OLDEST SWINGER IN TOWN
Back when people were allowed to drink in pubs, remember then?, I had arranged to meet a few old friends for a catch-up, where we invariably relived past glories, not afraid to let the truth get in the way of a good story.
20’s became 40 odd, 2 for 35 becoming 4 or 5 for 29 as the beers flowed. There was much laughter, however as I looked around I got a very uncomfortable feeling, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. What was wrong with me?
I’m a real people watcher. I like to imagine what background are they from, what they do, how did they end up together? My wife calls me ‘number one nosy man in the world’.
After a while I worked out the source of my discomfort. I was the oldest person in the bar! Not a nice feeling.
In my youth we used to laugh about the old geezers who would rock up in the Donegal discos with funny hair, a woolen jumper, who observed the young girls dancing with the same concentrated looks as the cattle they had probably watched at the markets earlier that day. We used to call them the oldest swingers in town.
Donegal discos/dances used to be some craic. I once ended up on stage with no shirt on beside Page Three Girl Linda Lusardi who was in town to open a newly refurbished nightclub. It was part of a competition, the point of which was to show off muscles. I was at a severe disadvantage versus the Donegal farmers as I didn’t have any! Suffice to say alcohol had been taken…
Anyway, the Irish domestic season got under way on Sunday and I tuned in via Heatley and co to watch the action from Sydney Parade. Everyone was rusty initially and understandably so, but as the cobwebs were blown away, the play improved.
The thing that struck me most though was the ages of the two teams. I’ve done a quick tot up and the combined age of the 22 players was 442 – a smidgeon over 20, with nine teenagers among them.
Highlights for me were the spin duo of Cara Murray and Leah Paul – a leggie and left-armer bowling in tandem, with great guile and variety. Amy Hunter did very well with her keeping including an excellent catch, Louise Little batted exceptionally, while after a nervous start Aussie speedster Ashlee King bowled with real fire, not afraid to dish out the short stuff.
Gaby Lewis, Shauna Kavanagh and Laura Delany all batted well, on an early season track, timing the ball and scoring 16 of the 23 boundaries made.
It must be so satisfying for the various coaches to see the development of these youngsters, offering much optimism for the future.
Isobel Joyce was on commentary duty, having hung up the boots a few years ago with twin sister Cecelia, Clare Shillington and Ciara Metcafle – affectionately referred to by the younger squad members as ‘the grannies’.
The amazing thing about Sunday’s game is that the two oldest players on view were Shauna Kavanagh at just 29, and Irish skipper Laura Delany at 28. They may have been the oldest swingers in town at Pembroke on Sunday, but a long way from ‘granny status’.
Hopefully it won’t be much longer until we see the pair on the international stage again, with two World Cup tournaments up for qualification later this year.
TEACHING OLD DOGS NEW TRICKS
This past year I’ve helped out on the publication of three books, working with some of the best and most experienced journalists it’s been my pleasure to come across.
Ritchie Kelly has written a book on footballer John Crossan “The Man They Couldn’t Ban”, while David Townsend’s excellent “Do They Play Cricket In Ireland?” has just been released. The third book was a bittersweet experience with Ger primarily, aided by DT, myself and a host of contributors producing “Big Roy: Uphill and into the wind.”
The three guys are masters of their craft, honed through decades and decades in the media business. ‘Grizzled veterans’ one and all.
From time to time, I’d offer the odd thought if I felt something could be improved, sometimes with a little trepidation in case they reckoned what the hell would I know? To their credit, they often took my suggestions on board, not put out at all.
I mention this (not only to plug the books) but because it came to my mind while watching the Warriors train at Eglinton last week.
New coach Gary Wilson has hit the ground running, impressing all with his passion, organisation and knowledge.
However, I do confess to thinking, as he studied William Porterfield batting, “How is this going to work? What can Gary tell Porty about batting? He’s going to tell him to get stuffed!”
However, much like the aforementioned triumvirate of journos, Porty took the advice offered from Gary. Not major changes, just a tweak here or there, the odd observation.
It’s not easy for coaches, especially when dealing with players who are older than they, so best of luck to Gary on his new career, where hopefully he can continue to teach the old dogs and the young pups a few new tricks.
I’ve dipped in and out of the County Championship scores and live streams this past few weeks, concentrating mostly on the Irish guys.
Andy Balbirnie’s overseas stint at Glamorgan hasn’t gone as well as he would have liked, making a top score of 29. Stuart Poynter has started strongly with Durham, while both Tim Murtagh and Jack Carson are in the top 20 bowling averages, into double figures already.
The trio have for now forsaken Irish ambitions as one of the drawbacks of becoming Full Members is that they would be considered overseas players.
It’s a terrible shame for Carson in particular, who was brought to the attention of Sussex in 2012 by Ed Joyce (via Kyle McCallan) after scoring a century for Waringstown in an All-Ireland Youth final at Clontarf.
Carson has already taken two five-wicket hauls in county cricket, with one of his victims against Yorkshire last week being England skipper Joe Root. The 20 year-old is now England qualified, opting not to play for Ireland at Under 19 level.
The loss of the county championship finishing school is a terrible blow for Irish cricket, with the facilities here sadly lacking.
You can’t help but feel that Ireland didn’t put up much of a fight with ECB. It’s the players I feel sorry for. While it obviously strengthens the interpros here, it’s very short-term thinking.
Six 50-over and nine T20s over the course of five months is well short of the volume of cricket needed at this level.
DEATH OF BILL MCKAIG
There was sad news this week with the death of Bill McKaig, a cricket lover, following both the Scotland National team and Greenock primarily. A Church of Scotland Minister, he’s best known for his record-breaking appearances on the William G Stewart Channel 4 gameshow 15-to-1, where he was the first and only person to record a perfect score of 433.
Bill was friendly with Irish international Dermott Monteith, and I first met him in Dublin in 2003 when Ireland were playing South Africa. Mike Gatting was also in attendance and as I was asked to take a group photo, I said looking through the lens, “Hang on, I know you.”
Gatting moved forward and started to explain that yes, he was indeed the former England captain etc until I interjected, “No, not you Mike. The guy behind. You’re Bill who scored 433 on 15-to-1. You were brilliant.”
The group roared with laughter, with even 'Gatt' forced to see the funny side.
Bill was the opposite of what I envisioned a Scottish Church Minister to be like. He smoked big cigars, drank pints, and told funny and sometimes quite lewd jokes. A great raconteur who knew the game inside out.
I last spoke with him via Facebook about a year ago, shortly after he moved to Cyprus, when he retired from the ministry. He was in good spirits we compared the paths of Scottish and Irish cricket, and he was hopeful of good times ahead for both himself and Associates cricket. Sadly that was not to be the case for one of the great characters of Scottish and Associates cricket.
They didn't make many like Bill.
With the season about to start, this will be the last column until September, when I hope to gather enough material to keep you entertained during the winter months.
Thanks to all for the feedback. There has been a great reaction to the columns which I hope have kept you up to date with all the latest in Irish cricket.