Club of the Year shortlist demonstrates power of the underdog
Cricket clubs drawn from the five Provincial Unions - Connacht, Munster, Leinster, Northern, and North West - have been shortlisted for the prestigious Butlers Club of the Year award at tomorrow night’s 11th Clear Treasury Irish Cricket Awards.
The award honours both on-field and off-field achievements, with clubs being nominated for consideration by each Provincial Union. Previous winners of the award include: Bready CC (2022), Limerick CC (2021), Pembroke CC (2020), Waringstown CC (2018), Waringstown CC (2017), and Cork County CC (2016).
Speaking ahead of the awards, Participation Director for Cricket Ireland, Elaine Nolan said:
“Club cricket is the heart of Irish cricket and many clubs would arguably be just as worthy of winning this honour as any of the clubs shortlisted. The Awards process, though, allows us to recognise and champion the many and meaningful contributions of club members, volunteers, coaches, players, officials, and supporters across Ireland.
“This year we have five strong nominations for Club of the Year – each acknowledging the importance both of performance on the field and the clubs’ impacts off the field.”
Balbriggan Cricket Club (Cricket Leinster)
- In 2021, Balbriggan won the BUAKIT Championship and obtained promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. In 2022 they followed that up with a victory in the IBI Corporate Finance Premier League at the first time of asking with the highly experienced Andre Botha leading the coaching set-up.
- Their 2nd XI also performed well, finishing in the top two of Division 5 and reaching the final of the YMCA Salver 20 over competition, their 3rds in the top two of Division 11 and their 4ths mid-table in Division 17.
- Overall they fielded five men’s adult teams, a development league team, a women’s team for the first time (they finished a credible mid-table in Division 2) and fielded 12 youth teams across 11 age groups. They made extensive improvements to their home ground, and they significantly developed girls cricket within the club.
- Balbriggan Cricket Club’s right-arm seam bowler Aadi Wankhade was awarded the Cricket Leinster ‘Find a Fast Bowler’ award for 2022. This represented swift progress for Aadi who only made his first senior club appearance in June 2022.
Cork Harlequins Cricket Club (Munster Cricket)
- Cork Harlequins have shown outstanding levels of achievement both on and off the field. They are a community-based club which relies entirely on volunteers and have continued to expand due to community engagement and youth development.
- They are the first club in Munster to introduce a 5th adult team in Munster domestic leagues. Just four years ago Harlequins had just three adult teams and 70 members – now the club enjoys a membership of over 150. They also have Masters and youth squads from U11 to U17 and they have a thriving Academy with over 50 girls and boys playing cricket throughout the season.
- The club draws its players from all backgrounds and communities with the widest of diversity - at the latest count there were at least 15 nationalities represented in the club with a playing age range of 11 to 70 years old. Active in the local community the club supports players from direct provision, develops programmes with multiple schools and runs both summer and winter academies for all age groups and genders.
- Their ground committee have overseen massive improvements with all senior games now played on quality grass wickets. The club heavily invested in equipment and infrastructure purchasing sightscreens, a heavy roller and full square covers and continued to invest in the excellent outfield. Youth has been the cornerstone of Harlequins development and success. It has a non-professional 1st team, which is the youngest in Munster with an average age of 22. The majority of the squad have pathway developed through all age groups at the club and concurrently Munster Representative pathways.
- Eight of the Harlequins squad played for the Munster Heat in the 2022 Future Series Interprovincial winning side. In 2022 Harlequins won an unprecedented treble of the Munster Senior Cup, Premier League, and T20 League. They also progressed to their second consecutive All Ireland T20 Cup final, where one of the largest crowds of recent years turned The Mardyke red for the day.
Athlone Cricket Club (Connacht Cricket Union)
- Athlone Cricket Club won both the Connacht Senior league and Connacht Senior Cup in a hugely successful year for the club, and in addition it advanced to Division 13 in Dublin.
- Athlone CC are working hard to improve their ground status, and they were recently granted permission to expand the perimeter of the clubs Doon home ground. The Club’s members work extremely hard to engage the local community and to be an open and inclusive club catering for all ages and abilities.
Fox Lodge Cricket Club (North West Cricket Union)
- Fox Lodge Cricket Club’s Men’s First XI won the North West senior cup for the first time in their history last season. To complete a club double, their Women’s team also secured the North West Women’s Senior Cup.
- Off the field they have invested in a new youth committee and the Foxes can now boast a vibrant youth set up with Smash It (Under 9s) up to U15s, an increase in over 200% in youth playing numbers since 2019.
- They have also one of the best women's and girls’ sections in the region.
- They have trusted in a new generation of leaders at the club and the results are emerging for all to see. There are significant numbers of volunteers on their committee that are under 30, both male and female. They host various community activities such as walking cricket, luncheon clubs, youth clubs and local farmer clubs. The club are a great role model for a modern, vibrant community club.
Lisburn Cricket Club (Northern Cricket Union)
- Lisburn Cricket Club have had a stellar year which can be directly attributable to the culmination of a decade or more of hard work behind the scenes to make their club the heartbeat of the local community. The last year has seen the club enjoy considerable success on the field of play with men’s, women’s and youth teams all celebrating successes. The club has also seen their junior section flourish into one of the biggest in the country, and in 2022 they introduced a disability cricket section.
- Off the pitch the club significant investment has seen the standard of the facilities improve and in 2022 the club played host to several Super Series fixtures.
- The club’s 1st XI men were the NCU Premier League winners and Irish Senior Cup finalists. It was the club’s first premier league title since 1996 and first ever Irish Senior Cup final. Their 2nd XI men were beaten Junior Cup finalists, 3rd XI men beaten Minor Cup finalists and 4th XI men league winners. They launched a midweek XI in 2022 and reached the semi-final of the league in their inaugural season. Their 1st XI women were the NCU league one winners, and they launched a women's 2nd XI. Considering the club only started women/girls cricket in 2021, this has been a steep trajectory of growth in this section of the club. The U13 girls won the NCU league winners and were All Ireland semi-finalists losing on a bowl out, while their U11 boys won the NCU league and were cup finalists.
- The club introduced disability cricket in 2022 which was developed in conjunction with one of their community partners, Hillsborough Boys FC. They hosted the Northern Cricket Union’s T20 semi-finals day along with the Irish Senior Cup semi-final between Lisburn and Clontarf. 2022 also saw the club launch a new midweek team, a 2nd XI women's team, a Girls youth teams, and an overall growth in youth numbers, and an increase in visitors / supporters / social members, while they made some improvements to their Wallace Park ground, including additional sightscreens, a new artificial pitch, additional sheets for the square, and new seating.
The Butlers Club of the Year award will be presented to the winning club at tomorrow night’s 11th Clear Treasury Irish Cricket Awards in Dublin
© Cricket World 2023