Merrion CC v Waringstown CC (National Senior Cup Final)
Clontarf Cricket Club, Dublin
27 August 2016 (11.30am)
Clontarf is nice place. Just a short trip outside of Dublin city centre, it has a decent sprinkling of clothing shops, smart restaurants, coffee shops and one of my favourite pubs, the Yacht. But because it’s next to the sea it’s a magnet, as all places with water are, for joggers, cyclists and people walking their dogs. All in all Clontarf has got a genteel, relaxed feel to it. It’s the ideal choice to host cricket’s National Senior Cup Final. Especially as I live here.
Cobus Piennar is bowling for Waringstown. Now there’s a South African name if ever there was one. He’s pretty good, as you’d expect from someone who’s played a number of game’s of provincial cricket in his home country. The only other guy in the bar is also a South African. He’s just emigrated with his family to Ireland from Johannesburg. Having lived there myself for many years we swap stories of how expensive the beer is, how small the steaks are in the restaurants and wonder how anyone can call this summer and keep a straight face. It’s sunny outside but someone seems to have turned the heat off and all it’s doing is shining light on the handful spectators who are sitting on the park benches around the edge of the outfield. A sun with no heat.
The Clontarf clubhouse has been designed well, with large windows providing great views of the game, so I perch myself at a table and check out the scorecard between balls. There are a few Ireland national team players on show. John Anderson, who was in the team for the recent Pakistan one-dayers at Malahide, is batting for Merrion and building his innings nicely. He was born in Durban. I wonder if he still moans about the beer prices and dreams of a proper steak in the Bull Run in Sandton.
Avant garde shelters and lights. No wonder hordes of walkers and joggers flock to Clontarf.
The newly emigrated Saffer is watching Liverpool on the TV. Another group settle in to watch the football too. Sharper accents cut through the air; they are down to support Waringstown, the team from the north. Well, at least when the Liverpool game is over.
John Anderson gets his fifty. Liverpool are one up. I get a Guinness.
This is a nice club. The barman gives me a run down of the opening times, and I make a (vague) mental note. Open on weekends from lunchtime and every weekday at five expect Tuesdays and Thursdays when it’s seven, he tell me. Or was it the other way around? Either way, he’s a jolly chap and I like him. He tells me a few South Africans get in here. “I’ve noticed,” I tell him.
Anderson is approaching his century and Merrion’s run rate is building momentum. The size of the crowd is also building and with the sun continuing to fool them most are outside. The downside of this is that the people pretending to enjoy the sun start to lean against the windows and block the perfect view from inside. Maybe they think those of us with our noses pressed to the window on the clubhouse side of the glass are inspecting the work of the window cleaners. But as this is cricket it is all very polite and nobody raps on the window. Instead, those of inside just bob from left to right and up and down to follow the action. Then ask each other what happened.
The Waringstown innings seems to rattle by, a time warp that that coincides with a load of rugby fans filling up the bar when the club’s game ends. The change in atmosphere seems to speed the rest of the afternoon up, although only a handful of the new crowd seem to take even a passing interest in the cricket final.
The Northern Irish team, based just 23 miles from Belfast, have won the National Senior Cup four times times, including last year, when they beat Merrion. But in this year’s re-run they lose wickets at steady intervals. There is a sense of it slipping away from them when national team member Greg Thompson’s wicket falls and the celebration of the Merrion players shows just how important it is.
Despite a few late big hits it’s soon all over and the Merrion skipper Dom Joyce (ex-Irish international and brother of Ed, who has represented both Ireland and England) is giving his victory speech with a (his I assume) baby in his arms. I just know he’ll celebrate with a beer and a steak.
Ticket: general ground admission (€6).
Drink: Guinness in the clubhouse (€4.60 a pint).
Food: Marathon chocolate bar (€1.20).
Getting there: Buses 29a, 31, 31a, 31b, 32 and 130 run from the city centre to Clontarf. The nearest DART station is Killester Station.
Score: Merrion (252-9) beat Warringstown (196) by 51 runs.
Clontarf Cricket Club. A beautiful green outfield, park benches by the boundary rope and even a hint of sun.