This week I have spent a lot of my time talking to a number of people and looking at the youth side of the game, or if you like the future.
Now some may say that CIYMS are an easy target for criticism. Last year the club became Ulster Bank Premier League champions for the first time in their history, but did they get the credit they deserved?
This season it shows that it is much easier to win something than to actually defend it, with most of the campaign a struggle to stay in the elite section and still only one win above the relegation spot.
Once again they have a number of what have been termed “hired guns” in the side and perhaps they have not quite gelled together, but as a club they are rarely far from the news.
Against this background I spoke to club PRO Daniel McConkey about the future.
“If you look at what we are doing with our youth sides, we now have eight cricketers at the club who have represented the NCU at various underage levels this year,” he explained. “Our Under 15 side has just lost in the final of the Graham Cup and are through to the final of the league.
“Our Under 11 side are in the league cup semi-final and were beaten in the final of the Quoile Cup. We have a thriving youth section at all levels.
“On a Friday evening we have 90 children under the age of eleven playing Kwik cricket under the supervision of Alan McIlwaine and he has the same age group playing with the hard ball on a Wednesday.
“The Under 13’s are spearheaded by Michael Hingston and Colin Hunter. At Under 15 we have Phil Smith in partnership with PJ Moor and Taimur Khan and Phil and TK also look after the Under 19’s or Colts Cup side.
“Also, at most of those levels we are able to field an A and B team.
“When you look at the fact that when we played in the Challenge Cup final seven years ago, it was a struggle for us to field a third eleven and we had no youth section whatsoever.”
He added: “Equally there is no doubt we have benefitted from the relationship with Hughes Insurance and it has helped provide us with some fantastic facilities, such as an electronic scoreboard, covers, scorebox etc.”
I kind of got a sense he was saying to me, ‘we are well aware of what people may say or think about CI and the players you see on the firsts on a Saturday, but we are building something here, from the foundations up’.
Speaking of which, I then discovered that the club has just been awarded Sport NI – Clubmark accreditation and one of the driving forces behind that was Michael Hingston from CIYMS development committee.
Daniel continued: “It has been a long process, something like 18 months in the making and we have had to put a lot of things in place. If you like it is a long term plan where we have put a number of pathways is place.
“All aspects of the club are covered, such as child protection, safety in sport, with a lot of by the book planning, from junior cricket right through to the senior sides. We have codes of conduct in place for both the players and indeed the parents.
“We have worked with Cricket Ireland through the NCU and the support of Tim Simmonite has been invaluable. We have support structures in place in a number of areas to work on, such as getting more of our players up to Level One coaches. Now we will basically have a yearly health check to ensure that we maintain it.
“It also is invaluable when it comes to applying for grants and we can also avail of discounts on kit through Podium for Sport. As I said a long process but I believe we will only fully see the fruits of our labour next season.”
Looking at Junior League One, CIYMS sit proudly on top with a team that on a regular basis contains six or seven teenagers. So yes it is important that they retain Premier League status, as to the future it certainly looks like CIYMS is going to be a side built on home grown talent.
Indeed former Irish international Garfield Harrison told me he believed that CI were right up there now in terms of developing young talent alongside Waringstown, CSN and Instonians.
I spoke to Garfield about Waringstown’s success in retaining the Graham Cup beating CIYMS in the final.
He said: “It has been a good campaign, we had a century from Ross Waite in the quarter-final against Ballymena and another from Marcus McClean in the semi-final against Lisburn and this is in 30 overs.
“In the final Stuart Harrison took 4-18 and won the man of the match, but perhaps what pleased me more was that it was a team effort. CI were dismissed for 85 but we still needed 40 runs and the big guns were gone and the unsung heroes like Morgan Topping, Peter Froggett, Calum Adamson and Jonathan Waite saw us home.
“We will only lose three of this team next year so perhaps we can make it three in a row which would be unprecedented.”
Garfield is a former winner of the Graham Cup and he says he now has his son telling him how he has won it twice and been man of the match.