Robin Walsh (CricketEurope)
Former Ireland player, manager, selector, and President Roy Torrens has sadly died at the age of 72. In tribute we post an article written by his good friend Robin Walsh in June last year.
The problem with writing about Roy Torrens’ contribution to cricket in Ireland is where to begin.
The chronology sums up the dilemma: senior cricketer when a 15 year old schoolboy; the first of his 30 Ireland caps at the age of 18; national selector/chairman; board member at provincial and national level; Irish President to mark the new millennium; manager of the men’s international team for 11 years and - finally! - currently chairman of his highly successful Brigade club in his native Londonderry.
It may be appropriate then to start with the official recognition of Roy’s remarkable career that has made an indelible mark down six decades.
The venue was Buckingham Palace in 2009 when Prince Charles conferred the OBE on the man known throughout Irish cricket and beyond as Big Roy. It was timely for the then Ireland team manager.
(Roy receives the OBE: Pic Torrens Family)
The team had experienced its first World Cup finals in the West Indies in 2007 and was preparing to embark on another in India in 2011 that was to include an historic win over England.
As manager, few beyond the boundary have made a greater contribution to those golden years.
He had close relationships with captains Trent Johnston and William Porterfield. But even more significant was his intimacy with the two national coaches he served with.
First was Adrian Birrell during the qualification for 2007 and the dizzy heights of the World Cup Super 8 stage.
Then came Phil Simmons with World Cups in India followed by Australia in 2015.
And if that hat trick was not enough for the manager there was another: three T20 World Cups.
(Roy Torrens with Adi Birrell)
Roy’s professional and personal relationship with the two coaches was borne out of mutual respect. They sought his wise counsel on all manner of things, even on occasions match tactics given his deep knowledge and experience of life in the middle.
The coaches also relaxed in the knowledge that the players’ practical needs were being looked after by a man who in business was a well organised hotelier.
Roy was the first full time manager after years of ad hoc, enthusiastic volunteers and was, therefore, able to develop his caring and methodical style of management.
Much was to do with image. It’s why teams travelled in what be called “number ones”: blazers and ties, no t-shirts or jeans. And why in faraway places the team supported many local charities.
(Roy Torrens and Phil Simmons with Brett Lee)
On a personal level Roy was an avuncular figure to the players. He was someone in whom they could confide whatever the problem; someone in whom they had absolute trust.
One of his prized possessions is the team’s farewell present on his retirement as manager after the 2015 World Cup. As a serious supporter of Manchester United, the framed team shirt was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson with the message: “From one long serving manager to another”.
(Roy with his signed shirt from Alex Ferguson)
Another treasured possession is the Paddy Patterson Award for Services to sport which also nodded in the direction of soccer.
After all, he had played for the NI amateur international side, featured in an Irish Cup final for Ballymena United and was player coach for the Institute club. But it was cricket that the Patterson award concentrated on, including the Ireland presidency in 2000 and before that his two year stint as chairman of selectors.
In the latter role he was to forge a formidable partnership with Ireland’s first full time professional coach Mike Hendrick.
The former England Test bowler was deeply frustrated at the amateur nature of those days and in Roy he found his loudest cheerleader in paving a more professional way forward. They remain firm friends to this day.
It’s fitting that Roy’s two cricketing preoccupations nowadays are as Ireland’s biggest supporter and, at grass roots level, as the top official of his lifelong Brigade club.
The former is to be found in “Torrens’ Tours”, his labour of love organising trips to all parts for friends north and south. The last group headed to Barbados and Grenada in January for two ODIs and two T20s. Where and when next is anyone’s guess …
For the past four years Roy has been chairman of Brigade. He and his wife Joan have worked selflessly to improve facilities and increase social activity in the Beechgrove pavilion.
(Roy and Joan Torrens)
And on the field of play last season the club won the North West league and cup double for the first time since 1973. Opening the bowling back then was none other than the current chairman and the captain was elder brother Ross.
The impossible question, of course, is what was the highlight of such an amazing cricketing career? None better to ask than the man himself.
On the field he points to those World Cup wins against Pakistan in Jamaica in 2007 and England in India four years later.
Off the field it’s been the abiding friendship with many of the players he managed.
As he puts it: “When we meet we don’t shake hands. We hug.”
Condolences to his wife Joan, his daughters Andrea, Judith and Joanne and all the family circle. May he Rest In Peace.