MAGHERA CELEBRATE A DECADE OF GROWTH IN NWCU
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of Maghera CC’s entry into the North West Cricket leagues and it has certainly been a decade of growth for the ambitious new club.
Sustainability has been the key ingredient for the Rainey Endowed-based side and there is little doubt that while they have become fiercely competitive in their environment, this is cricket for the whole community.
There are a few very familiar faces helping to drive the club forward- former Glentoran and Portadown footballer Alfie Stewart probably the most instantly recognisable- however Roger Talbot is another man who has been happy to get his hands dirty over the past decade.
Roger has taken on many of the behind-the-scenes roles, and he has also provided the club’s own 10-year report which is included below.
On behalf of the NWCU, our congratulations to Maghera CC on their landmark season, and we wish them many more to come.
MAGHERA CC- TEN YEARS IN, THE STORY SO FAR
Local Cricket Lovers
Cricket probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Maghera. Sitting at the foot of the Sperrins, the town is more synonymous with rain, than the sun-kissed afternoons you’d normally associate with the game. But despite this, an ambitious set of local cricket lovers have set out to raise the profile of the game, and the signs so far have been promising for the emerging Maghera Cricket Club.
The Club is now moving into its 10th season as a member of the North West Cricket Union. Throughout that decade the club has grown and has gained promotion twice as well as experiencing a cup semi final. Maghera now looks forward to the new season playing in Qualifying League Division 2. These are heady heights indeed for the small club from Maghera but its ambitions don’t stop there, as it will also shortly start competition in the North West Cricket Union’s Mid-Week League.
Formally set up in 2013, Maghera CC first played competitive cricket in Division 4 of the North West Qualifying League and as Mark Semple, the then Captain of the club would testify, it was often a struggle to put out a full XI every weekend. A lot of time would be spent contacting friends of friends having been told of their interest in the game.
The Core Team Emerges
Mike Brearley’s ‘The Art of Captaincy’ brilliantly describes the challenges he faced on the cricket field when leading England to Ashes glory in 1981 but he never had to play with nine men, some of whom must have verged on un-selectable!
More often than not, the ‘leads’ would draw a blank for skipper Semple, however on the odd occasion he would strike it lucky and a new, slightly rusty, spin bowler who last turned his arm in 1994 would be drafted into the team. The recruits were almost exclusively local- players from the towns of Maghera, Magherafelt and Castledawson.
From these humble beginnings, the core of a team emerged. What had once been very one-sided matches became more competitive and with morale beginning to grow, eventually a match was won!
In Maghera’s case, the first victory came against a Newbuildings 2nd XI in a mid-week game during the 2014 season.
Fast forward just two seasons later- and in 2016 Maghera lost only one match and collected awards for best batsmen and bowler at the annual North West Union awards evening.
Winning is brilliant for the morale of individuals and a team and now, ably lead by Alfie Stewart, it has become more familiar, if not routine.
Memories of the dropped catch at mid-on in some second over fade into insignificance as players are now compelled to offer themselves for selection the next week without a second thought.
These days, Maghera CC has 45 playing members of varying vintages, comprising both men and women as well as a strong overseas contingent. These members complement a group of home-grown players, the majority of whom were introduced to the game by an enthusiastic father who was motivated to pass on their love for the game to the next generation.
In a couple of cases two generations of the same family are still playing, spurred on by friendly family rivalry, although it tends to be the younger generation that now gets the upper hand.
The priority now is ensuring everyone has an opportunity to play competitive cricket, and with that in mind, the plan is this to introduce a Second XI team to compete in Qualifying Division 4 of the North West.
Foundations For a Successful Future
Despite its success and relatively stable membership base, the club isn’t taking anything for granted as standing still is not an option. A five-year plan has been developed by the club’s committee; laying down the foundations for a successful future.
That goes beyond the field of play too- in terms of supporting the local community become more active and address issues, for example, relating to mental health and wellbeing.
Creating sustainable pathways into the club for young players (of all abilities) is also an important goal.
This began last year with successful youth coaching sessions for various age groups between 10 – 18, concluding with a successful cricket tournament at Muckamore CC.
Rugby and Gaelic football traditionally dominate the sporting lives of many young people in the area and the club is eager to demonstrate how cricket can complement these sports by helping to develop a range of transferable skills, help main levels of fitness across the summer months and provide all the social benefits you’d normally expect from such an active club.
Growing Opportunities To Play Cricket
Maghera Cricket Club has played all its home matches at the Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt since 2013. Its partnership with the school has been vital to its success to date and is an important factor in the club’s future plans.
Led by Head Teacher Mark McCullough, the school has a proud academic and sporting tradition, a tradition the club is hoping to help strengthen by growing opportunities to play cricket, not just for those studying there but for the whole community.
Grants from Mid-Ulster District Council and ongoing support from the North West Cricket Union, has enabled the club invest in equipment, develop its coaching capacity, and deliver grass-roots training for local children in the form of summer camps.
Maghera Cricket Club has certainly achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time thanks to the enthusiasm of its members and support of the local and cricketing communities. Long term success depends on getting more local young people playing the game; quite a challenge, but one the club is more than willing to take on.
If you want to find out how you can get involved in Maghera Cricket Club go to www.cricketmaghera.com
Written By Roger Talbot