When Craig Ervine decided last winter to resume his international career with Zimbabwe, the implications were enormous at Wallace Park.
Lisburn had already decided that there wasn’t room in the budget for both Ervine and South African Darryl Brown, so at least Ervine’s announcement saved them an agonising choice.
But captain David Simpson and the rest of the decision-makers knew there would be a gaping hole to fill without Ervine this summer. Their trust in youth at the expense of recruiting talent from elsewhere is admirable but Simpson knows things are likely to get tougher before they get better.
“When Craig declared his hand over the winter we decided we didn’t want to bring anyone else in,” said Simpson. “It leaves a big hole in terms of our batting, he was also an under-rated bowler and a great fielder, He also brought great all-rounder experience which we are going to miss.
“With James Magowan going to England to work and only going to be available for five or six games, and Adam Berry breaking his ankle four weeks before the start of the season, we’ve been hit harder than normal.
“But that presents opportunities for younger lads who have shown promises and it gives them a chance they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It’s our opinion at the club that you have to give your youngsters a chance or you may as well give up the game. But we also know that giving youngsters a chance means you are also going to have difficult games. Hopefully there will be a benefit for the club in the long run.”
Lisburn were beaten heavily by North Down in the NCU Challenge Cup last Saturday, but have a chance to bounce back this Saturday when Wallace Park welcomes Donemana, probably the best supported club in Ireland. The Ulster Cup has its critics but Simpson, with his North West family connections, is an unashamed fan.
“I think it’s great to play against the teams who you don’t face week in, week out,” Simpson continued. “We’ve had our highs and lows in the competition, last year we won at Brigade and then Craig made a double ton against Donemana and we still went on to lose.
“It’s just a very good competition, Donemana are favourites and we’ve nothing to lose. It’s a game where there isn’t any pressure, you are happy to if you get through but if you lose it’s not a disaster. I love playing against North West clubs, they play an exciting brand of cricket.”
Simpson, a teacher at Walalce High School, does issue a warning about the pressure cricket faces from other sports.
“People keep quoting stats but it’s so difficult to get teams out at school level now,” he added. “The numbers are dwindling. How many young players continue playing cricket beyond the age of 17? That’s the bottom line and it’s something that I brought up at the NCU meeting last year.
“Winter sports are becoming more dominant.”