Letterkenny and Maghera planning for the future
Following the news that there would be five new teams in the Long’s SuperValu Leagues 1-4 this season, we’ve had a chat this week with two of the region’s newer clubs, Letterkenny and Maghera, about their progress since joining the Union.
Both clubs are among the quintet of new teams; Letterkenny adding a second XI for both league and cup competitions in Division 3, while Maghera will have a second string involved in the latter stages of the Division 4 ranks.
The Donegal side will continue to play their first XI matches at Drummond (League 1) while their II’s will play home matches at the Strabane Academy ground.
The man who is looking after the cricket side of things is former St Johnston player, Rammohan Goud who enjoyed a successful senior career at the Boathole.
‘Ramm’ spoke with us this week about what prompted the decision to add a second team and paid tribute to both the NWCU and his former club.
“I think when Letterkenny entered a team in the league in 2020 it was a case of testing the water a bit. I joined the following year along with several other players and although we needed the first couple of months of the season to gel, we were excellent from then until the end of the summer and deserved our win.”
“We have plenty of good young players around the club but for now it makes sense for those lads to play their youth cricket at St Johnston, but logistically and for the facilities there.”
“The background then to the seconds was that in total we have over 40 players registered this year. As well as the younger lads we had up to 60 players involved in our indoor winter league and quite a few of them wanted to play white ball cricket.”
“League 1 will be very tough but we feel that we can be competitive at that level. Our second team will have a nucleus of six or seven regulars with the rest of the places rotated to give everyone a chance.”
“The seconds will be used to ready players for the League 1 team.”
“We want to promote cricket in and around the Letterkenny area and Brian, Peter and David in the NWCU have been really supportive towards that end.”
“We have an excellent committee in place too. Our Chairman Rajesh Nair, Secretaries, Sudheesh and Rahul Sisangia, Treasurer, Vinith John, Youth Officer Peeyush Patodi and club captain Sumit K have worked really hard to ensure that the progress has continued.”
“Our long-term vision is to secure our own ground in Letterkenny, which hopefully is getting closer, and then to be competing against Championship teams in the next three years. It’s a big ask but I honestly believe it’s a realistic goal.”
“For me personally, sport at this level is about developing strong relationships. It’s fantastic for myself and other parents to see our own kids, and youngsters generally, developing their skills, but building relationships within clubs and among other clubs is vital too.”
It’s a similar story at the bottom of the Glenshane where another well known sporting figure, Alfie Stewart, is helping to drive Maghera forward.
An Irish League career spanning more than 20 years has given the now 58-year old a new lease of life and Alfie admits that he is thrilled to be playing competitive cricket in his own parish.
“Maghera is pretty much in the wilderness in terms of cricket, but certainly not in terms of passion and desire for the sport” he began.
“I have always loved cricket but never imagined for a second that we would get the opportunity to do this. My son Aaron and I were both heavily involved in football but when he retired early from the game, the chance came along.”
“At the outset I have to say that Maghera CC already had a great group of people running the club from its start in 2013- doing all the hard yards in terms of organisation and admin.”
“Another couple of players arrived at the same time as us and all of a sudden we found ourselves with a panel of about 15. It was enough to start playing and that then fuelled interest around the local area, and thankfully we continued to grow.”
“There has been a lot of progress since then and it has been a feature of our cricket that we have competed wherever we’ve played. League 2 last year was tough- playing against sides like Sion Mills and Letterkenny, but I have no doubt we’ll take the experiences from that and stay competitive again this season.”
“It’s been great for us as a club to get the chance to play at the likes of Eglinton, Sion, Limavady and all those iconic grounds around the North West. Trust me, those are our Old Traffords and Anfields- grounds we only read about before, but now getting the chance to play at regularly.”
“I know it will be hard for people to understand that, but for an area that had no cricket in the schools or community generally, being where we are now represents huge progress.”
“Key now will be bringing the younger lads through and although I’m enjoying it more than you can imagine, I’m also aware we need to try to develop younger players and give them a chance.”
“We also need to acknowledge the help we have had from Rainey School. They have been absolutely immense, not just in giving us access to the ground and facilities, but also in supporting the club in all our efforts.”
“As for the future, we’re looking forward to seeing how the second XI works out in the coming year. It will be something we’ll take our time with but the very fact that we’re considering these steps is a success in itself.”
“As I said, we want to get more younger people involved and if that means old folk like me make way, then so be it.”
“Our goal remains however to continue to compete. That’s the key- winning is great- we all love to win- but to have this group together and keep competing in North West competitions is enough of a goal for now.”
“We’ll keep working at it, on and off the field, and see where it takes us.”
There’s no doubt that both of these clubs have added significantly to the North West Cricket Union over the past few years, at a time when it hasn’t been easy.
The best of luck to both, and indeed all of our clubs, for what promises to be an exciting summer ahead.