cover of Cricket in Ireland 1792-2005

EXCERPTS

The game of cricket, hewn from fallen branches on the downs of southern England, was carried across the world by its armies and colonial workers. In places like the West Indies, India and Australia, abundant sunlight and long summers ensured that the game took deep root and the masters would eventually bow the knee to the pupils. In Ireland, as in so many other facets of our relationship with England, it wasn't quite that simple...


...In 1884, the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in Thurles, County Tipperary, but by then cricket's decline was well advanced. With society being increasingly polarised, cricket's association with England and the aristocracy cost it many adherents. The GAA's infamous ban on foreign sports was not to blame - that piece of nastiness was the work of the second generation of officials in the 1890s and early 1900s - but it put the final nail in the coffin of the game in many areas...


...The best remembered Ireland cricketer to die in the war, however, was a Galway man who was shot down by 'friendly fire' over Italy in January 1918, aged 37. Robert Gregory crossed paths with many of the most remarkable people of his time as the son of Lady Augusta Gregory, founder of the Abbey Theatre and instigator of the Irish Literary Revival...


...'An Em'rald Pitch is not a Carib's friend,
For Ireland's heroes strove like men inspired.
While one by one the Visitors "retired";
The faces long, their crease-duration short,
For Hospitality goes ill with Sport.'...


...Stella Owens was the biggest star in Irish women's cricket for a decade. Growing up next to Castle Avenue, she was a regular on the schoolboy sides in Clontarf until the branch changed the rules to exclude girls. She was player of the match in the women's senior cup final in 1977 - at the age of 11. Injuries cut her career short - she stopped bowling at the age of 23 and retired completely at 28 - but her 35 Irish caps saw her score 697 runs at 24 and take 19 wickets at 28.4...


...In the fourth century in which cricket has been played here, there are 246 grounds and 306 qualified coaches. Most activity is in the Northern area, with 50 clubs fielding 137 teams; Leinster has 40 clubs and 97 teams, North-West 27 clubs and 58 teams and Munster 21 clubs and 32 teams. In 2005, for the first time, a small league of five teams was played in Connaught, the boom in numbers chiefly due to an influx of players from cricketing countries...

(c) Gerard Siggins