Financial windfall will benefit development
The announcement that Cricket Ireland have secured a decade-long cash injection into their Academy is fantastic news for everyone involved in the sport in this country. The money will mean a wonderful opportunity for youngsters coming through the ranks way beyond just those 10 years. It will go a long way to developing further the grass roots that some very dedicated individuals have devoted much time and energy to in the past ten. And yet it also provides the Unions with one of their greatest challenges to date.
Because the fact is that the Academy is only as good as the work put in by the inividuals, the clubs and the Regional Development squads that will, over those ten years, provide the bulk of its participants. And it is there that some are much more proactive than others. We're probably quite lucky that we have the Development Officers that we have as a country and I can honestly say that with the exception of Bobby Rao I have never seen anyone who puts as much time into the sport here as Brian Allen.
Our CDO is a real workhorse who doesn't get anything like the credit he deserves but he could probably do with a bit of help with getting the whole thing structured. If that initial half a mill is on its way and is ring-fenced for Development then perhaps CI will filter some of it down to the Unions to start the process properly. It would make sense to tool the CDO's up to work on the Regional squads so that those becomes a proper feeder to the Academy itself. North West Chairman Andrew Fleming has made it clear that he wants much more focus on our RDS over the next 12 months so this may just be the catalyst for proper and lasting change to the youth development structure.
With the season finally about to end the next matter of business will be the awards dinner and this year's ceremony will be held at the White Horse Hotel on Saturday 8 November. A new “panel” appointed by the Board of Control will select the divisional winners using the Statszone but I don't envy their task. The Statszone has been a wonderful addition to the North West cricket scene because it means that everything is out in the open in terms of individual performance.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in what you think is happening without getting the full picture and this year's story is no different. Remember that in choosing award winners the panel takes into consideration total runs or wickets, averages and then how performance has impacted on a team's season. So without looking- who would win this year's Premiership batting? I'm guessing a minimum of 90% have already hit the Decker button. Maybe he will and he has been brilliant this season- over a thousand runs, 4 “tons” 4 fifties and an average of over 54.
The second highest in the division. Stuart Thompson may have scored 300 runs less than the great man but he has played 6 matches fewer and has 3 hundreds and 3 fifties to his name and has an average slightly better to boot. Intriguingly the impact of each player on their respective club's season is yet to be fully measured but it is far from the one-horse race that many might be thinking.
A similar situation applies at Strabane where the new champions will just be coming down after their fantastic weekend. I've said in this columm recently that the Red Caps were the best side I'd seen this season and saw nothing in the past fortnight to change that view. During his presentation speech Peter Gillespie said that Strabane's title win was a victory for the whole team. He said there were no stars, no stand-outs and that everybody had done the job that was asked of them.
And he was absolutely spot on, apart possibly from himself as he got them out of a hole or two along the way with very valuable runs. In one of the congratulatory posts on this site's forum the poster alluded to the fact that Strabane had won the title despite having no-one in the Warriors set-up. Amd yet if you go into the top 20 batsmen on the Statszone you will see that Strabane had 2 players in the 20- the same number as Fox Lodge, who were relegated. The two players are Peter himself and Matt Bentley, who has really impressed this season, however 315 of the Zimbabwean's 728 runs came in the T20 competition.
It's the same in the bowling- just 2 in the 20 here as well compared to Brigade's 5 and Donemana's 4. It is the best proof you can find that this league was won by a team, the best team, and while one or two will surely be on the Warriors radar, it is a completely separate issue. It is also proof that the Statszone is now the eyes and ears of Irish cricket.