National Cup a great initiative

Comparing the structures of cricket in Ireland with that of my homeland, New Zealand, is like comparing the proverbial apples with oranges.

I have played two seasons as an overseas in the North with Saintfield (2010) and Civil Service North of Ireland (2011) and I am now into my third season in the Emerald Isle, playing for Malahide in Division Two of the Leinster Cricket Union.

Club cricket in Ireland is distinctly different to that which we play back home; both in structure and in purpose. The structure here in Ireland, while it has been constantly rejigged and league sizes chopped and changed over the years, is fantastic.

The combination of 50 over and 20 over formats, as well as the numerous cup competitions which run in unison with the local leagues, offers great variation for both local and overseas players.

In Auckland, where I play in New Zealand, we have three separate competitions and all relate to specific formats – two day, one day and twenty20. It's a complicated structure but there are 14 teams in the ‘Premier' competition and – get this – last season there were two teams who we didn't meet once across all three formats.

The system here in Ireland makes far more sense but the major difference is the purpose club cricket serves in both countries. That is a long story and I shall save it for another day.

Reading a few of the Irish cricket forums - The Ulster Cricketer and on the CricketEurope Ireland site - there is often reference to the negatives involved in the costs involved in the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup and the new National Cup which, admittedly, is often a substantial cost for travelling teams.

There's no doubt the almighty pound/euro/dollar dictates what is and what isn't possible, however, in my opinion, the positives by far outweigh the negatives.

On Saturday, I travelled with my team up to Donemana in the North West to take on the recently formed Newbuildings club. We met at Malahide Demesne at 6.45am ahead of the 3-3.5 hour bus trip into ‘The Black North.'

Some might say that such lengthy travel on the day of a game is nothing but a nuisance, but to a ‘foreigner' this is what playing overseas is all about. It's a great chance to spend time with your teammates in a relaxed environment as well as see and experience some pretty different areas of the country.

With all due respect, the word ‘different' certainly applies to County Tyrone and the people of Donemana. I honestly felt as though I had arrived in another country when we hopped off the bus to play at ‘the Holm.' The local support was vocal, they were passionate about their players' performances, be it good or bad, and the accent – well that is something else, sir!

They're great people and it was a wonderful cricketing and life experience to place into the memory bank. The ground itself in Donemana is very unique. I'm sure most of the readers will be well versed in the dimensions of the field and it's distinctive hill in front of the clubhouse. 40 meter boundaries aren't common to where I'm from but they certainly add to the experience of playing in the North West.

North West players play the game with a free and enthusiastic spirit (aligned perfectly to the small boundary sizes and standard pitch conditions) and, full credit to the Newbuildings side, they completely outplayed us in all facets of the game and they deserved their comprehensive 96 run victory!

Without the newly formed ‘National Cup,' I wouldn't have had such a memorable experience. There are always lessons to be learned in our great game and Newbuildings certainly taught us a lesson about desire.

A big thank you to the committee at Malahide Cricket Club for putting on the bus for our players and supporters and all the best to all those teams still competing in the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup and the National Cup for the 2012 season. It is a competition that will hopefully become as entrenched as the BKISC now is in the Irish club cricket calendar.