Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Cricket Ireland: Knockharley knocking on the door of National Cup success

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Photo Credit: Knockharley CC

This weekend 32 clubs around Ireland will battle it out for quarter-final places in the Arachas Irish Senior Cup and Arachas National Cup – amongst those teams is Navan-based Knockharley Cricket Club.

Having beaten Ballymena in the opening round, Knockharley will play host to 2022 National Cup runners-up Terenure in the second round at Kentstown, with the game getting underway at 1.30pm on Sunday 4 June. The club made the quarter-finals once before, in 2018, when they lost to Limerick by 113 runs.

In that game against Ballymena a fortnight ago two teenagers, Lorcan Craik and Don Retty were extremely influential – scoring 31 runs and taking 1-26 between them.

The club is optimistic about their chances of a return to the Arachas National Cup quarter-finals this weekend, aware that they’ll have to beat Terenure at home to do so.

Club captain Ovais Ali said:

“We are very excited about this fixture and are keen to do well. With our comprehensive win up in the North in Round One, the team is buoyed and has a belief that this will be our best year yet in the National Cup. We will leave no stone unturned to give ourselves the best chance to move forward in the competition. A mix of youth and experience on the field, a strong support off the field and familiarity with our own ground will prove to be very challenging for anyone travelling to Kentstown.

“Ali took on the captaincy of the club this season, and he’s relishing the opportunity to lead his team out on Sunday, and maybe also to bigger things:

“It’s a pleasure leading a bunch of very talented guys. I have been associated with the club for over five years now, and taking on this role in a transition year, is challenging as well as it is exciting. I am very proud of what we have achieved so far this year, but we’re not complacent. The idea is to provide a solid foundation to the club in 2023 and for the next five years to build on. A National Cup trophy win would be a strong binding force that would keep the spirits alive and create the hunger to move up the ladder for our young players.

“Every visiting team and officials alike have lauded our facilities along with the serene setting that the club offers. There is over 100 years of strong cricketing history in Meath and Knockharley Cricket Club is lucky and proud to hold the Meath baton.”

Knockharley Cricket Club was founded in 1982 and currently fields three adult teams in Leinster, in Division 4, 8 and 16. They have a strong youth set-up at the club –  with two cup successes in 2022 – while a few of their players received call-ups for Leinster Under-13 and Under-15 teams. They have over 120 members who use the clubs facilities and represent the Green and Yellow across the various competitions.

Their Kentstown ground is one of only a handful of grounds in Ireland that is owned by the club themselves – and the story of how that came about is an interesting one.

Having originally played games on land owned by Richard Byrne – a local farmer and cricket enthusiast – the club found themselves in a pickle in 1994 when Byrne announced he was retiring from farming. In order to fulfil the terms of the farm retirement scheme it would be necessary to turn his farm over to this successors unencumbered, so the club were given just 18 months to find a new ground.

This was a watershed moment in the clubs history. Trying to find a suitable landowner who was willing to restrict his/her farming activities in the area where the games could be played was proving difficult. There was no question of the club folding, so the logical course of action was for the club to purchase their own ground. Luckily, the following year a piece of land – only a mile and a half from the grounds of Ashfield – in the townland of Veldonstown became available.

Thanks to the generosity of the people in the local community this land was eventually purchased, and it became Knockharley’s new cricket ground. Immediately the task of preparing a proper “square” was put in place. The outfield was completely drained, tilled and re-sewn. All the work was carried out with the advice and supervision of the Leinster Cricket Union grounds committee.

The old grounds at Ashfield previously played host to many representative women’s matches, including an inter-provincial clash in 1993 between North Leinster and Ulster. The biggest game at the venue came in 1995, when the under-19 international match between Ireland and Denmark was held there as a follow-up to the women’s European Cup in July.

Ali explains a little bit about the club:

“We are transitioning, and a strong youth programme over last 5-8 years is seeing a strong and positive message sent around Meath which has resulted in us attracting over 60 kids and parents to register with the club. The current youth group aged 12-17 are now being brought into the adult team fold as part of the training process. Some notable performances have come from our youth playing across three adult teams this year.

“We are a very diverse club in terms of our members’ background, nationalities, and ability to play the game. South Africa, Australia, England, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka are well represented along with a strong Irish presence. We have excellent facilities to cater to all age groups. We also have a strong 5-6 member coaching staff with two practice nets and a bowling machine to hone skills of all levels of players.

“In recent years the club has twice won the Leinster Cricket Union Grounds Committee Merit Award which we are really proud of as it reflects how seriously we endeavour to provide a good quality cricket ground.”

When asked what his favourite memory was during his time at the club, club Secretary Tony Cosgrave said:

“My personal favourite moment from playing was a memorial game we were invited to play at the now defunct Knockbrack Cricket Club in North Dublin in the mid-90’s. There was a trophy and some medals at stake.

“I was keeping wicket and Conor French-Davis, who was also Chairman at the time, was having a spell with his slow left arm against a relatively aggressive Knockbrack batter. Conor’s pace wasn’t to his liking and some chat started before impatience took over. The batter advanced, but ball passed through the proverbial ‘gate’ to bowl him. The batter left the pitch, with the bat stuffed under his arm muttering, “That’s not proper bowling” or words to that effect. Conor took three wickets that day and we won.”

Captain Ali said:

“I remember a National Cup game we played up North against Glendermott and we were sent to bat first. One of the best hitting that I’ve witnessed by our current coach Emmet Craik (who was then a firsts player) scoring 97. I went to join him at no 3 when the score was 120-1 and he was batting at 96*, I said to him “Em, you’re on 96, perhaps take a few singles and reach the milestone”. He responded, “Na mate, I don’t care”.

“He got out and I was more devastated than he was. In the same game our no 6 our Tahir Rasheed hit 50+ with at least half a dozen sixes, and I remember a fielder at mid-wicket turning towards the pavilion and asking the dugout, “does he know how to keep the ball on the ground?” We all laughed. With a run-rate of over seven, Glendermott lost, but they did put up a good fight.”


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