Grounds for concern

The proposed eviction of YMCA from their Claremont Road home has sent shock waves through the entire cricket community. 110 years of history tossed away. It’s beyond sad and the complete antithesis of the stated core values of the YMCA Association who have put the land up for sale. These are caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. Not many of these on show at the minute.

It’s sad to look at what Dublin has become over the past 20-30 years in terms of property development and the Gordon Gekko ‘greed is good’ philosophy. And judging by the headlines of the past few weeks in the financial sector too, few lessons have been learned from the economic crash of 2008.

Property prices and the cost of living in Dublin have spiralled out of control. Given that my recent years have been spent in Thailand and Ardmore, both with relatively low costs of living, I’m always shocked by prices down there. My father always had his version of a Retail Price Index where he judged the cost of living in relation to the price of a pint. With the strength of the euro – or should that be the weakness of the pound – alcohol prices in Dublin reached levels where I nearly considered being tee-total. Or at least it cured me of my fondness for a last orders round of double Jack Daniels.

Peter O’Reilly wrote an excellent article in the Irish version of The Sunday Times outlining the case and superb work carried out at Claremont Road. Well worth a read to see just how integral the club have been in the development of youth and women’s cricket, as well as having three senior men internationals currently there.

There are only two methods that will work here. Political influence where if there’s only one thing politicians like more than money and that’s votes. Apply as much pressure as possible. Secondly, money. Be sure and let any aspiring developer know that it will be a lengthy, costly and possibly futile move to purchase any of the designated space and attempt to get it reclassified to allow building.

It’s a battle which the club knows they have to win. Too many historic clubs have gone to the wall all over the country. A peripatetic existence rarely ends well, often leading to extinction within a few years.

Let us hope for YMCA’s sake a solution is found that allows them to celebrate another 110 years at Claremont Road.

Grounds for optimism

When the news broke last week that Donegal soccer side Finn Harps had been allocated almost €4 million for a new stadium, I thought it was an April Fools jape and paid it no heed.

It was only when I listened to the BBC Radio Foyle commentary of Derry City’s match at home to Waterford on Saturday that I realised that it was in fact true.

The Large Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund has allocated €3.991m to the FAI for the development of the new ground in Stranorlar.

This is great news for the club, and potentially for Irish cricket too as Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD said: “The Government is committed to investing in our sport infrastructure and we have ambitious plans to enhance investment in the LSSIF and the Sports Capital and Equipment Programme in the years ahead.“

While development at Abbotstown has stalled, indeed probably taken a backwards step given the need for remedial work on the grass pitches debacle, this offers a ray of light that funding may be on the horizon.

Interpro News

The likely delay to the start of the Leinster domestic season has prompted the governing body into a rethink of the interpro fixtures in order to give more game time to the internationals ahead of the three World Cup Super League qualifiers in early June.

While a packed interpro May is now on the cards, it does raise the question what exactly will players in the new Emerging Interpro tournament be playing for when it gets under way if nearly all the interpros have been completed by the time it eventually gets under way?

All these guys will be amateurs and who are going to use holidays from work to play midweek matches with little chance of progression or motivation. The hope is to be able to arrange further games at the back end of the season.

The four week slot reserved for EuroSlam is open of course. Talks are still being held with the chances of it going ahead after two false starts is given as 50:50.

Kids Play

Cricket Leinster have launched a registration scheme in which all youth players secure full insurance cover plus their personal starter pack with t-shirt, plastic bat and balls – all CL branded.

Cricket Ireland are due to launch various kids’ schemes which were delayed due to covid. €83000 had been earmarked for a ‘Smash It’ campaign in schools, after a successful trial run in the NW during 2019 where over 100 kids had started to play.

It’s uncertain if the ‘Cricket Connects’ programme which had a budget of €154,500 will proceed as planned. That money was comprised of €37000 for a project administrator, €40,000 for 160 cricket sets at €250 each, €40,000 for coaching hours, €31,000 for marketing, website, printing, and a digital platform, €4,500 for travel and accommodation expenses plus €2,000 phone/laptop expenses for the co-ordinator.

There’s an added complication for any planned Cricket Ireland projects in that roll-outs tend to be expensive. They ceded the responsibility to grow the grassroots to the regional bodies back in 2019 when the six development officers under their control were made redundant. They had to re-apply for their posts – two of the six were re-hired.

I’m told talks between the governing body and the Unions are having some mixed results, given the different stages of kids’ development and engagement in the four provinces. As always, like most things in life, it will come down to finance. Hopefully there will be lots of plastic bats around the grounds later this summer.

Youth interpros

One of the casualties of the 2020 summer was the cancellation of the youth interprovincial series at Under 15 and Under 17 levels. In better news these will go ahead this year, with July ear-marked for the tournaments. There will be modifications as a result of covid and financial costs, with clubs travelling to games on a daily basis rather than staying in paid accommodation.

Where have the lefthanders gone?

I once played in an Ardmore team that had ten left-handers. The golden age of Ireland cricket also had more than their fair share with amongst others, William Porterfield, Ed Joyce, Eoin Morgan, Niall O’Brien, Andre Botha, John Mooney and Jeremy Bray all ensuring that bowlers and fielders rhythm were upset in the top order.

It was noticeable during the Ireland and Ireland Wolves games this year, the lack of lefties in the ranks.

Andy McBrine (who batted at nine) was the only one in the senior matches, while Neil Rock (once) was the only top six batter in the Wolves. I’m not sure if the same applies to Ireland Women, but I think the majority are right handed.

There was a stat last week that we bowl the fewest ODI overs by left-arm bowlers. Josh Little coming back will improve that but George Dockrell being out of favour doesn’t aid matters. A lack of variety in the ranks hasn’t helped their cause in recent years but it’s just part of the cyclical nature of things.

Ireland Women

Ian Callender reported this week that there are two or three planned series for Ireland Women in the pipeline to help them with their preparations as they attempt to qualify for two World Cups this year. That’s great news for all concerned that the money saved in not playing for two years is going to be used for matches. €52000 had been set aside for the cancelled Easter tri-series in La Manga too, so there is plenty in the kitty as they attempt to get the rustiness out of their system.