I suppose it was inevitable that 2020 would end with another series/tour cancelled, and thus it was with the news that Ireland wouldn’t be touring the UAE pre-Christmas. Yet another huge effort behind the scenes gone to waste as the logistics and will in the midst of covid-19 just became too complicated.
There is some good news with the January series against Afghanistan will go ahead in Abu Dhabi, which will now be preceded by matches against the United Arab Emirates at the same venue.
It’s been a tough year for all concerned, so let us hope that 2021 brings better tidings, but given what’s currently unfolding in South Africa with their postponements against England, it doesn’t augur well for home games in Ireland this summer. Hopefully I’m wrong and the vaccine proves reliable and the virus eventually disappears. I wouldn’t be too sure, and we may have to prepare ourselves for a severely affected year ahead.
Open for Business
There was grounds for optimism with signs that Cricket Ireland are emerging from hibernation with two jobs being advertised last week for an Operations and Coach Education Managers. That followed the appointment of Stuart Barnes as Ireland lifted their freeze on recruitment, which suggests that they are confident of their current financial position.
They have been very successful in getting various grants in recent times, with the contributions of the Southern Ireland government in particular being very generous. Hopefully the coffers will continue to swell with government assistance, making up for the downturn in direct sponsorship as a result of company belt tightening in the midst of the pandemic.
The potential lack of crowds isn’t a big deal for Ireland, who have endured this for decades save for high profile marquee games against the big three. If there are government or ICC assistance to compensate for no fans then it could be a welcome windfall.
Going back to the jobs advertised, the outgoing Operations Director was Ollie Hodges who left earlier this year, having been in the post a few months after stepping into the post vacated by Simon Dyke. I met him last year briefly and he seemed a friendly enough character, coming from a rugby background and based in the Limerick area.
I didn’t know who the Coach Education Manager was, but was told he was a man by the name of Brett Reid from New Zealand. Apparently he had been in the role for a few years, but our paths had never crossed and I hadn’t seen him at any matches. I’m guessing he preferred a low profile!
With his arrival and departure being under the radar, I was reminded of the remark by the American satirist Dorothy L Parker when informed that famously taciturn former president Calvin Coolidge had died, remarked, "How could they tell?"
Santa’s shopping list
I was asking around last week why the North West based Irish internationals were travelling to Belfast for coaching sessions rather than Bready. It seems that the North West are lagging behind the other two main Unions both in terms of available equipment and coaching resources.
I’m aware that the region and my native Derry are sometimes accused of being professional whingers and moaners. Has anyone considered it’s often because we have got something genuine to moan about?
Maybe for Christmas, Santa will bring a up-to-date bowling machine that works, plus a few coaching hours. We accept that Cricket Ireland is primarily a Dublin-centric organisation, but it would be good to spread the love a little bit.
While looking through Edward Liddle’s biographies of the Irish men’s internationals, it became quite noticeable of the family connections running through the generations.
Is there any sport quite like cricket for this? I don’t think so. It must be unique in that it can see father and sons playing on the same team at club level.
On that theme I noticed that it’s quite possible that Kevin O’Brien will reach the landmark of 400 caps this year if most of the proposed fixtures get the go-ahead. That is quite an incredible feat, a testament to his talent and longevity.
I remember his debut, Sunday June 11th 2006 against Sussex at Clontarf. Not really for cricketing reasons but for the fact that my car engine blew up on the way back to Derry and I was forced to abandon it on the motorway exit road to Ardee. I got a lift into the town with a Lithuanian lorry driver and went in search of the gardai station.
I duly found it closed with a note on the door to ring a certain number in case of emergency. I went to Muldoons pub where I rang them, finding probably naturally enough they weren’t too interested. Sensing their lack of interest, I asked again for the sergeant’s name which he gave. “No problem sergeant xxx, it’s starting to get dark now, I just want to be able to give your name when someone runs into the back of my car and causes a pile up, that I had rang informing you, but you didn’t want to know..”
A tow-truck arrived shortly afterwards…