Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
AN appeal has gone out from Downpatrick Cricket Club for new players to help save the famous club.
The Strangford Road side have a proud history, winning the forerunner of the Premier League title six times between 1968 and 1994, the Challenge Cup four times in the same four decades as well as the Irish Cup in 1985 and 1991.
But since they were relegated from the top flight in 2010, they have spent life in Section One with two second place finishes – when only the champions were promoted – now a distant memory.
In 2019, the last full season of 50-over cricket, they finished a lowly eighth and although they won five of their nine T20 Trophy games this year, it has been a struggle for some time getting out a team worthy of the club’s name.
Chairman Paul Linehan, who played in the 1985 Irish Cup win alongside his dad, Hugh and uncle Alfie, the legendary former Ireland captain, was all set to tell the NCU that they could field only one team next year and that would have to be in Section Three, the lowest senior league.
(Paul Linehan playing for Downpatrick)
However, in a last ditch bid to keep the club alive he is urging any players who would like to bat in the top four of a Section One side or bowl 10 overs, to get in touch with him.
“We have already lost two key players in Ross and Craig Boultwood, who have signed for Cregagh, but we are in our most financially secure position for 20 years, so if we can strengthen the playing staff we can afford to bring in a professional next year and I believe there is chance of winning Section One,” said Paul.
“The opportunity is here for players who are struggling to get into a Premier League 1st XI, or Junior League One players who want to revive their careers and it is not a bad place to play cricket,” he adds modestly of the former international venue which was the home of the NCU Challenge Cup final for 24 years from 1976.
Any interested player who wants a new challenge should get in touch with Paul in the next few weeks because fixtures for the new season will start to take shape after the NCU AGM on December 2.
Proposals for changes next year and the restructuring of the leagues for the 2022 season were all confirmed at Tuesday night’s board meeting and will be sent out to the clubs next week.
With this year’s AGM taking place by Zoom, there will be no voting on the night but rather the clubs will submit their votes on each serial before the meeting and the results will be read out on the night.
Meanwhile Civil Service North have signed New Zealand Under-19 international Luke Georgeson to help fill the gap left by the exodus of Graeme McCarter to Carrickfergus.
Georgeson, an Irish passport holder, opened the batting on his List A debut for the Wellington Firebirds this year and played for the Black Caps at the 2018 U19 World Cup in New Zealand, when he took five wickets, opening the bowling, including three against England.
Georgeson follows in a long line of New Zealanders at Stormont and joins compatriots Marc Ellison and Corin Goodall.