NCU CRICKET: It’s grounds for concern for Holywood

Nigel Jones of holders CIYMS (second left) and  Chris Martin of Downpatrick at the draw for the quarter finals of the Northern Cricket Union's Gallagher Senior Challenge Cup. The draw was made by  Shane Matthews, managing director of Gallagher Northern Ireland and Clarence Hiles, President of the NCU. PICTURE: Rowland White
Nigel Jones of holders CIYMS (second left) and Chris Martin of Downpatrick at the draw for the quarter finals of the Northern Cricket Union's Gallagher Senior Challenge Cup. The draw was made by Shane Matthews, managing director of Gallagher Northern Ireland and Clarence Hiles, President of the NCU. PICTURE: Rowland White

Holywood are preparing for a big Gallagher Challenge Cup quarter-final clash against Instonians tomorrow - along with facing some off-field issues regarding the maintenance of their Seapark ground.

They moved to their current ground just over 10 years ago from their original location of Spafield and since then, according to a member of the club, the outfield has been cut twice a week for the purposes of youth training and weekend matches, but it is their understanding that could be a thing of the past.

The member also added that, although the grass will be cut for Saturday’s cup game, the Ards & North Down Borough Council have informed them that the cutting procedure will be on a weekly basis, rather than the twice-weekly process that they have been used to.

The club have grown their youth section this year, with over 100 juniors playing cricket at Seapark every week, and one club member said they need the outfield to be maintained properly with so much cricket being played at the ground.

“What we learned earlier this season was that the ground staff were only cutting the grass once a week,” said the member. “The tradition and understanding was that the grass would be cut at Seapark twice a week for obvious reasons.

“We have children coming on a Tuesday night, so we wanted the grass cut on a Monday or Tuesday so that the under 11s could play without having to play through daisies, while also being cut on Friday so that our Section One games can go ahead.

“We are in a bit of a contentious situation with the council regarding how our games are going to be played.

“This means that every game played at Seapark is in jeopardy, because if they don’t cut it on the Friday it won’t be suitable for senior cricket.

“We are in a situation where we don’t know when the grass will be cut.”

They also added that there are other issues around the ground, including a pile of sand and quarry dust on an embankment and a sheugh which affects the drainage system at the ground in bad weather conditions.

“We maintain the square and it is flawless,” said the club member. “But then you go to the outfield and it doesn’t match the immaculate condition of the square. “Our difficulty is that we can’t do anything about it.

“At the top of the ground on the embankment, there is a pile of sand and a pile of quarry dust, which have been abandoned there for the past four seasons.

“As you go down there from that end, you have a running stream that has never been properly culverted, there is standing water that in wetter times helps flood the outfield.

“As you go further down, there is a sheugh that has never been drained or cleaned out in living memory.

“This we suspect has an outlet to it, but it is clogged up by branches, mud and other things, and so it doesn’t help solve the drainage at that end of the ground.

“We were told in January that this would all be attended to, but it hasn’t. We have pointed out that we moved there with their assurances that we would be able to play high-level cricket, and now after 12 years of custom and practice, we have been told that the cutting will be largely once a week.”

The Challenge Cup tie is a massive occasion for the Section One club, and is likely to bring in a bigger audience than the usual Saturday afternoon, with Premier League opposition in town.

The club member says they just want the issues sorted by the council so that they can keep progressing and expanding.

“We are going to have more people coming than usual, and people are going to be looking around and wondering if this is the ground that time forgot,” they said.

“They have talked about a new pavilion, but in the meantime we want them to sort out the basics, such as the flooding and blockage in the sheugh. The decision about the grass was not made through consultation with the club or through an IMPACT study.

“It rips up an understanding and commitment that was given to the club over 10 years ago.”