It's been an incredible few years for Balbriggan securing back-to-back league titles, but the Fingal club isn't resting on their laurels with plans for expansion to build on their success.

The Balbriggan success story has been quite remarkable. Who had the vision, and who are the driving forces?

Itís been a brilliant couple of years on the field , but not just for the 1st Team , this year our 2nds captained by Abdul Samad and Chuka Ubaís 3rds were also promoted. After 12 months of planning , we launched Womenís Cricket who had an excellent season finishing 4th and had some big wins in the 50 over competition. On the youth side we launched 3 Girls League teams in 2022 and our Junior Boys won the Leinster Junior League and Cup double last year so lots of positives across all the playing teams over the last couple of years.

The driving force behind our club is a phenomenally driven and hardworking core of Committee people who work 12 months of the year , every year to push the club on.

The club had some lean years in the late 90ís and early 2000ís , and without the commitment and determination of People like Albert Harper , Brian Harper , Tommy Geraghty , Alan Richardson, Derek Rooney and others , we certainly wouldnít have the club we have now.

Over the past 10 years , those stalwarts have got more help and this has made a big difference. Myself , Gary Dunphy , Adrian Harper , Paddy Martin , Duane Harper , Craig Knight , Barry Nelis , Niamh OíCarroll , Lavinia McLean and many others have got involved more and grown the committee and helped drive the club on.

We consider our club to be welcoming to all , itís a multicultural club with players and members from all over the world , We have lots of players and members of Asian and African backgrounds in particular and we pride ourselves on being a club where everyone gets along well and are friends on and off the pitch.

In terms of vision , I think around 2007 , a goal was set to reach Senior Cricket as it was always described , which is the Leinster Championship now , that was achieved in 2012 , it probably took 4 or 5 years to acclimatise to that level and we were annual mid table finishers , I think we were 4th 4 years in a row with Duane Harper doing a phenomenal job as skipper , Fez Farrukh as Coach/Pro for 3 of those years and Paddy Martin as Manager, I think in 2019 we had a side capable of going up but came out the wrong side of a few big games , it was Nathan Rooneyís first year as skipper , he did a brilliant job and we finished 3rd behind Clontarf and North County in what was a shortened League season due to the change in structure and introduction of the League Cup.

It was probably that season that solidified for us the need for a Coach who would get the best out of what was a very talented squad and help us push on , of course covid hit and 2020 was a 7 game T20 season where we didnít win a game!

Straight after the 2020 season , we started working on 2 projects which were an Indoor Training Hall and bringing in a Top Coach. We had already had contact with Andre who was looking for a club for Dylan Lues who was coming over here to study. Over the course of a couple of months and after a lot of discussion , Andre came on board for 2021 , I think some people around Cricket in Leinster thought bringing in a coach in the middle of a pandemic was madness considering there was so much that was up in the air in terms of how much cricket would be played in 2021 , but we were thinking long term , we spoke to Andre about how we had grown as a club , the plans for the Indoor , the work that we were putting into the Youths and that we wanted him to be with our club long term and help us build a club that is strong , robust and sustainable on and off the pitch.

Andre has bought into that and the results have been incredible for our Senior Teams , some new players joined over the past 3 years in Andy Darroch, Ghanim Dara, Greg Ford , Chris DeFreitas and Dylan Lues while Kashif Ali returned to the club. This has raised the standard in the squad and the team spirit in the squad is brilliant.

Off field as important as on it. Lot of work gone in?

The work the committee has put in over the past 10-15 years has been absolutely incredible , we never really take a break !!! We knew that we needed to update our ground and practice facilities and equipment , fundraise better and grow the youths , the 3 Fís of Facilities , Fundraising and Future (Youths) were at the core of everything we did and do every day.

We have installed practice nets , increased storage space for the new training equipment , sightscreens , electronic scoreboard , roll on covers, ball stop netting and replaced all our ground machinery and equipment and done it all in the past 10 years funded by a massive fundraising drive and a lot of grants. The people and businesses of the town are very supportive to any sports club and thatís made a huge difference to our fundraising. Fingal County Council have been incredible for us also , they have just completed a massive drainage project on our outfield and have been very supportive in terms of our Indoor Hall Project.

The grounds team of Albert Harper , Brian Harper , Alan Richardson and Barry Nelis put in a massive amount of time and effort to keep the ground in top shape and the standard of the playing area has improved massively over the last decade , itís a completely voluntary effort which we are so grateful for as a club.

We have gone from 2/3 youth teams 10 years ago to now having 10+ youth teams for boys and girls , again itís been a huge effort from great club people during that period like Gary Dunphy , Adrian Harper , Craig Knight , Derek Rooney , Niamh OíCarroll , Lavinia McLean and others.

And more in the pipeline. Exciting plans for indoor hall.

Itís very exciting for the club , our plan is that the preseason indoor sessions ahead of the 2023 season will be our last in North County , there is a lot of work to be done during the next 12 months to meet that goal but we are working hard with various stakeholders to make it happen and raise the remaining funds to ensure the hall is ready to use in terms of financing and the installation of Lights , matting and netting. Itís the largest project ever undertaken by the club , itís been 3 years since we started discussing it and 18 months since we applied for Planning and Grant funding. Then in the space of a week in Feb this year , we received planning permission and a grant approval for Ä148k , that was a good week!

The inspiration for the Indoor hall was the positive impact it would have on our youths and we are confident that our youth section will benefit most from having the use of this hall all year round. It will also be available to local schools which will help spread awareness of our club and bring more kids down to try cricket. The plan is for a 3-lane hall that can be opened up for indoor cricket and practice for kids , it wonít be as impressive as North County in terms of size but we will ensure the experience for those using it is top class with quality lighting , netting and matting.

How does the club plan to build on the success?

Keep working hard !!! the success of the past couple of years has been brilliant , but we are very aware that we are not yet where we need to be as a club , we are probably only halfway there to be honest. The indoor hall will be a huge step forward , but we have work to do to further develop the Youth Section and then look to extend the clubhouse and keep pushing on and look to continuously improve every area of the club while putting in place strong structures within the club so that the work the current committee have done can be carried on by the next generation . Getting more people involved in running the club is also key for us , many hands make light work as the saying goes !

The youth section and developing Womenís and Girls cricket are our top priorities for the next 3 years , We are delighted to have appointed Chuka Uba as Youth Development coordinator in addition to his role as Womenís Head Coach and we are confident that he will have a positive impact on the development of our youth section over the next 3-5 years.

Getting to the top one challenge. Staying there tough especially losing surprise factor?

Itís an incredibly tough and competitive league , there is absolutely no easy games and every team is very strong , personally I think it should be a 10-12 team league but everyone has their own thoughts on that topic !! We have a very young squad which , if they put the work in , will mean they can keep improving as a team and stay up the higher end of the table for the next few years at least , but when you see clubs of the strength of Phoenix and Pembroke get relegated , its sensible to take the same approach as Andre , Greg and the squad did this year , which was to ensure safety and then go from there in terms of league position. I think itís safe to say the element of surprise has been lost !! , but the squad have had a year at this level now and will have gained a lot from it , so hopefully that experience makes up for the loss of the surprise factor in 2023

You must be ecstatic with appointment of Andre. What has he brought to the club?

His impact has been massive , he immediately commanded the respect of the players , his player management skills are superb and he is always clear and honest with players about what he expects in terms of commitment and driving them to improve and perform for the team when it matters most. Obviously heís a brilliant coach , both on a 1-1 basis and in terms of developing a group of players and has raised the bar in terms of what is expected of players and what the players expect of themselves. He has also helped us as a committee , he knows we are still a developing club and has made some excellent suggestions as to developing a strong culture within the club so as to strengthen the connection between Players , Supporters and Parents to our club , which can only be a good thing.

Lot of potential in the area. What's the plans for youth /schools etc?

Balbriggan has a massive catchment area , but there is also plenty of competition for the sporting interests of kids in the town , there is 2 massive soccer clubs , a huge GAA club and a very big Rugby club. We also have 2 top clubs in North County and The Hills who are only down the road. But we are determined to grow our youth section over the next few years and put a structure in place that improves our retention of youth players and keep more of them playing the game into adulthood.

We entered 10 teams last year in youth cricket but some teams didnít get enough games due to circumstances beyond our control (Other teams being pulled out and fixture Congestion) , so we need to ensure we are giving the kids who do come down the best experience possible of cricket so they come back again and again and bring their mates. We plan to expand our schools programme and partner with specific schools near our ground , arrange more blitzes and strengthen the links so that more kids from those schools are Balbriggan players.

As I said, the success of late has been brilliant , but we canít rest on our laurels , we need to keep our feet on the ground and keep Working hard each and every year