Success of schoolboy sides offers hope for the future

 

Even though the events in Toronto earlier this month did nothing for the good of Irish cricket, it's as well to bear in mind they did not deliver the game a final death-blow, either.

The upcoming Triple Crown tournament in England and the subsequent challenge of the ECB Trophy will test the mettle and the mental strength of the players (not forgetting the selectors) and success in either or both campaigns would end the season on a positive note.

And these tournaments apart, there is hope for the future of the summer game in Ireland. The club schoolboy scene was examined in this column recently and since then, Ireland's youth players achieved a notable hat-trick of victories in the European Cricket Council's (ECC) under-13, under-15 and under-17 tournaments.

The under-15 side achieved the most recent success, defeating Holland, Denmark and Scotland at Limavady, Bready and Eglinton, respectively, last weekend, to retain the title won in Holland last year.

This was a notable achievement which reflects well on manager Brendan "Ginger" O'Brien and coach John Semple, while there were some fine performances from captain Eoin Morgan and players such as Robert Rankin, Simon McMichael, Matthew Tighe, Richard Hanna, Garrett McKee and James Bennett.

The Ireland under-13 team also achieved a clean sweep in Holland earlier this month, following on the success of the under-17 side in Denmark in June. Michael Quinn (North Down) was the manager, the coach was Dave McGeehan, the Malahide skipper and Greg Thompson (Lisburn) captained the squad.

William Porterfield (Donamana), one of the most promising young players on the island, captained the under-17 side, which was managed by Alan Neill and coached by the Leinster Cricket Union's development officer, Brian O'Rourke.

The only glitch in this success story is the under-19 squad, which lost to Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday, thereby making qualification for the World Cup tournament in Christchurch rather unlikely.

A great many people, among them the above-named managers and coaches as well as Donal O'Sullivan, the honorary secretary of the LCU's Club Schoolboy Branch, have worked hard throughout the year to bring about these successes.

Indoor training at the Queen's University complex in Belfast started in October and continued in the off-season; hopefully, says O'Sullivan, North County's Centre of Excellence at Balrothery will provide a more central location when completed.

The future test will be to keep as many as possible of these talented youngsters in the game.