World Cup looms large on the horizon
It is nearly World Cup time now and I have to admit that like everybody else, I am really looking forward to the next six weeks. While the players and staff are currently acclimatising to life in the Antipodes, the groove in my sofa from watching Australia v India and New Zealand against Sri Lanka and then Pakistan means that I’m now zoned in for the night shift marathon.
There seems to be a real association with the Ireland team throughout the country this time that may not always have been evident in the past, no doubt buoyed by the fact that the three main regions are all well represented in the squad. Without wanting to be too parochial (as if that could happen), we will be desperately hoping that Ireland qualify for the knockout stages and that William, Craig, Stuart and Andy see plenty of action.
For another “Nor Wester” however it will be an emotional tournament regardless of what happens as Roy Torrens steps down from his Team Manager post after a decade in the job. Roy’s reign has been superb and he has watched at close quarters as the Boys in Green have progressed to the periphery of the very top table of International cricket. Phil Simmons’ recent appraisal of Roy shows how much his hard work and commitment has benefitted the squad during those ten years, however he has also been a fantastic ambassador for this region.
I have no doubt Roy’s main relief will be not having to field endless requests for signed shirts for charity, but it was a task he never refused. Hopefully he will be a regular fixture around the North West grounds this summer now that he has a bit more time on his hands. We would also of course take this opportunity to welcome the new Team Manager, Chris Siddell, and wish him well in the post. I haven’t yet met the new man but he has a very impressive CV and will hopefully oversee further progress during his time.
On the domestic front the majority of clubs are now starting to blow away the winter cobwebs and although much of this season’s business has already been done, a few more moves seem set to follow. Jonny Robinson is the latest player to leave Strabane and the former Foxie confirmed today that he is headed to Beechgrove this summer. “Bap” has the potential to be lethal on an often “spin-friendly” track and he will give Gareth McKeegan some really solid options in attack.
Adding to that, it is also thought that Brigade are on the verge of bringing Gareth Burns from Coleraine suggesting that the problems that were rumoured on Limavady Road are nowhere near as bad as first thought. What is less clear however is the impact of all of this will have at the home of the reigning champions. Already minus Mark Gillespie and Matt Bentley, the loss of Ryan Patton, Mark Snodgrass and now Robinson as well leaves the Park cupboard a lot barer.
If the rumours are true that Ardmore are back in the hunt for a keeper/batsman having failed as yet to confirm their overseas target, Strabane could also be fearing another move for Kevin Martin. These are testing times for the Red Caps however they have the right people around the club to be able to come out the other side.
And finally for now it won’t have gone unnoticed that the Club Licensing Scheme begins its life this summer- the three year programme aimed at creating a major infrastructure for club cricket throughout Ireland. Union Chairman Andrew Fleming was keen to point out during the week that the first phase will entail ensuring that each club has a structure in place to provide proper coaching and facilities for their youth. Speaking after what he referred to as “a very positive meeting” with representatives of Sion Mills, the Chairman said it was imperative that clubs were treating the Licensing Scheme seriously.
“All the Unions have a commitment to put in place a proper infrastructure for grass roots cricket. Brian Allen, our CDO, has been working tirelessly towards this for the past year and it will become incumbent on our clubs to have a structure in place to take that on. Most already are of course and I was delighted to learn during the week that Sion Mills are working closely with Brian and the primary schools in there area to develop their underage set-up. Ballyspallen are another club making great strides in this area and I am keen to ensure that others follow that lead”.
On the subject of Sion, it is fantastic to see that things seem to be on the mend following their problems last year and hopefully it won’t be too long before we see the region’s oldest club back in the senior ranks.