Cricket in the North West is continuing to push the boundaries as the sport enjoys a surge in popularity across the country.
Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín saw the progress first-hand as she attended the launch of the North West Warriors Cricket Academy at Bready Cricket Centre, Tyrone.
The Warriors are an inter-provincial side who play in the all-Ireland Championships and the new Academy will nurture future Warriors – 13-18 year olds from across the North West – as they strive to reach the highest levels of the sport.
The Minister said: “Cricket is enjoying a growing reputation across Ireland, and the North West Warriors Cricket Academy aims to capture this by encouraging and developing the next generation of players.”
During the visit, the Minister met Boyd Rankin, the Bready native who played for Ireland and made his test debut for England during the Ashes last month.
“It is a pleasure to meet Boyd, particularly at his home ground,” the Minister said.
“He is an inspirational figure, a sportsman who links the Bready Cricket Club, in County Tyrone, with the latest Ashes series in Australia; a local man playing his cricket at the highest levels. As we look to the next generation, Boyd shows what can be achieved with talent, hard work and dedication.”
The Minister also highlighted the wider benefits of sports clubs, adding: “I am pleased that tonight we are not only talking about sporting benefits, we are also talking about the wider social and economic impact of sports clubs.
“As my department looks to promote equality, while tackling poverty and social exclusion, it is heartening to see the part cricket plays in the wider community here in Bready.
“A key part of this is encouraging those at a grassroots level. As well as the athletes on the field, this includes the backroom staff, the volunteers, supporters and those who contribute to sports clubs across the country.
“Tonight, we can see the building blocks of future success.”