Bready relishing playing key role on World stage
The culmination of seven years' hard work by Bready Cricket Club is rewarded next week when they host the first international in the North West since 2004.
Scotland are the visitors for three Twenty20 internationals, the final match preparation for the Ireland squad ahead of the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament - which the thriving North West club will also be a big part of next month, staging eight games, including four warm-up matches.
As committee member Trevor Hamilton, who had two spells as captain of the club and is now the youth coach, explains, it has been a monumental effort.
"We have been working up to this international since the design phase for the ground here in pre-2008 and we finally got it in writing only four weeks ago," he said.
"We're delighted to have Scotland here, we hope we can put on a good show and trust the North West public to come out and support Ireland and show there is a hunger for international cricket in the area and help us get bigger and better matches in the future."
Putting on an ICC-recognised international requires huge help but that is something there is no shortage of in Bready, who can boast a membership of up to 300.
"We have a team of volunteers who will be involved as there are practice days next Tuesday and Wednesday, match days on Thursday and Friday (5.30pm starts), another practice day on Saturday and the third match is on Sunday (2.30pm) so we need a lot of support from our members. But they always help out on big occasions," said Hamilton.
With more than 120 playing members, Bready are the only club in the North West who field a team in all five divisions - they also have an Under-11, U13 and U15 side plus two midweek teams and a ladies side - but Hamilton admits it can still be a struggle getting five out on the same day.
"This Saturday, for example, all five are due to be in action but there is a wedding, schools cricket and the Northern Ireland football match so it will be tough," he said. But Hamilton, who takes charge of up to 70 youngsters on Friday nights, is particularly proud that more and more girls are attending the under-age practices.
"Our professional, Michael Loubser, has started working with the girls on a Monday night when we have up to 20 turning up and they play in the North West Ladies League which has increased to eight teams. More girls mean more families which boosts the membership," he enthused.
And everyone who passes through Bready knows they can make it to the very top with Boyd Rankin, Test cricketer, the most famous Old Boy.
"Boyd is the most high-profile and everyone in the club is over the moon for him. He has had to make tough decisions in his career but we have always backed him," said Hamilton.
"His aim was to play Test cricket and with bowlers having a short lifespan that passage wasn't here. But England thought he was good enough and hopefully he gets another chance again."
Following in Rankin's Ireland footsteps is current opening bowler Craig Young, another born and bred in Bready.
"Craig had a couple of tough years in Sussex with injury but when he got fit he returned home," added Hamilton.
"That was a big step but he is focused on what he has to do and I think the performances he has produced over the last 12-18 months has backed up the work he has put in."
A bit like the Bready club itself, which has come a long way since playing their first match in a farmer's field, way back in 1938.
Next month, a wealth of countries will travel to the village of Magheramason to play on the international ground.