Belfast Telegraph

It's just not cricket! Lotto millionaire knocks Sion Mills players for six as she locks them out of historic grounds

By Donna Deeney

A cricket club is all out after being barred from its home ground by its new Euromillions winner owner.

The members of the venerable Sion Mills Cricket Club (SMCC) - which hosted the legendary match which saw Ireland defeat the mighty West Indies - have been locked out of their own ground by local lottery winner Margaret Loughrey.

The club says it is now losing hope it will be able to play the last match of the season at its home ground.

Ms Loughrey scooped a £27m lottery jackpot in December 2013 and recently acquired the sporting pitches as part of the purchase of the Herdman's Mill site. She bought the derelict mill to save it from being turned into a bio-waste plant.

However, the nearby club has been left on a bit of a sticky wicket after she locked them out of the grounds. The reason for the move has left them stumped and forced the club to forfeit its game last Saturday – the first time in the club's 150-year history this has happened.

Ms Loughrey said she was perfectly within her rights as the landowner and seemed to imply she only took the action after she could not access the grounds and because the club had not met her. She has confirmed that she took the decision to padlock the gates.

She said: "Where it sits is this: it's my land and I was locked out of it. All they had to do was meet with me, because I'm very easy worked with."

A spokesman for SMCC said: "We have been told we can't play on the pitch and that is how it currently stands unfortunately.

"Margaret Loughrey has told us she will meet with us this but we still await confirmation of that meeting.

"Sion Mills Cricket Club celebrated its 150th anniversary this year and we welcomed the news of her takeover, so this has come as a complete shock and is totally out of the blue for us.

"We are hopeful that we will get some resolution going forward."

With just days to go until the club was due to play the final game of the season, an emergency meeting was called where it was decided that despite a number other clubs offering their grounds, tomorrow's game would also be forfeited if they couldn't play at home.

A source in the club explained: "The members of Sion Mills Cricket Club made the decision that if they couldn't play on their own grounds they wouldn't play anywhere else.

"Sadly the club already knows that because they are at the bottom of the league they will be relegated from Senior Cricket for the first time in its 150-year history, which made this game at their own grounds all the more important to them.

"I know they are confused at the actions of Ms Loughrey, given she was their guest of honour at their 150th celebrations, but they are hopeful that a resolution can be reached to the satisfaction of both parties and which will see the team back on the pitch next season."

Asked if an accommodation could be found ahead of this weekend's match, Ms Loughrey replied: "No comment."

As to whether impending legal action would become a concern, she added: "Good luck to them, because I have the maps."

Factfile

Just who owns the historic Sion Mills cricket pitch remains something of a grey area and unless the situation is resolved, Ms Loughrey's move could possibly be challenged through the courts. According to documents held by the Sion Mills Building Preservation Trust, the pitches are ultimately owned by the Duke of Abercorn, but because they have been in the custody of local people who have secured and maintained them for 150 years, Sion Mills Cricket Club is likely to have 'unassailable rights' to the facility.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph