State of the Nation Address

Warren Deutrom gave a ‘state of the nation’ address last week in a ten-minute video and it has to be said looked pretty pleased with how things had turned out despite the severe challenges presented by covid.

It may seem strange but one of the consequences of the pandemic is an improved financial position, given that it costs Ireland money to host matches. By removing these international and domestic costs, no player match fees or bonuses, wage cuts plus savings from staff on furlough, allied with generous government grants and assistance, the Irish are back in the black.

No wonder then that the CEO looked in an upbeat mood, given the precarious financial position of previous years. Ireland are not alone in this, with The Netherlands announcing this weekend they had now €1.3million in their reserves due to lack of cricket.

The Irish are due to embark on a month-long tour of the UAE just after Christmas where they will play four matches against the hosts, followed by three games against traditional foes Afghanistan. The good news is that an ICC requirement means those games against the Afghans will be broadcast. The situation of the UAE games is a little more unclear, given that the streaming company currently used by them is based in Dubai, and would have to undergo quarantine if they went to Abu Dhabi.

It may be my Scottish Presbyterian ancestry but I’d be a little concerned that Ireland will assume that the revenue streams from ICC and government will continue at the same level and not be reduced. It’s a very uncertain world out there and it would be prudent to start squirreling a bit away for a rainy day rather than a ‘have money, spend money’ approach. If all goes well with covid, 2021 and 2022 could be a very busy and costly two years for all concerned.

Going back to my ancestors they came over to Ireland in the 1850s, settling in the Banbridge and Comber areas. My great, great grandfather fought in the Boer War, and tried to enlist again in World War One, only to be told he was too old for active duty, but could be a cook.

Suffice it to say he was no Gordon Ramsay, as his discharge letter in 1918 from his commanding officer stated: “Sergeant Chambers’ cooking has probably been responsible for more damage than the Germans managed in four years of trench warfare…”

Following the end of the war, that commanding officer was placed in charge of the Bleachgreen Linen Mill in Ardmore, and gave a job to my relative, who met a local woman while working there. She must have been quite a looker, as he left the Orange Order, converted to Catholicism and married her! The rest they say is history…

Interpro talks

Brexit wasn’t the only big talks being held last week as the Unions got their first glimpse of Cricket Ireland’s proposals for a revamp of the interprovincial series.

Nothing has been made public yet as it’s a ‘working document’ but it’s understood that Graham Ford, Andrew White and the selectors will select a pool of players and the teams selected from that. It’s part of the desire to have a best v best format, and bring life back into a competition that has lost its spark in recent years. Leinster Lightning’s continued domination has seen the gap widen and little indication that it would narrow anytime soon.

The 16-man Ireland squad released for the tour had 11players who play their club cricket in Dublin meaning that Lightning in effect could be the senior Ireland team! Add in Peter Chase and Tyrone Kane who aren’t in the squad then you see their current playing strength. With Alan Lewis putting his money where his mouth is in a sponsorship deal, then you can add in financial strength too.

Will the identity of the provinces remain? You would hope so although it could possibly be the case that there are more players from outside a region than inside.

It’s understood that the response to the document has been lukewarm at best, especially in the NW, but increased financial aid and increased coaching resources to the beleaguered region may soften the deal.

It’s certainly a worrying time for Munster and the NW but hopefully they won’t be isolated in the revamp and will have a genuine role to play in the interprovincial future.

Hell of a player, even better drinker

Former BBC Radio Foyle Sports Reporter Richie Kelly has just published a book on former Northern Ireland international John ‘Jobby’ Crossan who played for amongst others Manchester City, Sunderland and Standard Liege – reaching the semi-finals of the European Cup with the latter.

I helped Richie with the photography for the book and am enjoying the tale of a remarkable footballer from Derry with many highs and lows.

Jobby has a keen interest in cricket, and played in charity matches while in England with many of the greats, including Sir Garfield Sobers and Lance Gibbs.

Lance Gibbs 2007

At the 2007 World Cup in Guyana, Gibbs was being honoured by having a stand named after him and met with the Irish players. He was talking with Kyle McCallan, Andy White and Matt Dwyer when I asked him if he would mind having his photo taken with them.

He swung around when he heard my accent.

“Hey guy, where are you from?” he asked.
“Derry” I replied.
“Do you know John Crossan? Hell of a player, and an even better drinker,” he laughed.

Irish Royal Wedding

Finally congratulations to Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie who announced his engagement at the weekend to Ireland Women international Kate McKenna, who has also played for Dublin GAA. Hopefully the start of a good news cycle after the doom and gloom of 2020.

Andrew Balbirnie and Kate McKenna

In the final column of the year next week, I’ll be looking back at the year that was and handing out a few awards.