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Cricket team bowled over as locals show support

SOME people say the Irish invented cricket and the English gave it to the world. Now fans of the sport from around the globe are bringing the game back to a rural part of Co Sligo.

Riverstown Cricket Club was founded by local Pakistani businessman Muhammad Usman and has players from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. More players are expected before the summer from South Africa and Zimbabwe.

"Cricket is in the blood, it's part of who we are," said 32-year-old Mr Usman, who runs a newsagent shop in Sligo town. "When I first mentioned setting up a club, I think people thought I was mad. We applied to the Sports Council and to others for grants but we didn't get anywhere so a few of us got together and did some fundraising and here we are now.

"I had been told by friends in cricket in Leinster that the sport was in fact Irish and played here in the 11th century."

Riverstown CC, with its own grounds and synthetic pitch, will compete in the Connacht League, Connacht Cup and the All-Ireland qualifiers this year.

"We got a really warm welcome from the local community," said club captain Bakhtiar Butt. "The team is made up of medical professionals, students, businessmen and some who work for local companies. Our aim has always been to create good community relations through sport."

Local councillor and club chairman Martin Baker said: "I was honoured to be asked to chair the club. Cricket was once a huge part of community life in Ireland. There were 30 cricket clubs in Tipperary in the 1880s and there are records of it being played here a thousand years ago."

Irish Independent