The Setting: It’s the COVID-19 Winter of 2020-21. A gentleman in his mid-40’s, formerly a middle of the road cricketer, is finally clearing out the spare bedroom in his house. He is putting the important contents he wants to keep in the attic, an attic he hasn’t set foot in since the early 2000’s, when he last placed important stuff in the attic that he wanted to keep. He is ably assisted by his very inquisitive 15-year-old son, who is now a cricketer too. The son comes across a box of dusty old papers, magazines and books. He takes a few in his hand, blows off the dust and climbs down out of the attic for a closer look. What he has discovered are copies of the Leinster Cricket Union Handbook from the late 90’s, just after the draw had been gotten rid of. He starts to flick through one and first finds himself on the Grounds page. The conversation begins:

Son: Dad, how did you ever find these grounds back then with so few instructions and what was that Murtagh’s pub place? How come there were so many grounds to the left and right of it? Did it actually exist or was it some kind of wardrobe like that found in The Chronicles of Narnia, one which you stepped inside and re-appeared in a new part of Leinster at a different ground?

Dad: Things were much simpler back then son. All the clubs in “Dublin Dublin” were easy to find based on their names or the names of their grounds. All the clubs in Fingal were found following a rendezvous at the infamous and now closed Murtaghs, where a discussion was had as to whether the left at Murtaghs was at Murtaghs or in fact after Murtaghs. Once that was established a wrong turn or two followed, and eventually someone would say they recognized some house by the side of the road just after a big tree. And then you knew you were there. The only other directions you needed to remember were to Mount Murray, and they, as the Handbook said, involved a single left at Tormeys bar and keep going until you see the big house over the lake. Things are far more complicated nowadays though.

Murtagh's

Like, Lucan for example, is in north Dublin, despite Lucan being in south Dublin. And Adamstown, they play in Clondalkin while Clondalkin play in Tallaght as Clondalkin is taken. Balbriggan is found to the north of North County despite being in the same county. Athlone is in both Westmeath and Roscommon, but Athlone play in Offaly, where Slieve Bloom used to play before they moved to Tipperary despite being named after hills in Offaly, which are not The Hills, but are other hills. Sandyford play in Ballinteer and not Sandyford which isn’t to be confused with Sandymount where Y.M.C.A play and where one gets the train to get to Sydney Parade, where Pembroke play, despite there being a train station called Sydney Parade, which is in fact the train station for Railway Union. Pretty complicated, not like back in my day when things were clearly better.

Son: But back in the day you didn’t have Google Maps though, right? It’s easy now with that, far better as there is no getting lost and no needing to know which left is a left and which left isn’t a left.

Dad: Well, you’re right, we didn’t have Google Maps back then. Anyway, even if we did, that wouldn’t have been used. Getting lost in north county Dublin was part of the fun. The handbook was your guide, it was a must have for every game, something that never left the bottom of the bag. It contained the rules, the fixtures, limit of overs per bowler (if there was any), the bonus point system etc. It was the key to everything, the internet of its day, only less complicated.

Son: Ah, so you guys liked getting lost! Why did you need bonus points explained in a book? Weren’t they as simple as they are today, 5 to go around between the two teams, based on what the winning margin is? Thus, rewarding the teams based on the closeness of the result.

Dad: No, points were better back then. There were 28 bonus points to go around, 7 batting and 7 bowling for each side, as well as the 14 points you could get for simply winning. You started getting batting points at 50 or 60 runs, depending on what level you played, and you got another one for each 20 runs you scored after that up to 170 or 180. Decent scores they were, not like today where batting is so much easier. And you got bowling points for every wicket you took between the 3rd and the 9th. So, you could get close enough to 50% of the possible points for a win, even if you got slaughtered. For example, if they made 380 all out, and you made 180/5 you got 14 points, or 50% and they only got 24 points or 85%. Better still, if they made 380 all out batting first, and you were 80/2 off 30 chasing and it rained you’d get 16 points, or 57% to their 14 points or 50%, despite you having no chance of winning. As I said way better than it is now, none of this Duckworth or Lewis rubbish. Do you get me?

Son: No, it sounds way too complicated and pretty stupid if you ask me. I’m not sure I agree with being rewarded for being rubbish. Did the games not go on all day too, with people playing for points or rain?

Dad: They sure did son, batting in lost causes was great fun, “keeping them out there until 9” as they’d say. Every bonus point counted; every percentage gained counted. Being there until the sunset was part of the game. Those 15 runs the last pair put on in 15 overs to make sure you got to 110 could mean an extra .02% at the end of the season, which could be vital.

Son: But didn’t that keep you out there until 9 every game too? I bet mam wasn’t happy with that. Had you and her nothing better to do? It sounds pretty counterproductive to me, and probably resulted in players missing out on playing games where they had evening commitments. And why do you keep talking about percentages?

Dad: All the league places were determined by percentage points. Nobody ever played the same number of games for all sorts of reasons so it was the easiest way to work things out. It meant if you started a game with a high percentage, and won the game, the chances are you were going to drop percentage points. Therefore, if you got to the halfway point and had played everybody once, which you had to, you were delighted when a game got cancelled. The worst thing you could do for your percentage was actually play a game, because even winning might result in you losing. And losing a percentage could be the difference between Intermediate A or Intermediate B. Understand?

Son: No dad, that sounds ridiculous. Everyone not playing the same number of games is just silly and losing when you win makes no sense. And what are Intermediate A or Intermediate B?

Dad: They were the names of the leagues, Senior, Middle, Intermediate and Junior. They were so much better than the current 1 to 17B. I can’t imagine the embarrassment of telling a non-cricketer I played in Division 12 of a provincial league in Ireland. They’d think you weren’t very good. But saying Inter A was great, they wouldn’t have a clue. They’d have GAA in their head, like you were a top Intermediate side, or soccer in their head, like you played Intermediate football, just below League of Ireland. They’d actually think you were good, particularly if you could talk a good game. Better, don’t you think?

Son: No, that’s just confusing. And how did you keep up with how these fancily named leagues were going if there was no internet to see results etc?

Dad: Ah it all just worked out. If you were doing well yourself, you’d know. The odd result from your league would appear in the Sunday newspapers too, the Tribune or the Sunday Indo, particularly if an individual did well. A lad called Michael Sharp would also hand out a league table every now and again to one of your club members. This would give you some idea, but there would always be one club that weren’t bothered posting in results, and had supposedly only played 2 by August. The not knowing was part of what made it good. The surprise of finally seeing someone with 9 wins and 0 defeats above you in the table, when you thought you were in it with 6 wins and 3 defeats. It was worth the wait. So much better than what’s there now, who wants instant results.

Son: Well, I kind of do, it’s nice to know what you need to do, and who you need to beat. Posting in results sounds very cumbersome. What about the cups? How did they work? Surely you needed instant results for them!

Dad: Ah well again, that was exciting too, you saw a draw at the start of the year, you knew where the final would be, and you went from there. If you got through, the fixture secretary hated you, and you had to ring around to find out who you had next. If the next round of your cup, clashed with a league game, the cup took precedence and the league game was cancelled. But if you had a scatter-brained captain that forgot to cancel the league game, well then you could have 3 clubs in the same ground on the same day all thinking they were playing. Or even more if there were a few cups scheduled for that day. It could all get very confusing, particularly if you had numerous teams. But it all generally worked out in the end, just ask Maureen Joyce, she managed it no bother with 8 teams down in Merrion.

Son: Sounds way too complicated for me. And what are all these cups at the back of the handbook, these Fingal ones?

Dad: Well son, Luke Clinton would have 2nds on the Saturday, 4ths on the Sunday, 3rds in the Whelan Cup on the Monday, Under 15 on Tuesday, and Interprovincial on Thursday. Rumour has it they just invented that stuff so he could play on the Wednesday too.

Son: That can’t be true Dad.

Dad: You’re right, it’s not true son. He played Under 18’s on Friday too, and those cups were around well before even Luke started playing. Now that’s enough with the questions, just remember things were better in my day.

Son: I’m not sure they were better Dad.

Dad: Well, let’s just agree to disagree on that. There were good things then, and there are good things now. Now go find Ballyeighan on the map and just be thankful you won’t have an opponent playing for a draw against you in the cold come April.