The End

And so it ends. It sometimes takes you by surprise when a season ends, sometimes you can't wait for it all to be over when the last month has dragged on with dead rubber after dead rubber.

One way or the other it is a long off season. There was a time when dual sportspeople were the norm rather than the exception so for many it was a quick transition from one sport to the other, availing of a cheap holiday package if the timings allowed.

Years back the season ended with a Final out in Malahide, a great way to end the year for the playing teams and their members but significant numbers of other clubs' members would show up, just to say their goodbyes.

Around the island, attics are being rearranged to fit in the oversized cricket bags, safely stowed away till late February when a message will pop up on Whatsapp that the local hall has been booked for indoor nets and “who’s in”.

But not for everyone. Some may have already decided that its time to call an end to the torture mascarading as a sport that we call cricket. Maybe it has been a short dalliance with the game and just a little piece of your life has ended. It might be that you feel it's time to move on, try other things at the weekend rather than spend a decent proportion of your free time at a cricket ground.

Maybe it's a relief but for some it may feel almost like a bereavement. A hole in your life that will be very hard to fill. There are many many players, perhaps even the majority who will never again be seen at a cricket game. Top players who gave everything at the weekend for their teammates and club but who for some reason walked away and stayed away. We are all wired differently so there is no criticism intended, we all have different circumstances and family duties, but having given so much for such a length, to some its hard to rationalise how others are able to just walk away. But we all have our own reasons and its not for others to question.

When I mentioned that I was thinking about penning this article, the youngest said "you will admit that you retired mid season, won't you?". Not much choice now but to acknowledge the fact. I left home one Saturday to go play a game in YMCA and as I shut the door behind me, came the immediate and stark realisation that really what I wanted to do was stay with my family. I played one more game the following week as a favour to the captain and that was it.

It might seem wrong and selfish to back out mid season but with the decision so firmly made, the team were better off without me. Many years later I came back to play some 3rd team cricket, then reduced to a few Leps games, this year nothing, maybe I have finally retired but I am not even sure myself.

In reality I stopped in the middle of 2001. I was lucky that I could choose to stop playing. It is hard to imagine how those who retire because their body has failed, must feel or those whose circumstances make the game an impossibility. Always the feeling of what might have been?

So if you have chosen to stop, then you must consider yourself fortunate. Some people of course struggle to stop at all. Fergus Carroll of Clontarf managed to play senior cricket in the 50s,60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and remarkably even made an appearance in the 00s. Ginger O’Brien did the same. And we are only talking about senior cricket in these cases, both were playing long before they earned their senior team place and beyond. It is some commitment to the game.

As a kid in junior teams, we will all have played with players significantly older than ourselves and let us be honest, we all thought that they were ancient. In the late 70s I played with the late Vinny Savino and former Irish international bowler Ernie Bodell. Both would have been in their early 50s by then and both contributed significantly to the team effort. They never asked for nor expected allowances to be made on their behalf. Knowing now just how hard 50 overs in the field is, my admiration for them and their ilk, has soared as my own years catch up and pass that number. Truly you must love the game to put up with the sore hips and knees that are the inevitable result of a long day in the field. And that is before you turn your arm over.

There was a time when the junior teams of clubs were littered with men of a certain age. I could offend someone by mentioning names (maybe they were not as old as I thought) but in your own club I am sure you can remember those who played on and on and on. And they added so much not just to the club but to the experience of young players beginning their journey. Some, as mentioned earlier, stop and move on.

Others struggle with that concept and find a way to keep an involvement. It might be coaching youth teams which may or may not involve their own children. Perhaps an administrative role is one to which they are more suited. Often people are recognised for these roles under the guise of “giving something back” to the game and while this is clearly true and noteworthy for most of those who stay involved in some way or another it is purely because they find letting go too difficult. The thought of letting something slip, something that has consumed you for a huge portion of your life is too traumatic to even consider.

It is a conversation that occasionally occurs in our house under the title “what do normal people do at the weekend”? It is one that we are still searching to find a reasonable answer.

(from 1997 Clontarf CC programme)

One of the best “what did you do next” stories is of the website on which you are reading this article.

CricketEurope started life as the Irish Cricket Union/Cricket Ireland website in the mid-1990s, the brain child of John Elder.

If you do not know John, and that would be no surprise as he is not a man to stand at Speaker’s Corner. You may or may not know that he is a former international bowler and subsequently a member of the ICU executive. So he has done his bit.

However setting up this site has been his greatest contribution to Irish cricket. Here is where you find reports, photos, predictions, reviews, opinions and last but certainly not least the story of Irish cricket from its very start.

Done not for financial gain but for the game, pure and simple. It is an extraordinary feat. John will be quick to pass credit to Barry Chambers, Ian Johnston, John Boomer (get well soon John) and of course he is right, they are also cricket people who just cannot let the game go. But what they are doing is something that we as consumers of this site, should not take for granted.

Cricket is a game that is hard to shake, cricket people are generally good people, I imagine I might pop back in 2023 for a look.