When I tell you that I was at The Lawn last Saturday, many would probably comment ‘no surprise there then!’.
The fact is, I was not actually there to see Waringstown, but rather the newest recruit to the NCU, Monaghan Cricket Club.
Monaghan is not actually a new club; they were first founded back in the 1800’s. Back then it was also one of the first recognised school based sports to be played at St. Macartans College.
The history of the school itself is fascinating with the foundation stone laid in July 1840 by the then Bishop of Clogher, Dr. Edward Kernan.
At the peak of construction some 700 men were involved and the first students arrived in 1848. The club intend to play their home fixtures at the school grounds.
If the ancient history if fascinating then the more recent is equally so. The club was reformed in 2001 by a group of immigrants from India as Secretary Dhanasekar Ventkatapathy explained: “A local Monaghan company Stone-tec sourced headstones from our hometown in Coimbatore which is about 400km from Madras. On a visit there they said they needed seven people to come across to work in Monaghan and that is where it all started.
“When we first came across we saw that here was a lot of sport played in the community, GAA, handball, basketball etc. but no cricket. Obviously we enjoyed our cricket so we started off playing friendlies.
“Then in July 2013 149 years after the last competitive game at St. Macartans College cricket returned to Monaghan. Last year was the first year Monaghan CC played in any league, when we played in Connacht.
“Now thanks to the help and encouragement of people like our Chairman Enda Galligan and Andy Clement and Bryan Milford we are playing in the NCU.”
Many cricketers will play a lifetime and never grace the pitch at The Lawn, so it was remarkable that in the club’s first appearance in the Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup they were drawn to face Waringstown.
I arrived just before the scheduled start and it was obvious that they were excited at the prospect, captain George Bernard won the toss and elected to field.
It was never going to be easy and the Waringstown side lead by NCU vice Chairman Alan Waite posted a hugely imposing total of 343 for 8 with Craig Kennedy making an unbeaten century. I asked Dhanasekar how the team felt about that:
“We did not help ourselves by dropping a few catches and missing a run out at vital stages of the game, I felt we could have restricted them a bit better. At tea we knew that winning was impossible, but the skipper said that we focus on playing proper cricket and to aim to bat 50 overs.
“We almost achieved that by surviving 47 overs and scoring 149, so I don’t think we disgraced ourselves. What a great day; the ground was class and we learned such a lot and we were really well looked after.”
So what of the ground in Monaghan:
“It is a bit of a struggle at the minute as we have no machinery, we don’t even have a proper lawnmower to cut the wicket, there is no way we could prepare something like The Lawn.
“Simply we don’t have the expertise but we are willing to learn.Armagh have been really helpful, they donated a roller to us and have also given us some covers. We are also struggling on the numbers of locals playing, Malcolm Scott is the only one playing today, but we have a schoolboy Darragh Corrigan coming through.
“One of our other problems is a formal coaching set up, another local guy John Toohy who is originally from Australia has some experience of coaching and he is helping us at the moment and working with drills. As I say we have a lot to work on.”
So what did the Waringstown skipper make of what he had seen:
“A really super bunch of guys, I believe they thoroughly enjoyed the day. We may have posted a big total but there is no doubt they frustrated us when they came to bat. They were determined not to give their wickets away and played proper cricket shots we were given a decent workout.
“Again I found them very keen to learn about the ground, preparing wickets etc. At the end we spent about 30 minutes over in the machinery shed; to be honest I think they knew more about some of the gear than I did.
“As a Union we need to do everything we can to encourage teams like this, certainly I want to put out some feelers to see if we can help them get a mower and if any clubs out there have an old one or know where there is one let me or Monaghan know.”
For me it was really refreshing to see the enthusiasm that these guys had, often chasing lost causes in the field, throwing themselves around. Sometimes I think the modern club cricketer has it too easy, just turn up on a Saturday and play.
For guys like Dhanasekar and George they have had to wait years to play league cricket in Monaghan and now they are relishing every moment of it and want to improve:
“We would like to establish ourselves, play some decent cricket, get a couple of wins and the perhaps we can approach some businesses for sponsorship.”
If anyone out there would like to start that ball rolling by funding them for a mower, it would be gratefully received.
It is worth pointing out that such was the lack of success for the Waringstown frontline bowlers Alan Waite discovered a new career sweeping in to take 3 for 7, perhaps Monaghan weren’t the only ones to learn something!