Thursday 23 February 2017

Cricket: Top Cat's tips for the Wizard of Oz

David Kelly

David Kelly

Kilkenny legend DJ Carey shows Australia's cricket captain Ricky Ponting how to balance a sliotar on a hurley during yesterday's visit to Croke Park by the Aussies, who play Ireland in a RSA One Day International in Clontarf on Thursday.
Kilkenny legend DJ Carey shows Australia's cricket captain Ricky Ponting how to balance a sliotar on a hurley during yesterday's visit to Croke Park by the Aussies, who play Ireland in a RSA One Day International in Clontarf on Thursday.

A few months before Denis Joseph Carey was born in Gowran, another man recorded in the history books as merely 'J Carey' scored 25 runs for the village cricket team against Palmerston.

The year was 1970 and DJ Carey arrived into a parish where one sporting world was dying out and another was slowly burgeoning -- the cricket ball supplanted by the sliotair, the stick now in hand a hurl, no longer a bat.

Where once there were some 200 cricket clubs in Kilkenny, the game slowly withered away to almost nothing. Yesterday in Croke Park, where DJ Carey embossed his legend on so many glorious days, the most famous son of Kilkenny was reminded of his cultural legacy by a famous son of Tasmania.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting, the pint-sized pugilist of the batting crease, one of the best batsmen of this or any generation, was, in turn, being advised as to the best manner in which to launch a sliotair over the Canal End posts.

Deeply concentrating, both men's intense devotion to the task is transported to supreme efficiency in completing it. First Ponting, launching points with the aplomb of a Mullane, then Carey, fending off (gentle) deliveries with the pugnacity of a Pietersen.

Our sports may be different, Carey tells Ponting, but just as the best hurlers can make a difficult game look easy, so too can the Australian cricketers make their sport appear gracefully simple.

It is no wonder both men and both teams have dominated their codes so imperiously, for so long.

There was little chance of Carey being lost to the gentler enterprise in his youth.

"There wasn't an awful lot of cricket in Gowran when I was growing up, just over in Mount Juliet perhaps," he says.

"But there was more in the 1950s and 1960s, until the hurling clubs came in. The locals played when the landlords were nice!"

The similarities between the games are clear, especially to a natural ball-playing talent whose low, single-figure golf handicap betrays a keen edge.

"The hand-eye coordination is key," he observes. "I would say they could certainly adapt, they're big guys, you see them catching a ball out there. There's not a million miles between the sports, we're just not used to each other's sports, but it's enjoyable stuff.

"Some of these guys were fielding balls way up in the sky, obviously in a non-physical level, but I'm sure they could pick it up at some stage."

Charge Tommy Walsh at them and even Ponting might argue that point. But, with hurling failing miserably in more counties than most, and Galway and Antrim already buttressing Leinster, perhaps the Aussies could be roped in at some point.

"I'm itching to get back out there," beams Ponting, promoting Thursday's RSA Challenge One-Day International against Ireland. "I was a bit rusty at the start but I'm getting the hang of it now."

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He was in Croke Park a day earlier, too, aping many a metropolitan by skipping the opening fare to concentrate merely on the Dubs.

"It was pretty exciting," he says. "Dublin were completely outplayed in the first half but managed to come back."

Ponting could tell Pat Gilroy a thing or two about the benefit of experience. His Sunday evening was less enjoyable as he and a few colleagues congregated to watch the Socceroos' implosion in South Africa.

"They've got their work cut out now," he sighs.

So do Ireland on Thursday, despite the giant strides made in the 13 years since Ponting first landed on these shores.

"I remember in 1997 here, it was a bit like a little village game against very amateur cricketers," recalls the indomitably spirited 35-year-old.

"That's one of the great things about the development of cricket worldwide, that teams like Ireland have pushed on. They've taken a few scalps in big tournaments in recent years, so hopefully Australia won't become one of them."

Nearby, DJ Carey was saying the same nice things about Dublin on behalf of Kilkenny. Sporting codes may divide them, but sporting steel unites this luminous duo.



  • The RSA Challenge One Day International takes place in Clontarf on Thursday, 10.45am.


Irish Independent

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