In 1965 I played my first game for Ireland v MCC at Lords. In 1976 I became captain for the first time and remained so until a serious accident finished my career in 1984/85. During that time (apart from one season's sojourn at Middlesex, I was reasonably successful and found an undying affection for Irish cricket. For the next few years I followed the Irish side around until I became a selector in 1989. Since then I have rarely missed a match, been President of the Irish Cricket Union in 1999, returned as a selector in 2000 and was only recently turfed out after 12 years. I will continue to follow the team most anywhere.
I have seen many changes over the years. When I began playing, the Gentlemen of Ireland fulfilled fixtures with little hope of winning, less team spirit and with players (except the outstanding ones like Ossie Colhoun, Stanley Bergin and Alec O'Riordan) trying to do well enough to earn their next cap. Things began to change in the late sixties and through the seventies, culminating in our entrance to the Gillette Cup in 1980 - the first competitive cricket played by Ireland. The emphasis, after our first game v Middlesex, changed from two and three day games to one day matches and we saw a brief dalliance with the Benson & Hedges Cup before being accepted as an Associate Member of the ICC and entrance in 1994 to the ICC Trophy in Kenya.
More recently there has been added the Triple Crown and European Championship which look to have settled into a two-year cycle and the only non-competitive games are now versus the touring side - a far cry from days of yore.
Unfortunately the domestic game has not developed quickly enough to keep up with the enormous demands of competitive cricket and now is really the time to sit back and see where we are. After our first unsuccessful entry to the ICC Trophy in Kenya, it was decided that we had to have a professional national coach. The first was Mike Hendrick. He organised the national side as they never had been before and gained early success winning both the Triple Crown and European Championship and coming fourth in the ICC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur.
However Mike's time ran its course and we turned to Ken Rutherford (seen right with Dermott in Harare, 2000), the former New Zealand captain. He had a 2-year contract culminating in the 2001 ICC Trophy in Toronto. Unfortunately those who employed him allowed Ken to keep on his post within Transvaal cricket so he was really only part-time with Ireland, who also managed to play very badly in Toronto thus causing Ken and the ICU to agree mutually not to renew his contract.
Now we have a bunch of bureaucrats deciding who should be our latest National Coach (including, would you believe, a recruitment company!). If we must have a third overseas holder of the position, and I am not sure that we do, then he should be headhunted, and his position made clear from the start, by people who know something about cricket. It is a sad comment on cricket administration in this country that the Executive Committee of the ICU, of which there are 22 members, contains only one (Alfie Linehan) who is a former international player.
I think it is time to sit back and take stock. Find someone in Ireland to look after the team for a year, see how the changes in the Interprovincial set up work and give earnest consideration to an All-Ireland League.
May I take this opportunity to wish my successor Ian Johnston all the best in what he will find an onerous job. He should also watch his back. The reason given by the Northern Cricket Union for my demise was that they had heard that I talked too much outside the committee room. Why was this never mentioned during the previous 12 years?