Mun­ster cricket aims for con­tin­ued growth

Irish Examiner - County - - Sport - Kevin Galvin

IT’S of­ten as port mis un­der­stood. Com­pli­cated rules, bizarre ter­mi­nol­ogy, a game for the elite; mis­con­cep­tions about the game of cricket that have fol­lowed the sport since its cat­e­gori­sa­tion as a ‘gar­ri­son game’ over 100 years ago, which saw the game wilt through­out the mid and lat­ter parts of the 20th cen­tury.

How­ever, cricket’s rep­u­ta­tion is rapidly gain­ing in the eyes of the sport­ing public over the past decade-or- so, and for Mun­ster Cricket, tra­di­tion­ally the weak­est of the four Unions, per­cep­tions have dra­mat­i­cally changed in both crick­et­ing cir­cles, and fur­ther afield, af­ter an­other mile­stone sea­son.

Last year the Union gained its first ever em­ployee in the shape of a part­time ad­min­is­tra­tor for the province, which also in­cludes Gal­way in its enor­mous re­mit, and with de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer Jim Do­ran’s fine work con­tin­u­ing in schools across the South, things are rapidly look­ing up.

Mun­ster took their place at the top ta­ble crick­et­ing- wise at the be­gin­ning of this sea­son for the first time in over a decade, tak­ing part in a re­vamped in­ter­provin­cial com­pe­ti­tion which has gained first-class sta­tus, and re­newed im­pe­tus with Ire­land’s pro­mo­tion to test sta­tus ear­lier this year by the ICC.

Some­thing which Mun­ster in­tend to be fully part of. And as Corko­nian Seanan Jones and Cork County player Aaron Caw­ley were in the green of Ire­land down the Mardyke in an U 17 In­ter­na­tional Se­ries against Scot­land, Mun­ster Cricket Chair­man David Grif­fin sat down to ex­plain the Union’s new strate­gic plan, launched last week, which will take them up to 2020.

“We’ve been work­ing on the plan since last Novem­ber, and it fol­lows on from the pre­vi­ous three year plan which took us up to the end of 2017. We felt it was im­por­tant to get it done in the con­text of the test sta­tus which will rad­i­cally change cricket in Ire­land, and to lay out where our pri­or­i­ties are.

“I think while we didn’t achieve every­thing we wanted in the pre­vi­ous doc­u­ment, we made good progress in nearly every area and achieved some of our goals. For ex­am­ple, the pre­vi­ous strate­gic plan’s main goal was to get the Mun­ster Reds back play­ing in­ter­provin­cial cricket, some­thing which we achieved this sea­son.”

Some­thing which has al­ready been taken se­ri­ously, not just by those within crick­et­ing cir­cles, but a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, fea­tur­ing in­ter­na­tional play­ers, played right on their doorstep, will al­ways cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of the Cork sport­ing public. The Reds’ per­for­mance mean­while has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions, but just lack­ing that bit of ex­pe­ri­ence to push one-or-two games over the line.

A packed Mardyke a fort­night ago saw the Le­in­ster Light­ning crowned cham­pi­ons of the T20 com­pe­ti­tion for the third suc­ces­sive sea­son — a side packed with Ir­ish in­ter­na­tion­als far above the other three Unions — but the Reds will re­group ahead of next sea­son, with hopes of some com­mer­cial back­ing to push them along.

“There has been a lot of in­ter­est in the Reds this sea­son, as ev­i­denced by the crowd we got against Le­in­ster, the next step is to use that to at­tract spon­sors into the game. It has also helped es­tab­lish our cred­i­bil­ity among the other Unions, that from a stand­ing start and with lit­tle time we were ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive, which will hope­fully make them more re­cep­tive to us play­ing in fur­ther forms of the game.

“Our big­gest chal­lenge is prob­a­bly hav­ing the re­sources in place to

Our big­gest chal­lenge is hav­ing the re­sources in place to achieve our am­bi­tious ob­jec­tives

achieve our am­bi­tious ob­jec­tives, we’ve known for years that we haven’t suf­fi­cient de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer hours to do all we want in an area the size of Mun­ster and Gal­way. There have been a cou­ple of ma­jor achieve­ments in terms of fa­cil­i­ties, with new grounds in Water­ford and Kerry, but fur­ther grant pro­vi­sion is needed.

“We need to put a lot more money put into the Mardyke to make sure it can con­tinue with the level of rep­re­sen­ta­tive cricket played (the ground was af­ter its fifth day in six be­tween the Reds and Ire­land), and we also need more grass wick­ets de­vel­oped so other grounds get that op­por­tu­nity. I would put us in a very sim­i­lar po­si­tion to where Con­nacht Rugby was four or five years ago, at which stage the IRFU de­cided they needed Con­nacht and put the re­sources be­hind them, and you can see the re­sults of that with their pro­gres­sion. I would hope over the course of this strate­gic doc­u­ment we would see the same mo­men­tum mir­rored down here.”

The Con­nacht ex­am­ple is a par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent one, with Caw­ley help­ing the Ir­ish U19s qual­ify for the World Cup, and is now set be­come the first Mun­ster­man to rep­re­sent his coun­try at a Cricket World Cup this coming Winter.

Mun­ster Reds player Jack Tec­tor was called up to the Ir­ish side for their ICC In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup clash with the Nether­lands, and last year’s Reds’ team con­tains a num­ber of fu­ture Ir­ish stars hop­ing to make the grade. “It’s shows if the path­way is there for play­ers to work their way up, the pos­si­bil­ity is there for our play­ers to step up over the next few years.

“Cork is un­doubt­edly one of the ma­jor sport­ing hubs of the coun­try, look­ing at all of the var­ied sports we have here. One of Cricket Ire­land’s ob­jec­tives in their plan is to ‘Make Cricket Main­stream’ and cer­tainly to be strong down here and in the other ma­jor cities of Water­ford, Lim­er­ick, and Gal­way, is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary if they want to achieve that.”

Mun­ster Cricket have launched a strate­gic plan for the de­vel­op­ment of cricket in Mun­ster over the pe­riod from 2017 to 2020. Pic­tured are Mun­ster Cricket pres­i­dent Michael Hickey on left, and chair­man David Grif­fin.

Pic­ture: Ed­die O’Hare

David Grif­fin and Kieran Ah­erne, Cork Cricket Club, at the Mardyke re­cently, re­mem­ber­ing the cen­te­nary of the US Navy base­ball game in Cork.

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