A few months back, while lending a hand compiling information on the history of the local GAA club, the story of a bit of land close to home cropped up. An unlikely segment thereof was that among the sports played therein, many years ago, was cricket. There was a time when having blood drawn from both arms simultaneously would’ve held more appeal than watching it.
That changed over Christmas some years ago and it’d be openly admitted that interest in affairs of the wickets has increased significantly. As ever, something of interest that could be related to was the catalyst. Namely, seeing – or more to the point hearing of – Ireland defeating England in a major competition not long ago.
Kevin O’Brien also made history that day owing to the speed with which he racked up a century. Honestly, however, it was ending up watching the Ashes one Christmas Day due to a dearth of anything else on television that really ignited my interest in cricket. Not a jot is remembered about that series, but, the old reluctance to tune in was gone.
Ever since, the Ashes, or any Test matches that are on at a suitable time to watch, tend to be taken in, either live or shortly after. Even allowing for that, the degree to which one has become ‘tuned into’ happenings in the sport has been surprising. Sure here’s the second column about same already. Who saw that coming?
Recent inspiration was at play you see. On a dull recent midweek afternoon while home alone, the Irish team appeared on television playing against the UAE in a World T20 qualifying tournament game. They duly went on to win the event out – defeating Afghanistan in the final – but, it was in the course of tentatively discussing that action with the senior director of operations that the unlikely adventure of the cricket history close to home back in focus.
As it happened, that win was the latest development it what had been a remarkable season for Irish cricket. It was the third title – in three different formats of the sport – the team collected this year. This victory marked the first time a team has won three ICC tournaments across three different formats in the same calendar year. Ireland won the World Cricket League Championship title in the 50-over format in October and the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier tournament in November, to go with the Intercontinental Cup title in the longer format.
Admittedly, your columnist is still a tad clueless regarding some of the other formats, but, having got this far on the spectating journey, a grasp of them will probably take hold sooner rather than later. It being Ashes time has kept the sport in the mind’s eye a bit longer than might normally be the case.
That said, it’s become apparent of late that it’s a sport that’s growing in popularity not too far away at all. There are a few long term devotees to the sport known to me. Indeed, as this is being written, Dunboyne men Gerry Hughes and his brother Declan are probably homeward bound having been Down Under for the first few chapters of the current Ashes story. Looking at things just a little bit more broadly, the Knockharley club in Kentstown has been functioning for a long time, there’s a club in Ashbourne as well and – perhaps most significantly – I recently heard of a team being started in the local secondary school.
Cricket is definitely on the up in the country and their desired goal of attaining Test status surely cannot be far away. For in sport, nothing is impossible. Just look at recent events in Australia. England would have, justifiably, entered this batch of matches as favourites. Then again, years of watching keen sporting rivalries – and there a few more so than England/Australia in cricket – anything can happen.
Few, however, could have expected the current Ashes series to go so stridently against form. Of course, what this corner likes to term ‘wounded lion syndrome’ comes into play. Australia were written off by so many there was bound to be a backlash. Such has been the lopsided nature of things, English cockiness has to be somewhere on the radar.
Yes, the home side’s bowlers – and Mitchell Johnson in particular – excelled. True too that captain Michael Clarke and the colourful (understatement of the century!) David Warner excelled with the bat as they reclaimed the spoils with consummate ease. But, the catastrophic manner in which the tourists battling order collapsed is difficult to fathom.
Still, even though matters no longer require resolving, the remaining embers of action in Australia will be watched with interest. Maybe more so now than ever as the prospect of Ireland playing the big two feel’s closer than it’s ever been.