North West celebrates fantastic week of International cricket
Lawrence Moore reports on a big week for Bready and the NWCU
The Ireland and Zimbabwe teams have moved on to Belfast for the upcoming ODI’s after a pivotal T20 series in Dublin and the North West that ended with the hosts recording a 3-2 win. Ireland will feel with some degree of justification that the score line could and should have been more emphatic after losing the first and last matches by just 3 and 5 runs respectively.
It was of course good preparation for the upcoming T20 World Cup for Graham Ford’s charges but from an organisational and strategic point of view, it was also a huge win for the Union itself.
A lot of time and resources have been invested by the NWCU in the past couple of years into attracting big International games to Bready. The Magheramason venue had been plagued by the most awful luck over the past few seasons in terms of weather when it came to representative games. And while we have no-one capable of controlling what fell from the sky, both the club and the Union set about enabling themselves to deal better with the consequences.
Anyone who attended or watched last week’s games online can’t have failed to have been impressed by the superb condition of the entire venue. Noel McGinnis and his team of volunteers have the ground in pristine shape and while thankfully the weather played ball this time, Bready were ready, come what may. The club is built on a team of superb volunteers, that delivered yet again.
Three T20 games against Zimbabwe should now be the stepping stone for the North West over the next couple of years. Union and club have worked damned hard to show that they are as capable as anyone of hosting these games. The buy in from Derry & Strabane District Council (and a very energetic Mayor!) as well as Visit Derry and the likes of O’Neill’s and Fleming Agri means that necessary off-field partnerships are also continuing to build.
It’s worth reminding ourselves that this is the only International sport being played in the North West and not only that, the games are being viewed by over 20m people around the world. The work of Peter McCartney and Brian Dougherty in securing these type of fixtures from Cricket Ireland in the first place shouldn’t be underestimated.
As usual, it wasn’t to be that simple of course, and a late change to the travel restrictions from Zimbabwe almost scuppered the plans again. The easy option would have been for Cricket Ireland to play all the T20’s in Dublin, but once again the Union stepped up and secured a 3-match series as originally planned.
A series win, a ‘Stirlo’ century, a debut for William McClintock, a sell-out crowd and a Mayor running out in the middle of the road to stop a bus for a photo were among the many highlights that followed.
If there was to be one takeaway however, it is the number of spectators (at least 10 of whom contacted me directly with their story) who watched their first ever ‘live’ cricket match last week. The number of youngsters (both boys and girls) in attendance was also wonderful to see.
Of course none of that has happened by accident.
The amount of work that has gone on this year by clubs and the NWCU into attracting young people into the sport has been superb and participation rates at youth levels are now the highest in 10 years. There has been a lot more focus and coverage of underage tournaments and women’s and girls competitions.
Like all team sports, many challenges remain of course but there has without doubt been genuine progress. A first ‘World Cup’ competition that has been a roaring success and Interprovincial series for all the underage boys and girls groups is clear evidence that things are moving forward. Our U17 Boys winning the Interprovincial Tournament showed the talent that is emerging in the region and the Women & Girls programme has grown significantly.
It is now incumbent on the clubs and the Union that we continue to build over the winter and beyond.