It was just as well we had planned a trip to Dublin last Sunday for England couldn't prolong the Test to the 4th day, Tiger Woods lead in the US Golf had killed that entertainment, and soccer matches are two a penny just now. Nonetheless, the fare served up in College Park when Trinity faced Pembroke in the 1st round of the Leinster Senior Cup was absorbing. Throw in a baking hot day (even our most inveterate sunbather eventually opted for the shade of the trees!) and the ground looking magnificent, and most seemed right with the world.
The Leinster Cricket Union, God bless their socks, have not fallen for the "everything must be 50 overs, 10 a bowler, painting by numbers" dictum. In their Senior League bowlers may bowl 15 overs, honing their art and searching the techniques of more of the batsmen. The Senior Cup has remained a 60 over, 12 per bowler, competition since 1972, when this format replaced the "timeless" Cup match. Indeed, if my memory serves me right, that season Trinity played, yes, Pembroke, in the first round and also at The College Park and lost by 3 wickets!. Thus was to turn out to be the victory margin again, although with the tables turned.
By the time I had got the car parked, no mean achievement itself in the light of the building of the 'new' New Library and its attendant screens. Pembroke's pro, I was assured, was already out. Had I not ascertained this confusion might have reigned for there seemed to be a large number of 'accents' in their side which were not of the Sandymount variety! Strange that the LCU Development Officer should play for a side wherein three or four are not qualified to represent Ireland! Trinity too had cosmopolitan tinges and fraternal alliances though the absence of their Harrovian bowler, who is only known to my ears as 'Jake the Snake' (his real name is J M G S Warman and he was considered good enough to earn Irish Universities selection) was a disappointment. Perhaps I expected him to be a latter-day P J McSwiney!
With the luxury of those extra overs at their disposal Bríain O'Rourke and Peter Davy played with patience and composure, though they did slow a bit after quite a quick-fire start. The Hoeys put the brakes on, with 2 wickets for Fergal, and Conor showing with his probing leg-spin that Irish cricket has not best utilised its assets in recent years. Paternal pride was taken in the spell of Harte (J) who, either side of the luncheon interval, made sure that Pembroke slumped from 109 for one to 127 for five. There was still enough time left for the tail to stretch the target almost to 200, and, since there was evidence of the surface breaking somewhat, this was formidable.
Trinity, too, began with a brief flourish from Lee and Dom Joyce but it was a patient controlled stand between Carl Hosford and the Middlesex bound Ed Joyce that kept them in it. Emmet Whaley, O'Rourke, Hastie, and Malin (son of that excellent cricket viewing companion Frank, I do believe) all bowled searchingly but they could not dislodge Joyce; every time the asking rate threatened to rise too high he would press on with straight or on drives. Ian Synnott batted for some time with a runner, Conor Hoey briefly helped the momentum, but it was eventually the support of Trinity's Australian medic Toby Cohen that was crucial.
At the 'death'" the other side of the longer game proved vital. Whether it was the tension of a close finish, the heat, or just the length of time in the field, the visitors dropped both batsmen during the last 20 runs. By the time Cohen picked out deep square leg off a full toss the game was all but lost, but the spilling of Joyce at mid-wicket with 20 still required was a bit of a howler. If Joyce is away to Middlesex for the rest of the summer his colleagues will find it hard to go all the way in either the Senior Cup or the 50 over League (in which the University has reached the semi-final). However, for this spectator, his and their efforts last Sunday were memorable, the setting full of nostalgia, and the merits of having a set of Cup rules which make for a special game, rather than just another humdrum 50 over bash, incontrovertible.
If you get the chance to go to College Park for a match watch out for Gerard Siggins and his growing family who will sell you. for merely one punt. an extensive and interesting Match Programme. Coming just a week after experiencing the tannoy announcements at The Lawn I have to commend both venues for their simple but effective efforts to inform better whatever spectators they attract.