Staying relevant

This year marked the 20th anniversary of my involvement with this website, which started as Cricket Ireland and in 2005 became CricketEurope. There have been various line-up changes in that time, but the personnel have now been relatively stable this past few years.

John Elder has been the driving force behind it, since masterminding its inception in the 90s and it’s quite remarkable that he still has the same level of enthusiasm that he had way back when we held our first meeting at Woodvale back in July 2000. John Boomer’s Statszones are an incredible resource, while the latest band member to join, Ian Johnston, brings knowledge, energy, and passion to everything he does.

We have been fortunate that the Irish cricket media have bought into our project and supported us throughout all that time, journalists, photographers and columnists alike. A real who’s who of Irish cricket and their help has been an essential ingredient in our success.

It’s always been a challenge to if not exactly stay ahead of the game, at least keep up with it. I had my Alan Hansen “you’ll win nothing with kids” moment when back in 2008 I ridiculed the idea by John that people would start to follow games and the site on their mobile phones – luckily he ignored me and designed the site to be more and more mobile friendly with each passing year.

We are currently involved in a number of historical projects including series on countries, a statszone for the 38 years of the Irish Senior Cup (over 1,200 scorecards), Irish umpires’ biographies, Grounds of Ireland, and tournament reviews, of which there are 300.

During lockdown earlier this year I found myself, like I guess most of the planet, doing a lot of soul searching, but the one question that was on my mind more than any other, “Are we still relevant?”

The season just past answered it for me. We have always had a loyal audience and not only did we maintain our following but increased it no matter what metrics we use. There’s no need for us to inflate or be economical with statistics as we only answer to ourselves. So a considerable rise in traffic offered us reassurance we were on the right path.

It’s very satisfying to know that people still come to us as the first port of call to find out about Irish cricket at all levels. We are no doubt helped by the fact we are seen as a one-stop shop, covering domestic, interprovincial and international cricket.

We have an impressive ‘back catalogue’ of material, but I still believe our ball-by-ball coverage is second to none. When I look at what we are able to produce given limited resources and even more limited support, it’s nothing short of remarkable. While the age profile of the line-up makes it unlikely we will be here in another 20 years, we’re still motivated and keen enough to keep on rocking for another ten at least!

Changing of the Guard

The Ireland contracts were issued this week, and it was a case of mixed emotions for me as there was certainly as John Pryor put it on Twitter, “a changing of the guard” feel to it, or more accurately ‘A Change of Pace’. In come David Delany, Josh Little, Curtis Campher and Peter Chase returns, while out the revolving door go Boyd Rankin, Stuart Thompson and Tyrone Kane. Not quite out the door, but not quite in the room are George Dockrell and Shane Getkate who are on retainers, which while better than nothing, mean the duo will have to secure employment of some sort.

While Thompson and Kane have youth on their side to bounce back, it’s not going to be so easy for Big Boyd who at 36 is about 100 in fast bowling terms. It’s a pretty cut throat business and I’ve no problem with players getting as much money where they can get it. You do feel sorry for Boyd and it all has the feelings of Boxer in Animal Farm being taken to the glue factory. The one saving grace for Boyd is that he has been shrewd over the years investing in ‘bricks and mortar’ so he has something to fall back on.

I may be sentimental but isn’t there a vacancy for a bowling coach at the minute? Wouldn’t it be great to give it to one of our own for a change? After all the last recruitment process didn’t exactly go to plan with the choice joining the likes of previous coaching appointees Toby Radford and Chris Adams in not staying around.

All animals are equal but some are more equal than others

Continuing the Orwellian Animal Farm theme it may be worth pointing out that the 18 full-time contracts awarded on Friday are not of equal value. Similar to pay at I guess all professional teams/clubs they vary quite considerably in value.

At the lower end of the scale the contracts are believed to be worth in the region of €20,000 rising to €70-75 000 for the very top echelon players. Players earn match fees and bonuses too, so the basic contracts can be topped up considerably if they become regulars in the side.

Gentleman Jim

There have been some excellent appointments in recent times and this week saw another with the news that Jim Bennett from The Hills has been confirmed as Cricket Leinster President elect.

Jim’s work is legendary, especially in youth cricket, and his wise counsel to various youth coaches and managers to “get teams to the airport as quickly as possible at the end of tournaments” is advice to be heeded by all – not there are many youth tournaments these days.

I could write a book at the various shenanigans over the years, but one of my favourites is a former colleague, who, while managing a youth team, sat down to have an end of day beer exclaiming “That’s great, the boys are all safely in their rooms and sleeping.” However, 30 minutes later, he was urgently summoned by the hotel manager over the tannoy, where he met two policemen who informed him that half of the team were in hospital and the other half in jail having been involved in a ‘frank exchange of views’ with a local gang of hoodlums….

Who’d be a coach, or indeed a manager of a youth team abroad!!