Local Cricket Lovers
Cricket probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Maghera.
Sitting at the foot of the Sperrin’s, the town is more synonymous with rain, than sun
kissed afternoons you’d normally associate with the game. But despite this, an
ambitious set of local cricket lovers have set out to raise the profile of the game, and
the signs are promising for the emerging, Maghera Cricket Club.
The Club is now moving into its 10th season as a member of the North West Cricket
Union. Throughout the 10 years the club has grown and has gained promotion twice
and experience a cup semi final. Maghera now looks forward to the new season
playing in Qualifying League Division 2. These are heady heights indeed for the
small club from Maghera but its ambitions don’t stop there, as it will shortly start
competition in the North West Cricket Union’s Mid-Week League.
Formally set up in 2013, the club first played competitive cricket in Division 4 of the
North West Qualifying League and as Mark Semple, the then Captain of the club
would testify, it was often a struggle to put out a full XI every weekend. A lot of time
would be spent contacting friends of friends having been told of their interest in the
The Core Team Emerges
Mike Brearley’s ‘The Art of Captaincy’ brilliantly described the challenges he
faced on the cricket field when leading England to Ashes glory in 1981 but he never
had to play with nine men, some of whom must have verged on the un-selectable.
More often than not, these leads would draw a blank but, on the odd occasion, a day
or two before a game, he would strike lucky and a new, slightly rusty, spin bowler
would be drafted into the team, having last bowled in 1994, for a local team, which
included players from the local towns of Maghera, Magherafelt and Castledawson.
From these humble beginnings, the core of a team emerged, once one-sided
matches became competitive, morale began to grow and eventually a match was
won! In Maghera’s case, this was against New Buildings 2nd XI in a mid-week game
during the 2014 season. Two seasons later and the club had lost only one match
and collected awards for best batsmen and bowler at the annual North West Union
Winning is brilliant for the morale of individuals and a team and now, ably lead by
Alfie Stewart, it has become more familiar, if not routine. Memories of the dropped
catch at mid-on in the second over fade into insignificance and players are
compelled to offer themselves for selection the next week.
Now, the Club has 45 playing members of varying vintages, comprising both men
and women as well as a strong overseas contingent. These members complement a
group of home-grown players, the majority of whom were introduced to the game by
an enthusiastic father who was motivated to pass on their love for the game to the
next generation. In a couple of cases two generations of the same family still playing,
spurred on by friendly family rivalry, although it tends to be the younger generation
that now gets the upper hand. Now the priority is ensuring everyone has an
opportunity to play competitive cricket. With this in mind the plan is this to introduce a
second’s team to compete in the Qualifying Division 4 of the North West.
Foundations For a Successful
Despite its success and relatively stable membership base, the club isn’t taking
anything for granted as standing still is not an option. A Five-Year Plan has been
developed by the clubs committee, laying down the foundations for a successful
future, not just on the field but also off it in terms of supporting the local community
become more active and address issues, for example, relating to mental health and
Creating sustainable pathways into the club for young players (of all abilities) is also
an important goal. This began last year with successful youth coaching sessions for
age’s between 10 – 18, concluding with a successful cricket tournament at
Muckamore CC. Rugby and Gaelic football traditionally dominate the sporting lives of
many young people in the area and the club is eager to demonstrate how cricket can
complement these sports by helping to develop a range of transferable skills, help
main levels of fitness across the summer months and provide all the social benefits
you’d normally expect from such an active club.
Growing Opportunities To Play Cricket
Maghera Cricket Club has played all its home matches at the Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt since 2013. Its partnership with the school has been vital to its
success to date and is an important factor in the club’s future plans. Led by Head Teacher Mark McCullough, the school has a proud academic and sporting tradition,
a tradition the club is hoping to help strengthen by growing opportunities to play cricket, not just for those studying there but for the whole community. Grants from
Mid-Ulster District Council and ongoing support from the North West Cricket Union has enabled the club invest in equipment, develop its coaching capacity and deliver
grass-root training for local children in the form of summer camps.
Maghera Cricket Club has certainly achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time
thanks to the enthusiasm of its members and support of the local and cricketing
communities. Long term success depends on getting more local young people
playing the game; quite a challenge, but one the club is more than willing to take on.
If you want to find out how you can get involved in Maghera Cricket Club go to www.cricketmaghera.com
Written by Roger Talbot