Wednesday 19 June 2019

It will be a long, cricket-less winter, but nothing could burst our bubble

David Robbins

There is a scene at the end of Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York in which the two warring gangs – the Natives and the Dead Rabbits – are locked in a battle to the death.

Suddenly, the walls of the city fall, and they find themselves in the middle of the New York draft riots of 1863, with Union soldiers firing on them and US Navy ships shelling them from the harbour.

It is a marvellous sequence, showing how the gang feud, absorbing as it was for the gang members, was a kind of irrelevance to other, greater struggles happening in the US.

The idea behind it – that you can be in a bubble of your own, until a bigger bubble comes along – struck me this week as our cricket team came to the end of its season.

We had two matches left, both of them Sunday games outside Dublin. They fell either side of the Ireland versus England one-day international in Malahide.

There is something about end-of-season games. You want to savour them a little bit more in advance of the long, cricket-less winter. You want to suck the pleasure from each run, each wicket, each catch.

The talk was of how Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin, two Irishmen playing for England, had taken the game away from us in Malahide, and of how we ourselves might fare in the wilds of Co Offaly and Co Kildare.

The buzz of excitement about the game, fuelled by the experience of seeing 10,000 people at a cricket match in Ireland, infected the team. We were in a bubble of our own, a cricket bubble.

First up was Halverstown, a venerable team who play near Kilcullen, Co Kildare. Their ground looks out over some of the best land in the country, with rolling hills and stands of ancient trees.

All that was missing was a church with its bells chiming the hour. It was like a cross between a Betjeman poem and a Constable painting.

The Halverstown team was the usual mix you get in country sides, a combination of the relics of Anglican gentry and local farmers.

Experience has taught us that the farmers are the ones to watch out for: they hit the ball hard and you can spend a lot of time climbing into the neighbouring field to fetch it.

We lost to them in the last over of the game. It was an honourable defeat and the tea and banter were of a high standard, so we considered the day a success.

The Athlone Cricket Club, who play out of Doon in Co Offaly, were a similar demographic mix, with a couple of "new Irish" thrown in.

The pitch at Doon is in the grounds of an old, ivy-clad Georgian farmhouse that stands stately and square on a rise beyond the boundary.

We lost that match too, but felt that, over the two games, we had come into contact with something of the essence of the game in Ireland.

On the drive back from Doon, we spoke of plans for next season, a tour to England perhaps, and other matches we would like to include in our fixture list.

We relived some of the highlights of the season – a six hit into a trout farm during a match in Hampshire, a diving catch which defied the passing years in Rathmines, and some plumb lbw appeals turned down in Terenure.

Soon, we hit the M50. Why was there suddenly so much traffic? We had zipped up the N6 at 120kmh, and now we couldn't move an inch.

We began to notice Cork and Clare registration plates, and the penny dropped. The 80,000 who watched the drawn All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final at Croke Park were making their way home.

Our bubble had come into contact with a bigger bubble alright. Still, our one didn't burst. It just floated away for a while, until next season. @dpmrobbins

Irish Independent

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