The beginning of April, the weather getting warmer and the time changing giving more evening daylight time heralds the arrival of the new cricket season and already things are stirring at Muckamore Cricket Club. The groundsmen are already hard at work getting the ground into shape, cutting the grass on the outfield and preparing the batting square for the hard season ahead.
With six weekend men’s teams, two midweek teams, one Ladies Premier League team and numerous teams ranging from Under Nines to Under Fifteen the Club will be springing into life in the next few weeks as another season begins.
Muckamore Firsts play their first pre season friendly next Sunday when they take on Waringstown at Moylena. The match starts at 1pm and will be 40 overs a side game. Waringstown are the reigning All Ireland winners and both sides are expected to be at full strength except for their overseas professionals who won’t arrive until later in the month. The game is the first opportunity for new Muckamore coach Bobby Rao to see his team in action. Bobby who played Test cricket for India has been living in Northern Ireland for almost 30 years and in that time has coached at all levels of Irish cricket including the Senior Squad as well as four years ago working as Director of Cricket in his native Hyderabad. Most of the Muckamore boys have been training at the indoor hall at Parkhall Integrated College for the past few months but this week they will switch outdoors to the facilities at Muckamore. Bobby Rao has brought new techniques to coaching the Muckamore boys as well as putting a lot of emphasis on fitness and mental awareness. He has been working tirelessly with skipper Neil Gill and Ivan McCombe in a newly created role as Firsts team manager. Ivan who captained Muckamore Firsts for four seasons in the late 80’s and mid 90’s explains “my role is to help Neil concentrate on the on field issues and on training nights with Bobby. I’m there to pick up the pieces, help recruit players where we need them and just be there when Neil, Bobby or any of the squad needs something so that they can all focus on being the best they can be on the pitch. It’s exciting because Bobby is an innovator always looking for new ways to get the best from players and Neil is much focused on his own game as well as making sure we have young players coming through. We took the time to meet with possible recruits this winter and it wasn’t just their playing ability that was of interest but how they would fit in to the dressing room as well. We are confident that the four new recruits Marcus O’Riordan, Francis Collins, Karthik Rajavelu and Jamie Rogers will make a positive contribution. This winter Firsts players Aditya Adey, Sam Gordon and Jamie Magowan were playing in Australia who will be returning home this month have earned a place in the Andrew White Coaching Academy Squad. We wish Jamie Magowan well as he is moving on to play for another club this year.’
Neil Gill says “This is the most excited I have ever been heading in to a new season. Having Bobby and Ivan to help allows me to concentrate on my own performance and that of the team. Our professional Fahad Iqbal has had a great season back in Pakistan while here Pavan Karthik, Luke Allen, Davy Miller and the others in our 15 man squad have all been putting in extra hours. I hope supporters and members turn out on Sunday to back the boys in what will be a tough game. A big part of the Waringstown success over the years is that they treat every game like a cup final and on Sunday it will be no different’.
PEN PICTURES OF NEW PLAYERS
Karthik Rajavelu is an off spinner and a top class batsman who joins from CIYMS.
Jamie Rogers is an opening batsman who has joined from Armagh and having tasted Premier League Cricket last season he wants to continue. His top scores last season were 70 runs at the Lawn against Waringstown, 60 runs against Carrick and 52 runs against Muckamore.
Marcus O’Riordan is a 20 year old aiming to have a professional cricket career with Ireland. He played his club cricket with Tonbridge in the Kent Premier League and has been in the Kent County Academy for the past seven years. He played three games for Kent Seconds last season scoring a 40 and two 50’s. His top score to date is 140runs against Cornwall and he has scored a century in both innings of an MCC game. As well as being a top order batsman Marcus is also a front line off spinner, is training with the Northern Knights squad in Middlesex this week and arrives in Northern Ireland for the season ahead on Friday 5th April. He has been selected for the fourteen man Ireland Academy squad playing Gloucester Seconds and the England Development Eleven in Bath and Rockhampton between 12th and 18th April.
Francis Collins is an ex Irish Schools opening batsman who has joined from Academy / Cliftonville. A highly rated player who is just back after knee surgery, Francis has also played in New Zealand. His knock of 73 runs not out for Belfast Royal Academy in the 2016 Schools Cup Final was described by current Irish international batsman James Shannon as being the “best schoolboy innings he had seen”.
All four recruits are excited about the prospect of being turned into better cricketers by new Muckamore coach Bobby Rao.