Cricket programme is proving to be a really big hit

Heatley Tector, Oceanblue Audio, pictured with presenters Andrew Leonard and Mark Robinson. They are joined by David Holmes, News Letter's Total Cricket correspondent
Heatley Tector, Oceanblue Audio, pictured with presenters Andrew Leonard and Mark Robinson. They are joined by David Holmes, News Letter's Total Cricket correspondent

As I have walked around the boundaries during the past few weeks, it has been noticeable the number of conversations I have overheard about ‘the slog sweep’.

No, not the huge swing towards what is affectionately known as cow corner, but the first ever Irish cricket show –The Slog Sweep.

When you think about it, it’s actually a remarkably simple concept – two blokes in a studio each week, nattering about basically everything in Irish cricket.

The show has a headline interview, a ‘Club Corner’ profiling a different club every week, a Team of Week, sponsored by O’Neill’s, and a ‘Performance of the Week’.

On top of all that there is a round-up of all the premier games around the country featuring Ger Siggins in Leinster, Barry Chambers from the North West and yours truly looking at the Northern Cricket Union.

If that isn’t enough there is a section on performances by Irish players in the County game and the #almostcricketlegend, which is pretty much the opposite of performance of the week – what you and I might call the absolute shocker.

Now in week six the initial response has been nothing short of staggering, averaging well in excess of 10,000 individual downloads per week.

The show has captured the imagination of the public and it is quite literally an all-island production. Already there have been features on Cregagh, Cliftonville and St. Johnston cricket clubs and Gary Wilson has recorded a feature interview.

Irish broadcasting icon George Hook caused quite a stir in his interview when he accused Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin of “abandoning their country”, and last week on the eve of the first test against Sri Lanka, England Chairman of Selectors Angus Fraser said that on current form he would like to have Ed Joyce in the team.

So, who are the two blokes in the studio behind it all?

Mark Robinson has over 20 years practice in the radio industry. Mark’s name is synonymous in sports media in his native Australia, a veteran when it comes to sports show hosting, particularly in relation to basketball and cricket.

He came to Ireland in 2008, helped drive both Newstalk and 4fm to their position where they are today in the Irish Radio market, before returning to his native Australia. He then made a comeback to marry the woman he fell in love with whilst here and has lived in Ireland permanently since.

Andrew Leonard started out as a coach and tutor at Pembroke Cricket Club doing grass-roots development work, before in 2012 turning his hand to the commercial side becoming Marketing Manager for Cricket Ireland.

He was one of the driving forces behind the memorable season in 2013 that saw sell-out crowds for Pakistan and the record crowd of 10,000 people watch Ireland v England in Malahide.

The marketing effort for that match was the winner of the Global ICC award for the Best Promotional and Marketing Campaign in 2013.

Together they are now better known as ‘Robbo and Lennie’.

Heatley Tector directs operations, a man who admits to having two passions in life, radio and cricket, so the programme seemed a logical step as he explained: “The concept is an all island cricket show, a podcast for those who love cricket; we hope it’s for everyone who shares our passion for the game.

“We have tried to not only appeal to all cricketers but also to those with even a passing interest. Hopefully we have succeeded in catering for all tastes.

“What has been particularly pleasing to date has been the tremendous response from the northern audience, both the NCU and North West.

“Based in Dublin we hoped that we had struck the right balance but the feedback on Twitter etc. has been really encouraging.”

Heatley is currently President of Dublin YMCA, a position he took over just last year from Derek Dockrell, George’s father.

“One of my closest friends is Alan Lewis and I joined YMCA in 1976,” he added.

“ The reason is simple really. I went to school at Sandford Park and Alan played for St. Andrews. Basically we had played them three successive years in the school final and lost.

“We had not lost to St. Andrew’s but to Alan Lewis, especially when he scored over 100 out of 130. I remember going up to his father at the end of the game and asking if I could join YMCA as I never wanted to play against him again!”

Heatley has been in media all his working life, starting out in Carr Communications in 1984 learning from Bunny Carr.

“I wanted to be a DJ or a newsreader; then in Ireland there were only two legal stations RTE1 and Radio 2, so if you like I went down the pirate route with Kilkenny Community Radio,” he said.

“At one stage I even came north as Downtown Radio was one of the most respected stations around then, but they have the great good sense to look elsewhere.

“I love Test Match Special, for me the guys just commentate between stories and we are trying to do something along those lines. We are also very fortunate to have those great supporters of Irish cricket, Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien as our main sponsors.”

Heatley met his wife through cricket and his sons now spend seven days a week at YMCA from April to September. Both Jack and Harry have played under age cricket for Ireland and I believe it is highly likely a third Tim will as well.

“Yeah, I think the sporting genes skipped a generation with me, I am what you might call a tryer,” he said.

“My dad Bill played rugby for Ireland and my wife’s father Tom Dixon won three All Ireland medal’s with Wexford in the 1950’s.”

With purpose built radio and TV studios situated in Ranelagh, I suspect it won’t be long before The Slog Sweep concept fires the imagination of other sports.