First ladies of the scorebox on top of their numbers game
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
It is still far from a common occurrence but both scorers and even the scoreboard operator on duty in the scorebox were females.
Long gone are the days when the only place that you would see women ‘working’ at a cricket match was serving the teas. Now, CIYMS and Instonians are two of the three NCU clubs who have regular women scorers although the No 1 Ireland scorer is Stella Downes of Clontarf and Mary McElwee has been leading the way in the North West and regularly ‘keeps the book’ in the inter-provincial championship series.
CI have not one but two female scorers with Ann McCullough and Arlene Matchett taking it in turns while Helen McConaghy is the longest-serving having previously scored for Dungannon and Cliftonville.
Ann and Helen both got involved because their then boyfriends were team captains while Arlene was taken to the cricket when still at school because her dad was playing.
“In those days it was a case of going whether I liked it or not,” recalls Arlene. “He played every week and when I was 12-13 I didn’t want to play with the kids anymore and took up scoring to keep myself amused. I scored for the Thirds for three or four years until I stated working on Saturdays.”
It has now turned full circle with her son playing and it was John who brought her back to Belmont. When he started playing for the Seconds, Arlene returned as scorer and, now a regular on the Firsts, the superstitious mother has to literally sit through his innings.
“It is horrible scoring when he is batting. Everyone has to stay in the same place when he is batting. For example, mum and dad arrived late on Saturday and he immediately got out. On another occasion, I got up to open the door because it was getting too hot in the box and before I got back into my seat to record the next ball he was out. So, I’m not overly superstitious, it actually happens. I can’t let it go.”
Arlene was also indirectly responsible for getting Ann into cricket as she was going out with her brother, Andrew, the CIYMS 2nd XI captain at the time.
“It was my only chance to see him at weekends and it was never going to change once we got wed so it was ‘we interrupt this marriage to bring you the cricket season’,” says Ann.
“I first did the teas and then looking over Arlene’s shoulder I become interested in scoring. When she went with John to the Seconds, I did the Firsts and have been here ever since.”
“Our son is now following in his dad’s footsteps in terms of playing cricket, but thankfully with much more talent and indeed Carson is at a training camp with the Ireland Under 13s this week. I am looking forward to scoring when he makes it onto the Firsts – and I’ll not be so obsessed with where I am sitting!”
The link between Ann and Helen, who started scoring at Liverpool University, is that they are both on the roster to do international matches. Ann scored the Australians’ last visit to Belfast while one of Helen’s first matches was the 2001 game at the old Ormeau ground when she had a memorable offer.
“That was one of my favourite grounds and in that particular match we were scoring from the pavilion and interacting with the players. After the match, in the bar, Mark Waugh came up to me and remarked ‘oh, a lady scorer there are not many of them in Australia’ and he then asked ‘can I buy you a drink?’”
Helen still keeps in contact with former professionals she has scored for at club level, including Gerald Dros, who played six games for Ireland between 1999 and 2004 when playing for Cliftonville.
“I see him every Easter in South Africa when I go over to stay with friends. He is commentating for Supersport and sits on the board at Centurion. I also keep in touch with Bromwell Williams and Stiaan Van Zyl, who was pro at Glendermott.”
Arlene sums up why they love their job and why she is expecting more females to take up scoring.
“What else would you be doing on a Saturday – shopping or the housework! There’s nowhere I would rather be.”