Thursday 17 October 2019

Malahide eyes backing for redevelopment plan

Cricket Ireland has decided to build its own stadium in Abbotstown with Malahide Cricket Club now planning to build a new pavilion and other facilities
Cricket Ireland has decided to build its own stadium in Abbotstown with Malahide Cricket Club now planning to build a new pavilion and other facilities

Ger Siggins

Ireland won its first international trophy since the 2013 Associate Treble at Malahide recently. And while the GS Holdings tri-nations is not the most celebrated prize in Cricket Ireland's cabinet, the stirring performances of the new caps, David Delany and Harry Tector, will give the side a boost heading into the qualifiers for next year's T20m World Cup.

The old ground was resplendent in autumn sunshine in front of the biggest crowd since the visit of England in May. Earlier that day, club officials met with Cricket Ireland to show them the plans for a new pavilion and explain what needs to happen next.

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The move came at the end of a busy year at Malahide CC sparked by CI's decision to build its own stadium on the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown. There had been friction between CI and some who resented the reduced access to their club, but Ireland's promotion to Test cricket brought matters to a head.

CI chief executive Warren Deutrom explained in March 2018: "We need to be sure we can deliver on our programme of matches at permanently-constructed venues which are commensurate with our new status."

Brian Thornes, chair of the development sub-committee of Malahide CC, says that as far as the club was concerned, that meant "the shackles were free".

"We had long been waiting for someone to gift us a new clubhouse," he says, but the club now realised they would have to do it themselves.

A design competition received seven entries but they settled on Adrian Hill Architects who produced the plans which have just been unveiled to members, and CI.

They also consulted with Ed Joyce, who has seen more dressing rooms than most, on what facilities work best for players. Two international-standard dressing rooms are planned, with additional rooms for officials or when mixed sides play.

The building also includes a first-floor bar with a glorious viewing terrace, plus a tea-room and offices. Temporary big-match facilities such as TV gantries and a media centre can be tacked onto the flat roof.

The club consulted with the planning authorities, and made changes, but are now at the point where they need Cricket Ireland to decide if it wants to row in behind them.

The project has been costed at €3.2m, which Malahide hopes to raise from government grants, club members and private investors. Thornes estimated they could raise "ten per cent . . . 20 per cent tops" from members.

The club is confident it has the full backing of Fingal County Council, which sees the commercial benefits to the community in Malahide. While the locals seemed happy to play host to Netherlands and Scotland supporters recently, it is those days when England and India come to town that they really covet.

The club explored availing of the new Large-Scale Sport Infrastructure Fund, which will channel €100m to sport between now and 2027. To do so, they needed CI to guarantee it will use the ground for major fixtures but, according to Thornes, the governing body was unable to do so.

The club says, "private funding won't come without guarantees of marquee fixtures either."

The next step is to apply for planning permission but Thornes admits to being at something of an impasse.

"It's hard to do anything with any real certainty on what Cricket Ireland want going forward," he said. "We recognise there is a finite pot for capital investment for cricket from the government, and we're happy that Abbotstown gets some of it. But we will need some of it too. We need Cricket Ireland to get off the fence."

Deutrom rejects the suggestion that CI are reluctant to get behind Malahide's application for funds.

"That's absolutely not the case," said Deutrom. "We're happy with what they're doing. The rationale behind Abbotstown was the need for more places to play cricket.

"The one thing our programme needs is more venues - next year our senior men's side play 20 games at home, and with remedial work putting Clontarf out for next season we only have 11 or 12 pitches to play those 20 games on. In ICC's book that's 'sub-optimal'. So, we have to bring new venues into our programme."

The Malahide plan involves some changes to the landscape, removing the road-side bank and installing tiered and stepped banking on the castle end. There is no plan for permanent grandstands, so CI will have to continue to pay €16 plus VAT per seat to install these, eating hugely into its takings.

It was that issue that Deutrom highlighted last year when he announced the move: "The partnership between club and union proved beneficial in many ways but erecting temporary seating and facilities for every big game is arduous and expensive."

While there is a gap between both parties in the destination of 'marquee' fixtures, CI must also be cognisant of its large membership in Northern Ireland who need to be given games against attractive opposition.

The exciting youngsters finally seeping into the Ireland side showed their potential in the tri-series, moving towards a time when they will have venues worthy of their talents.

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