Batting the ball

By Kathrin Kobus

Photographs provided by Pembroke CC.

The sports complex at Sydney parade in Sandymount is always busy. It is the shared responsibility of two clubs pursuing two very different team sports.

From autumn until May, Monkstown RFC uses it for rugby, training and matches through the age groups. That takes its toll on grass and soil.

The Pembroke Cricketers take over in late spring and it is their gardeners who get everything in order. “There is loads to do for our committee. In particular for our grounds-keeper taking over the pitch field from the rugby club Monkstown. It takes about three weeks for the lawn to be ready. Then there are the coaches to organise for the juvenile section and the lifts needed when we go to games over the whole of Leinster. The volunteers have lots to do,” president Sean Smith told NewsFour.

Throughout the summer months cricket matches on the local, county and national levels are regularly played here. One highlight in early June was a fundraiser for Enable Ireland. “We came up with our very own Strictly Come (sic) Dancing competition. Fifteen couples took to the stage and found out they had some hidden talents. The event was a celebrated success and around €25,000 was raised for the charity.” The next night saw a big BBQ, the summer sizzler in aid of Crumlin Children’s Hospital Cancer Unit and Cancer Research.

Back to cricket, the Pembrokers celebrate their 150th anniversary this year. In its founding days cricket was one of the most popular sports in Ireland but got sidelined when GAA clubs took over many of the previous cricket grounds.

Now, in the second decade of the 21st century there exists some friendly rivalry with other clubs when potential young players try out the various sports in primary school. “At that age it’s all about getting them active in general.”

The casual observer might think cricket looks far less strenuous than other more popular team sports. But injuries can and do happen.

Cricket is played on an oval not an oblong layout of the pitch. Another peculiarity is that eleven players make the team for a match day, no subs whatsoever. The focus is on two players: “The bowler runs up to the wicket and bowls or delivers (one of the idiosyncratic terms in cricket, conjuring up an image of a waiter delivering a ball on a tray!) the ball at the wicket. The batsman tries to hit the ball to score runs either by running from one wicket to the other in tandem with the other batsman or by hitting the ball past the boundary. If the ball bounces before going over the boundary it counts as four runs, if it doesn’t bounce it is six runs.”

The waiting times can prove tempting for youngsters, just starting out in the game. “There has been the introduction for youth to play seven-a-side, instead of eleven. It makes the game quicker and allows shorter waiting times before it’s the next turn to bowl or bat.”

Another new thing since 2003 is the T20 series. “We believe we are the spiritual home of T20 cricket in Ireland as the game was created by our very own Alan Murray.” One inning counts for twenty overs. It shortens the game considerably down to 3/4 hours. Still long, but fewer games end up carried over onto the next day. Pembroke cricketers play competitive in Leinster and at all-Ireland level, they field five men’s teams, three ladies and some school boy squads.

“It is not that strict. Last year, for example, our Kim Garth played in the men’s first team as well. She is one of three Pembroke lady players with Ireland caps.”

Apart from competition, there are the social cricket events on practically every weekend on any of the cricket grounds. The whole club looked forward to the first weekend in July where four teams met for the T20 festival as part of Hanley’s Energy Inter-Provincial. Andrew Balbirnie and Lorcan Tucker were on the Leinster Lightning team that secured the Hanley T20 title despite a loss in the last game against the Munster Reds.

Three days with six games in uninterrupted sunshine had even the club president wishing for something that’s usually dreaded. “I never thought, I’d be hoping for rain.” Though it must be said, after the event that is and before the next cricket tournaments are scheduled.