A couple of weeks ago I attended the AGM of the Irish Cricket Union at the usual venue. Despite Ireland's disastrous results of last season, there was a very good attendance. However the reports given from the top table could be said to betray a certain degree of smugness. An outsider at the meeting would not have grasped a sense of the present crisis in the game in Ireland.
We have been relegated to Division 2 of the table of non-test-playing nations. If we do not win the proposed tournament for these countries - and they include Denmark, USA and United Arab Emirates - we will not even qualify for the next ICC Trophy, never mind the World Cup. Suffice it to say that all three of the above beat us in Toronto. What remedies have the ICU come up with? A new interprovincial championship and the possibility of an All-Ireland League.
The proposal for the interpros is for three sides - Northern, North West and South - to play each other home and away, once as 1-dayers and once as 2-dayers. This only pays lip service to the longer version of the game and there are too few teams. It seems to me that the best interprovincial championship there has been in Irish cricket was the old Guinness Cup with 2 teams from the NCU, 2 from Leinster plus the North West and Munster. It even engendered a fair degree of team spirit. Nowadays one could even look at dividing the North West into Derry and Tyrone and introducing an Irish Under 19 side.
As for the All-Ireland League, I can see difficulties in getting this up and running unless there is something to help the clubs who are not included. They have the majority and may vote against it, as the standard of their cricket will be reduced. In rugby the AIL was a good idea to begin with but its importance has been subsumed by the interprovincial "clubs".
At the AGM no mention was even made of the fact that Scotland has been accepted into the English National Sunday League. We have not even applied! The reason seems to be that the Irish "powers that be" do not think we are good enough. Perhaps at the moment we are not, but if we persist with this attitude then we never will be. Irish cricket needs something to aim towards and surely there ought to be an attainable target. If we don't aim to go forward then we shall definitely go back.
One positive step forward did emerge from the AGM - Leinster's three new representatives to the ICU Executive achieved 2 distinct steps forward. John Pryor, Jim Kenny and Matt Dwyer reduced the age profile considerably and also put two more cricketers on that basically non-cricketing body.
I could not end this column without paying tribute to the late Ronnie Lawlor. While never the greatest cricketer in the world (he was an excellent rugby player for Limerick Bohemians) he brought calmness and common sense in abundance to the selectorial table. He travelled many thousands of miles on behalf of Munster and the Irish Cricket Union and was always good company and a source of wise counsel to those around him. He will be badly missed and I only hope that he will not be the last Irish Chairman of Selectors, or even the last Munster selector.