Today we welcome Irish writer Kevin Galvin back to TFT. Here are his latest thoughts on cricket in the Emerald Isle.
The enthralling third test between India and South Africa, which was a fascinating battle amongst the gratuitious run-scoring of limited overs cricket, exhibited why many people are of the credence that the long-form needs to be protected.
But while in both England and Australia, the shorter form of the game, particularly T20, is becoming an almost uncontrollable behemoth, here in Ireland it’s test cricket which is causing all the excitement.
The Ashes is probably the first tournament that comes to mind when one thinks of the old game of cricket over here; the 135-year-old urn, standing at just 11cm tall, is subject to much ridicule around these parts, but there’s no doubting that when England face the Aussies, there’s still plenty of coverage and interest.
There are quite a few in Ireland too, given the popularity of Sky Sports and BT on our screens, who keenly support England. However, whereas in the past Irish cricket fans might have got up early to buy tickets to see England at Lord’s or the Oval, this year, for the first time ever, they’ll be able to buy tickets to see test cricket in Ireland itself.
No longer will England be the surreptitious representative of Irish players at the top level, nor will the Three Lions be the only test side this side of Pakistan. Finally young cricketers have the opportunity to play the five-day form of the game and stay in their own country
Friday 11th May 2018 is the date, Malahide CC the venue, as Ireland’s first day of destiny arrives, and contrary to rumours, the opening test isn’t against also-entering Afghanistan, but Pakistan, who topped the test rankings just last year.
The Shaheens were famously the side that crumbled against the Irish at the World Cup in 2007, handing the minnows their first giant killing in a major tournament, and catapulting the Association on a journey which reaches a major milestone next summer.
Fitting therefore that they come to town, and while the five-day game will undoubtedly be a mountain too-great for Ireland to climb, €30 tickets means there’ll be plenty of supporters there to see them try.
It’s a really clever ticketing strategy by Cricket Ireland, who have already been guaranteed several millions off the backing of ICC full-member status, with hopes that further funding will be available to bring structures and facilities closer to that of our friends across the water.
TV rights money is also sure to be a figure unheard of for Ireland, whose Intercontinental tests are barely televised. Indeed only in the last 12 months have home One-Day games been shown on TV, with local broadcaster Eir Sport taking the risk of putting cricket on the box.
The securing of rights is a key opportunity for Cricket Ireland, with the national broadcaster RTÉ showing little appetite for diluting their tried-and-tested formula of Gaelic Games, International Rugby, and Champions League football, despite the ‘Blarney Army’s various giant-killings.
Seven short paragraphs and the briefest of mentions on the news bulletin, lost at the end among news from a Gaelic Games competition which attracted around 100 people for last year’s final, tells its own story. With one of Cricket Ireland’s key objectives ‘Making Cricket Mainstream’, they’re not exactly getting much of a helping hand from traditional media sources.
At least the national association, however, is being proactive about getting people in the gate, and the hope is this financial shot in the arm will be partnered with an increase in publicity for the game in the country. Better yet, there is now a clear pathway to test cricket in Ireland. This will give administrators the ability to not only attract youngsters to pick up the game, but the country’s best talents to stay and mentor those coming through the ranks.
It could be a long haul though. The Irish sporting landscape is slow to change. Don’t expect many to stay up when Ireland go down-under.