Instonians Cricket Club has always placed great importance on the development of their youth section. The process began in earnest back in 1988 when former New Zealand fast bowler Bob Blair became the clubs first player/coach, and he set up a summer scheme during the school holidays for children. Russell Adams followed Blair at the club (1992 - 1995), and it was their great work over eight consecutive years that set in place a template for the summer holiday period that has continued until now.
The club has had success at youth level, winning numerous leagues and cups over the years. This production line looks likely to continue in the seasons to come, as the club won each of the three Northern Cricket Union (NCU) Youth Cup competitions this summer, as well as the Division 1: Under 11 and Under 15 Leagues, and importantly both the All-Ireland Under 11 and 13 Cups.
At the end of the 2017 season a few of the senior members of the club sat down and discussed how to give the children the best opportunity to improve. The decision to set up a cricket academy, with support from the Belfast City Council ‘Support for Sport’, for both the Under 11 and Under 13 age groups, primarily in the winter months, has produced almost immediate success.
Both academies were led by Steven Crothers, assisted by the clubs Northern Knights players: Nikolai Smith, Nathan Smith, Shane Getkate and Robert McKinley, as well as Eugene Moleon. The Under 11’s generally battle it out with rivals CSNI for the local honours. An early season win at Stormont set the tone for a really successful season which saw the side remain undefeated throughout.
The Charlie Beverland League Division 1 Final (sponsored by Norman Shannon and Co. Solicitors), was played between Instonians and CSNI, with the former victorious by 31 runs. In the Quoile Cup the Under 11’s progressed through to the final where they came up against Lisburn. Batting first Lisburn made 74, and in the run chase Ben McCausland (22 not out) and Will Park (26 not out) saw Instonians home by 9 wickets.
This qualified the team for the All-Ireland Final against St Johnston (North West Cricket Union), at Shaw’s Bridge. There was a big crowd on the day and all the boys and girls were very excited to see the majority of the senior Ireland Squad in attendance. In the match Instonians made a commanding 196 for 3 in their 20 overs, with captain Ben McCausland scoring 93 not out and Amy Hunter making 67. In the end Instonians won comfortably by 108 runs with Michael Hollway picking up three wickets with his impressive off spin. The boys and girls from both teams were thrilled to pick up their medals from Ireland players Gary Wilson and Paul Stirling, who were there for most of the day and played cricket on the boundary edge with all the children present.
In the Banoge Cup Final Instonians Under 13's faced CIYMS at Belmont, and due to the holiday period, the Shaw’s Bridge outfit fielded no fewer than five of their under 11 side. Chasing a total of 99 the Instonians skipper Rory Ellerby again showed his undoubted quality in his match winning innings of 48, which saw the side to victory by seven wickets. This qualified the side for the All-Ireland Final against a strong YMCA (Leinster Cricket Union) side, with the game played at Balbriggan. Batting first Instonians made 129 for 6 with Rory Ellerby top scoring with 60 and sharing a vital third wicket stand of 57 with Tom Crothers, who made 23. Michael Hollway (3 wickets for 10 runs) and George Palmer (2 wickets for 16 runs) were the pick of the Instonians bowlers as they restricted YMCA to 102 for 6, giving the Belfast side victory by 27 runs.
Instonians lost out on a place in the Under 13 Division 1 League Final (Sponsored by Ballymena Cricket Club) to CIYMS A, by playing fewer games (tied on 20 points). The team had only lost one game to CSNI A. In the Under 15 Division 1 League final, the Pedagogues Trophy, was claimed by defeating Donacloney Mill A by 38 runs, as Instonians defended a total of 117. This was followed up by victory in the Graham Cup Final with a comprehensive nine wicket success against CIYMS, where Adam Wylie put in a match winning performance by claiming two wickets and scoring an undefeated 53.
The Under 15’s were well led by Matthew Humphreys, who as well as having an excellent year with Instonians, played for the Ireland Under 15’s. Matthew also picked up the NCU ‘Young Player of the Year’ at the recent NCU annual dinner. The All-Ireland Final proved a step too far this time when they were outplayed by an excellent Rush side in Dublin.
A lot of the boys and girls spend their Saturday afternoons at Shaw’s Bridge supporting the senior teams and it wasn’t lost on any of them the day this season, when seven of the 1st XI were made up of school boys in their victory against Muckamore. In fact, it was Under 15’s captain Matthew Humphreys who scored an undefeated 30 to help win the match.
The club is extremely proud of the progression of their youth section and the aim is to afford all the young cricketers the opportunity to progress through to the senior teams and hopefully to representative recognition. The club is repeating the winter youth academy over the coming months.
The Instonians success was recognised as the following players gained representative honours this season:
Under 11: Ben McCausland, Michael Hollway, Max Wilmott, Darcy Donnelly
Under 13: Rory Ellerby, Amy Hunter, Tom Crothers, George Palmer
Under 15: Matthew Humphreys, James Lambert, Ben Beattie, Adam Kennedy, Adam Ly, Adam Wylie, James Rose
Under 17 Girls and NCU Women: Amy Hunter