Claremont Road just isn’t what it used to be. The first hint is the large banner that hits you as soon as you enter the car park – draped over the pavilion wall is a banner bearing the name, and black, red and gold colours of Lansdowne Football Club, the new owners of the ground where YMCA has been playing cricket since 1890.

And all indications are that YM will play senior cricket for the last time there on Saturday, a league encounter with Malahide. It could be an epic farewell as they have a chance of winning the IBI Corporate Finance Leinster Premier League should Leinster slip up down the road in Railway Union. It would be only YMCA’s seventh title since attaining senior status 89 years ago.

They’ve a handy little side these days, backboned by the three Tector boys and the likes of Mikey O’Reilly and Henry Thompson brought through the club’s enviable youth section masterminded by coach par excellence Kamal Merchant. They have Curtis Campher too, the latest of an overseas contingent enticed to Sandymount, and three young superstars-in-waiting in Reuben Wilson, Olly Riley and Adam Rosslee, now under the guidance of Graham Ford.

Last Saturday they out-bowled and out-batted a strong Clontarf side, with a large crowd watching on a scorching afternoon. We were there to eke out what remains of a glorious Indian summer, and to eke out what remains of a proud cricket tradition in Dublin 4.

It was a visit that brought back many memories: of arriving into a ground where a Victorian relic tennis pavilion and grass courts welcomed you on the right of where the car park is now, and a grass hockey pitch lay where the apartment blocks now stand. The new pavilion stands on the site of a rackety old wooden clubhouse, an atmospheric structure covered with team photos going back decades and acting as shrines to those great names that helped the club to become one of the finest in the country for a time. There hung black and white images of legends such as Ian Lewis, head of three generations who played for Ireland, Derry Gill, Chelsea Colter, Pat Hade, John Norris and Fred Brady.

Over the years the ground has evolved and enviable facilities installed, with excellent nets, covers, scoreboard and the other paraphernalia of a well-run ground. The club dedicated each of the ends to the memory of fallen comrades, to Wes Earl and Cecil Medcalf, and it is sad that those tributes will fall into disuse.

The perennial bridesmaid club burst into the front rank in the mid-1980s on the back of a golden generation led by Alan Lewis, Jonathan Garth, Keith Bailey, Mark Nulty, Stewart Taylor and Angus Dunlop who all played for Ireland, as well as Eamon Masterson, Trevor Freeman and Colin Haine. With the experienced Clive Davis, Ian Burns, Stan McCready and John Ridgeway they were a formidable unit. That side won three leagues and seven cups, but the Irish Senior Cup strangely   escaped their reach.

The club had its ups and downs but the arrival of a slew of overseas stars such as Albert van der Merwe, Reinhardt Strydom, Jeremy Bray, Trent Johnston and Simi Singh revived fortunes and the league was won in 2014 after a 21-year gap.

The club were early adopters of a women’s section – called Claremont at first – with players such as Sandra Dawson, Caroline Watson, Aideen Rice and Saibh Young. The arrival of a superstar in Miriam Grealey helped YMCA halt Clontarf’s bid for nine-in-a-row in 1998 and they soon took over the mantle of the best in Leinster with six leagues and seven cups in the next decade. A new golden era began a decade ago with the arrival of Clare Shillington and the Lewis sisters, Robyn and Gaby, winning the league 2015-17.

The loss of Claremont Road - if that is what transpires - will be felt sharply in women’s cricket, where the club had played host to many international and representative games as well as many more training sessions.

A lap of the ground brings back memories of watching some memorable games – Ed Joyce single-handedly winning a tense league encounter for Trinity with his maiden century for the club; Trent Johnston smashing a pane in one of the new apartments with a match-winning six; Clare Shillington and Kim Garth leading Ireland to victory over South Africa; Clontarf triumphing in a tetchy cup final over Pembroke. But more than that, it was always a friendly ground where you would be sure of a warm welcome and good company.

A strained relationship with the parent YMCA body saw the ground closed in 2021, and eventually sold earlier this year for a sum in the region of six million euro to Lansdowne. There had been hopes that the new owners – who fielded their own cricket team 130 years ago – might allow YMCA to remain, but they seem to have faded. Last weekend some members voiced frustration at the situation, and the lack of information coming from their own committee. Already some youth players have drifted away to local clubs who will be keenly eyeing the opportunity to recruit some talent.

Club officials tried to remain upbeat last Saturday, but the signs are there. The once carefully tended ground is fraying, with the cushioned wall at the Cecil Medcalf End falling apart. Lansdowne have already ripped up the all-weather pitch. Online, surfers are greeted with an ominous message reading ‘The Y.M.C.A. Cricket Club website subscription has expired’.

Whether that applies to the club as a whole remains to be seen.