermanagh progressed to two spells in Division One of the North West League. He is a past Captain of the club, and also of the old Enniskillen Club. When he moved to Tyrone as Principal of Dungannon Primary School he had a spell with the town club in the Northern Cricket Union League.
He is very keen that in these areas, and throughout the Irish scene, clubs open their doors to young people ö boys and girls alike ö and provide appropriate playing opportunities for them. He is convinced this is the future for the clubs and the life blood of the game.
The other focus of his year in office will be the progress of the Senior Menās and Womenās International teams, as well as the Under 13, 15, 17 and 19 under-age Irish sides.
With the Under 19 side already qualified for this yearās Under 19 World Cup, and the Senior womenās side in their World Finals next year, the new President will want to see the menās Senior team qualify for their parallel event to be held in the West Indies in 2007. Below the ten test-playing countries there are twenty-six on the next level, known as Associates. From these the top five will qualify to join the Test nations, plus Kenya in the World Finals. Kerr feels that the current Ireland side has the capability to achieve this aim.
He is conscious of the huge demands now being placed on players at all levels of international cricket ö in what is for Ireland a totally amateur sport ö and he will advocate consolidation of the present position, but no additional playing commitments.
Also paramount is funding for the tightly-packed international programme, and he will have high on his agenda negotiation with the gameās own World Governing bodies, government agencies in the North and South of Ireland, sponsorship and the ICUās own fund-raising initiatives.
Irelandās first big date in 2004 is a home tie against Surrey in the third round of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Cup, in Dublin on May 5. The President is looking forward to this, but it is only one of a schedule of matches, meetings and functions which will certainly test his stamina but which should also leave him with a lot of abiding and rewarding memories.