Ian Callender (Sunday Life)
IT was so near but so far for Ross Adair last week as the sportsman, better known for his rugby exploits, missed out on a return to representative cricket.
Adair, a league winner with Ballynahinch Rugby Club last season, was called into the Emerging Knights squad for games against their North West and Leinster counterparts but rain prevented him even meeting his new team-mates, with no chance of getting on the field.
It would have been quite the comeback for the 25-year-old who last played representative cricket in 2012, with Ireland and Ulster Schools, but having returned from double hip surgery last year, his performances for Holywood, which have already included a century in Section One of the NCU, hadn’t gone unnoticed by the Knights’ selectors.
“It was not to be this time,” said Adair after the double disappointment. “But I believe the matches will be rearranged for later in the summer so if I’m still here, maybe I’ll get picked again. I’ll keep at Jonty, (Knights head coach Simon Johnston) annoying him.”
Rugby may still take him out of Northern Ireland, as he tries to pick up a contract, but the dual sportsman will never turn down the opportunity of a game of cricket. It has always been thus.
“When I was at school I played both, but probably stood out more on the cricket pitch, I was more of an influence,” he remembers.
“I was a left arm opening bowler for Ireland Under-13s and just grew up bowling, bowling, yet when I reached Ireland Under-19s I was batting in the middle order and not doing much bowling.
“I missed out on Ulster Schools rugby because of an ankle injury but played against France and England for Ireland Under-19s and just fell down the rugby route. I was on the sub-Academy with Ulster, but training with the seniors and that’s why I got my cap. I played against the Dragons in 2015, a glorious seven minutes off the bench!”
But although that proved to be the end of his career with Ulster, Adair had the ‘big-time’ bug and was prepared to move to keep it.
“I had an agent who fixed me up at Jersey and I played rugby there for two and a half years, and then I had my hip problem.”
He says it so matter-of-factly, but it turned out to be a life decision.
“It is what is called a bilateral cam impingement, basically it all needed cleaned out and tidied up,” says Adair.
“I didn’t need a replacement but I had my left hip done in January 2018 and my right one in March. It wasn’t just stopping me playing, I couldn’t lie in bed, I had to sleep on the sofa and it was sore to sneeze.”
Rehab involved gym work for three hours a day for seven months but he was back playing cricket before the end of last summer and rugby in November. Indeed, he finished second top scorer in the league with Ballynahinch.
This summer, despite his NCU call-up, he has had to take a back seat in the sporty family – dad Ricky played football, rugby and cricket for Ulster and mum Joanne high jumped for Ulster Schools - to cricketing brother Mark who made his Ireland debut against England last month.
“It was a proud big brother moment,” admits Ross. “You always need a bit of luck in sport and when Stuart Thompson went down in practice, Mark was just there. But I have been massively impressed with him. As you can see in the World Cup, it’s not easy being a bowler at international level these days.
“I’m just trying to keep his feet on the ground and keep him working hard.” Ross will be centre stage himself today, though, when he plays for Holywood in their rain-delayed first round Challenge Cup tie against holders Waringstown.
“Waringstown, are they any good?” he jokes, as he looks forward to meeting up again with old friends.
“I played with Andrew Mitchell in youth cricket, I know Denny (Adam Dennison) and James McCollum from Mark’s age group, Greg Thompson taught me at Sullivan and I played against Davy Dawson at Donaghcloney Mill last year. His mum makes the best tray bakes in the NCU!
“Of course, we’re massive underdogs but we’ll give it a go.”