Barry Chambers (CricketEurope)
The recent Strategic Plan from the governing body had as its headline ĎCreating a Cricket Islandí.
At Eglinton yesterday as the North West took on Munster, the island created was Iceland. It was Baltic. The sort of day where the wind gets into your very bone marrow.
I got to the ground early and ice on the run-ups (pictured right) gave an early indication of what was in store for yours truly.
With Covid and Players' & Match Officials' Areas (PMOA) regulations the car park was taken up by tents and the pavilion area was out of bounds too. That meant I could only really shoot from one end where the wind was at its most bitter.
We had set up base camp in the old scorehut which meant I did a lot of walking as I transferred pics to my able deputy Ian Johnston for editing.
Some things never change. Ian Callender had internet problems at the start, produced bags of food that would have fed spectators (if any had been allowed inside), and munched his way through the next ten hours. He had obviously gained a few extra pounds in lockdown as he fell through the chair, producing much needed laughter on a stressful day.
The demand for instant information these days produces pressure. Iím as guilty as any. I often have two or three sites open to see who is a ball ahead. We thought with Heatley and co doing the live streams our visitors would drop, but theyíve gone up. We have just had our best April in the 21 years Iíve been involved and May has started with a surge too.
That lifts the spirits.
I certainly needed it last night as I drove home questioning my sanity. Tired, cold, hungry and thoroughly miserable. My body ached. I felt my age for the first time.
Cue Royle Family Judith Chalmers joke.
ďJudith Chalmers is looking her age Jim.Ē
ďHow old is she Barbara?Ē.
Whatís the point? Why do I do it? Not money for sure. Iíve turned down lucrative offers from various organisations and sports over the years. Itís an easy answer. I love it. I love the guys I work with. Their incredible passion, knowledge and energy despite being past retirement age. It drives me on. Iím like a kid on Christmas Eve this past week with the new season starting.
On spectators it was funny to see the hardy few peering from lorries and the fence on the road outside yesterday. Itís madness that a number of spectators arenít allowed into cricket grounds.
Maybe it will be a new marketing ploy once Covid is over and normality returns? Sorry, no spectators allowed. Have you ever told an Irishman, especially a Northern Irishman they canít do something?
In the mid 80ís when I started to drink the pubs in Northern Ireland were closed on a Sunday. You could get a drink in hotels but had to buy a meal. I played Sunday morning football and after we would go hunting beers. The Inn at the Cross had a menu the cheapest thing on which was ďSausage RoyaleĒ better known as sausage, beans and chips, the staple diet of cricket teams in this part of the world. It costs £1.30 and a typical order for the waitress would be 11 Sausage Royales and 22 pints of Harp or whatever. A pint was 80p.
I loved to drink on a Sunday, because you werenít allowed to. It became a sort of Treasure Hunt and I had some memorable days and nights, often ending across the border in Donegal, where the pubs were open and the discos too Ė where they also gave you sausage and chips. They werenít royale though Ė no beans. Maybe sausage republica?
Anyway, in the early 90s the ban was lifted and allowed patrons to drink on a Sunday, so I promptly lost interest, preferring Fridays and Saturdays!
There was a similar theme going on with the media yesterday. A request for post-match interviews were declined. Derry is a soccer town but thanks to the efforts of guys like Lawrence Moore, Kevin and Eamon McLaughlin, Dessie, Eric, Richie and myself at Radio Foyle, cricket coverage punches above its weight.
With the competition having no sponsor it was an own goal to refuse the small band of dedicated media who were there. Hopefully it gets sorted. Thankfully Gary sent us some clips that we were able to use without talking to us, but it would have been nice to hear from Ted about Munster and Pete Johnston about Ireland Wolves next week.
Maybe it is a new ploy, to get more media interested in covering the game? A sort of Father Ted and Dougal effort looking to ban something which then ends up having the opposite effect? It could catch on you know..
Anyway, back to the actual cricket and my tuppence worth.
There were a lot of South African accents and two in particular stood out for me.
Graham Hume could be the next Tim Murtagh. I knew he was a good bowler by virtue of his 300 plus first-class wickets but I saw yesterday at close quarters just how he performed. A shrewd canny master of his craft.
I hadnít seen Murray Commins before but after a few balls you just knew this guy oozed class. On a day where there were some great innings, his was the stand-out for me.
"Do not go gentle into that good night" wrote Dylan Thomas.
I confess to starting to pen a few obituaries for the Warriors. But William Porterfield showed glimpses that I may have been a bit hasty.
William Porterfield looked fluent
He looked hungry again and played some cracking shots. It also gladdened my heart to see him chatting all things cricket to Conor Olphert as they manned the sightscreens at the far end.
That to me epitomises Irish cricket. As did Gary Wilson helping the ground staff. Everyone helping, chipping in. making things better. The way it used to be. Things may have changed and moved on, but not necessarily for the better.
A word for the ground staff. While I moaned about the conditions for the media, at least I could shelter from the hail when it came. They were on and off like the hokey-cokey at the start. They had been at the ground since 7.30am and they too were cold, tired and hungry. And they certainly donít do it for the money. Their pride in their club and ground is evident and itís always great to catch up with John, Ken, Robbie, Robin and co.
The aerial shots of the ground show it off in all its glory. We are blessed in Ireland to have some of the most beautiful grounds in world cricket, and Iíve been around the block a few times. They have stunning views, character, and great people. Itís a potent brew.
Iím spoiled for choice tomorrow as I contemplate which will be my game of the day. I try and get to all grounds in the region at least once every year. Itís a toss up between Bonds Glen and Newbuildings. They will be glad to see me. Itís good to feel wanted and appreciated.
Who knows, it may even catch on? Down with this sort of thing....