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Lockdowns are no sticky wicket for TCC as youth sides keep growing

A Ballyclare-based cricket club has outlined how the organisation’s youth setup is the “bedrock” of the side’s activities.

Templepatrick Cricket Club, which was founded in 1969, caters for cricketers aged from four upwards and has 140 boys and girls among its membership, which is in excess of 220.

The club initially played matches at City of Belfast Play Fields, Mallusk. With the offer of a long term lease at Ballyclare Rugby Club, they moved to their new home at The Cloughan, Doagh Road, Ballyclare, in 1994, where they now have excellent practice and playing facilities.

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John Busby, club chairman, said: “We have five senior competitive teams and a midweek social team. We also have one youth team at U18 age and two youth teams at each of U15, U13 and U11 level. We also offer friendly cricket matches at the U9 age.

The Templepatrick Cricket Club First XI who won the league, Junior Cup and T20 in 2018.

“The club has a healthy mix of adult and youth members, but overall we have quite a young membership, with the majority of playing members aged under 18.

“We have 95 boys and girls enrolled in our P1 to P7 group, and 45 enrolled in our U13 and U15 group. We field teams in Northern Cricket Union league and cup competitions. The club’s First XI also plays in some all-Ireland competitions.”

Throughout its five decades in existence, the club has tasted success in a number of competitions, but they count their youth development as their greatest achievement to date.

John explained: “In 2018 our 1st XI secured the treble by winning the league title, Junior Cup and T20 Cup. They went through the whole season unbeaten. Over the years we have won many league titles at adult and youth level.

TCC were U13 league winners in 2018.

“Probably our most significant achievement is growing our youth structure from nothing to one of the largest and best-run youth set ups in NI. We have a fantastic team of qualified coaches who do great work with our young players and senior sides, not only during the season but throughout the year.

“Our efforts were recognised with the Club of the Year title at the Newtownabbey Sports Awards in 2012, and in 2018 we were named runner up in Cricket Ireland’s Club of the Year Award. We currently hold Sport NI’s Clubmark accreditation - the quality standard for junior sports clubs in NI.”

As with many sporting bodies across the province, Templepatrick Cricket Club had to curtail activities in line with coronavirus restrictions and public health guidelines. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, matches were played against local sides to reduce travelling and decrease the chances of spreading the virus.

Detailing the impact the pandemic had on the club’s last two seasons, John stated: “During the 2020 season training sessions and competitive matches were severely impacted by the pandemic. The club followed the public health advice and guidelines set out by the Northern Cricket Union and implemented a series of protocols to ensure the safety of players and coaches.

“When sport was permitted to return we had to limit numbers and activities at training, and matches were played over a shorter format and on a regional basis to avoid sides having to travel long distances.

“The 2021 season saw more of a return to normal, but some measures were still in place to ensure player safety. As well as playing practices restrictions, we have had to deal with the social restrictions as well and the impact of these socially on our membership.

“We feel we have tried to keep the club in as healthy a shape as possible despite the adversities of Covid-19. While the spread of the Omicron variant is causing more disruption and uncertainty, we are hoping that the public health situation will improve in the coming months and we’ll be able to have a relatively normal season this year.”

Praising several of the club’s ‘characters’, John continued: “Arthur Bowron, founding member and long-serving club president would be one of the main characters at TCC. Arthur also puts in a tremendous amount of work as the club’s groundsman. In 2019 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to cricket.

“Andy McCrea, a long-serving player and coach, would also be considered one of the main characters. Andy is the club’s cricket development officer and treasurer. He has been instrumental in the club’s development over the past 25 years, establishing and growing the youth coaching structures which are now the bedrock of the club.”

The club has become part of the fabric of the south Antrim community for over 50 years, with members keen to pay tribute to residents for this backing.

John said: “We’ve supported a number of charities and good causes over the years, but the club doesn’t have a formal link to any particular charity. As a club, we’re extremely thankful for the buy-in and support of the local community in Ballyclare and beyond. “And we are hugely grateful for the ongoing support of all our generous sponsors, particularly our long-time senior team sponsor Richard Greer Car Sales and our youth setup sponsor Mango Bikes.”

Looking ahead to the 2022 campaign, John concluded: “We continue to aim to be a healthy, vibrant community sports club offering quality structures, procedures and opportunities to our members and the local community. On the field we wish for all teams to be competitive in their league and cup competitions.

“New players are very welcome from the age of four years upwards (boys and girls). Indoor practice for senior and youth (13 years old and over) begins in January. Anyone interested in joining should contact Andy McCrea on [email protected] to find out about the details of the practice sessions that are available to them.”

For more information, check out the club’s website or social media platforms.

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