Driving down the Ormeau Road on the way to a rugby game in Belfast recently, I tried to work out where the old NICC ground stood. I couldn't work it out, but then I was only there a couple of times. Turns out I was looking in the wrong place.

In my defence, it had been a long time since I had been there. A scorecard tells me I played an under 19 interpro there (no recollection at all) and I did 12th man there once (all too clear a recollection).  

It was a fine ground with a big playing area and even a stand behind the bowler's arm, which the rugby club may well have claimed as theirs. With a fine pavilion added to the mix, I liked the ground. Sadly no longer.

Across the road from the rugby game that had brought me to the city, you find the ground of Cregagh Cricket Club, a neat small ground, scene of John Glass' winning six sixes in the final over of a T20 final, a club I had not visited before, A small intimate ground, it struck a chord. I suppose I just like cricket grounds. 

It is the time of the year where we think of cricket grounds as spring gives nature a little boost and cricket grounds begin once again to look like, well, cricket grounds. 

Seeing or indeed just thinking about these grounds that I had once played on, got me thinking about some of my favourites. 

It is only right and proper that our home club should be our favourite and I am no exception to that rule. Being raised in Castle Avenue was a rare privilege and one for which I am forever grateful. But this is about grounds further afield. 

We all have our favourites. I cannot claim to have been to every ground in the country, far from it, but I have seen a few. In the NCU, the other ground I always enjoyed visiting was the home of Downpatrick Cricket Club. A truly wonderful setting, with a high class wicket. It's the sort of ground where in my memory the sun always shone.

I doubt that it did, but that's how memory works when you are thinking happy thoughts. Of course maybe the great Alfie Linehan sorted out the weather in Downpatrick as well. 

In a previous article I professed my admiration for the old Strabane ground and I am not going to change that view now. A ground full of character and indeed characters, a great place to play.

Similarly i have always loved Sion Mills, steeped as it is in Irish cricket history. But it wasn't just that. The long narrow lane off the main road, past the factory (well what used to be a factory) and a little oasis opened up in front. Got some fearful thumpings in that ground but it hasn't changed my view. Even now all these years later, I try to persuade the driver as we pass through the village to turn down for a look. Doesn't always work, unfortunately.

Donemana is one ground I have never been to, either as a player or spectator, it's some that needs to be rectified. 

Back in Leinster, my home ground dominates the thoughts. But looking outside of that, I always had a thing for the old Leinster CC ground.

Ok it's still the same ground but the ground that I love is the one with the old pavilion. Moving the pav to the far side of the ground just never worked for me. The surface is still the same, good wickets, fast outfield, same surrounds but the change of perspective changed everything for me, sorry. The old pavilion had its critics by the time the change came, changing rooms were too small etc but it was a great place, it smelt of cricket history.

Ger Siggins most recent book "Rugby Rookie" informs us that it was the site of Ireland's first international home rugby match, yes you read that correctly. A home of tennis, bowling, hockey (when it was played on grass) as well as cricket, it is quite a sporting oasis.

Lots of grounds have changed. In my cricketing time, I played on four Malahide grounds, three on the same site as the main ground,the other being the nearby Lady's Acre. I suppose the middle version is the one that I know best.

It was a good place to play, wicket a bit too low to get full marks but it was the place where end of season finals took place and we did well in them so many happy memories are bound up there. 

Further afield, Lords ground, probably like 99% of the cricket world is top of the list. I saw my first test match there, England v New Zealand 1978. Back then I used to visit my sister every year and a trip to Lords was part of my holiday.

It was possible to walk into the ground and have a wander about without anyone saying a word to you. If you were lucky there might be a game on the nursery ground where Cross Arrows CC played. While the pavilion was out of bounds, it was great to amble around at your leisure and soak up the atmosphere of the place.

Citing Lords as a favourite is a bit of a cheat though and today we are looking beyond the obvious.  Instead my favourite ground in England is one I visited for the first time in 1982 while on a Clontarf tour of Worcestershire area.

Saturday was our final day but with a later boat (no one flew then) we went to the County Ground in Worcester. Immediately, I was smitten. A stunning setting overlooked by the cathedral, relatively small and compact but with character in the various pavilions, I loved it.

The home team were playing Surrey who included David Smith in their number, a player who was great with a load of young cricketers who went looking for a chat during rain when Surrey had come to Castle Avenue in 1979. That Saturday morning in 82 he was motoring to 160 while Roger Knight was also enroute to three figures. In the blazing sunshine it was a perfect morning. 

I have been fortunate in my life to have played and watched cricket in a decent number of countries. Certainly, a near full house in the colosseum that is the Melbourne Cricket Ground is a strong memory but my two favourite grounds outside of these islands are a little more on the humble side.

May 1993 saw me on a tour but this time it was a rugby tour. My club, Old Wesley were celebrating their centenary and a tour to Canada was the final piece of the season.  We visited Calgary, Vancouver and Vancouver Island, one of the best sports trips I have been lucky enough to be involved in.

Our second game was in Vancouver (what a city, if you ever get the chance to go there, do) against UBC Old Boys and the game was to take place in the iconic, Stanley Park, a headland that juts into the inlet around which the city is built.  In advance of the game we trained in the park and as the session came to a close with the usual game of tip, our Coach, Ciaran Callan,

Leinster CC members will remember Cally as a player there, disappeared for a wander. 
When he returned, he was delighted with himself. “Lads, I’ve organised a cricket match”.  He explained that just behind the rugby ground that we were playing on was a cricket field and after a quick conversation with some people hanging around there, he had persuaded them to take us on in a 20 over game.

Even better, they would provide a Barbeque.  There were a few in the party who played or had played.  Included in this number was Chris Pim had played for Munster underage and a few of the supporters were regular players for the Old Wesley based Rance Ramblers Taverners side.  It was something to look forward to on an otherwise blank evening and the BBQ was a definite bonus as we would not have sort out food (and it was free!).  No downsides then.  

The game was a bit of a damp squib when we did get around to play, we were out of season, out of touch and outclassed.  The main reason for this was a member of the opposition by the name, Richard Petrie.

Richard Petrie was not just a New Zealand First Class cricketer but also had 12 New Zealand ODI caps.  According to Cricinfo, he was capable of “extracting disconcerting lift”.  Not just that but he attempted on a number of occasions to launch the ball into Harbour and may well have succeeded on quite a few of those efforts.  

And that is the point of this story, for the cricket ground is sited in a stunning location, Harbourside, with views overlooking the city, including Canada Place, the Cruise liner dock which is built to look like a cruise ship.  It is the estate agent's dream location.  While the cricket was not great the BBQ was as spectacular as the setting, whole salmon on the flames, Heaven.

Even further afield is my next stop.  On a family visit we had 15 hours in Wellington, New Zealand, that's all, just a stop enroute to the South Island.   However, there was enough time to make a visit to The Basin Reserve.  

Richie Currie, father of three talented young men but a fine sportsman in his own right, describes the Basin Reserve as the biggest roundabout in the world.  In a sense he is right but as a player who counted the Hagley Oval as his home patch, he may have been showing a slight bias.

What a ground, it was evening and the ground was open, indeed it seemed to be a right of way for locals to make their way home.   Lush grass surrounded by a hotch potch stands of varying ages and styles, one of which houses a Cricket Museum, grass banks where sits the William Wakefield Memorial, seemingly out of place but very much part of the scene.  

It is a ground where it took all of my self restraint to stop myself from hopping over the advertising hoardings and having a hit. Well self restraint and a lack of bat and ball. If I was to have the chance to play in only one new ground before I parted this world, the Basin Reserve would be the one.

The eagle eyed may have noticed that I have omitted the south of our island so far. Hang in there. 

Osyter Oval is, I understand, a fantastic location in Kerry and home to the County Kerry cricket club. Judging from photos and word of mouth, if I had ever been at it, it would make my list, but I haven't, yet. 

Instead we head back to Cork City and the home of cricket in the southern half of Ireland. To the only cricket ground in Munster in which I have played, which seems amazing.

We are not counting Youghal beach today. Of course, I mean the Mardyke, the ground of Cork County. Simply, my favourite cricket ground outside of Dublin 3.

Bias on the table, my uncle, Edwin to his family, Eddie to the cricket community was a long standing member, but family connections have no place in this discussion.

The place stands on top, purely on its own merits. From the moment you walk through the gates, it is the perfect location. Since my first game there, probably mid-70s, the ground has steadily improved in quality but it was always good.  

But it is not just the ground we are judging, it is the whole package. A wonderful classic pavilion (I think I like old style pavilions to be honest) with history hanging on the walls. A team photograph including WG Grace is authentic, he played there after all.  

There have been good days and less good days but there is always something in the Mardyke to lift the spirit.  The people of course are key to that feeling, it's a convivial atmosphere.   

So there you have it, my favourite ground, the Mardyke, I expect that it always will be but I am open to see better, on any summer’s day.