Desperate Dungannon make pitch for survival
Dungannon Cricket Club have made an appeal for new players and the return of lapsed members to prevent the Northern Cricket Union's Section Three club from folding.
Millpark and Portadown have already been forced to admit defeat in fielding a league team, while other clubs have merged to continue, and Dungannon fear they could be the next to go out of existence if more players do not commit to the club.
It has been a gradual downhill slide for Dungannon, who have lost 20 players in the last three years, and 77-year-old Willie Adrain had to come out of retirement a couple of seasons ago to make up the numbers.
But things came to a head last Saturday when only six players were available to travel for their league game against Newforge and they scratched.
"The lack of support from schools in the area and from former players is most disappointing, and the few of us who are working to keep the club alive cannot go on for much longer without help on the playing and admin side," says Adrain, who with his son Chris have done more than most to keep the club going.
"We actually have 24 registered players but they are just turning up and we are relying on three batsmen every week to score the runs plus a few youngsters."
Top scorer in the first match was 15-year-old Matt Green with 35 but, although the team made 115, they lost by 133 runs.
The NCU's Junior Cup gets underway today, but Dungannon did not even enter it this year, although they were hoping to fulfil all 12 league fixtures this season. Last year they recorded two wins but lost four points for not fulfilling a fixture and finished bottom of the league with just four points.
The biggest threat to their existence came 18 years ago when the rugby club sold the cricket field and left Dungannon without a home.
The rugby club did recompense them, and with the help of a big donation from club stalwart Philip Orr, plus loans and much fund-raising, a square was laid in Dungannon Park which Willie and Chris spent over 300 man-hours levelling and hundreds more pounds were needed every year to keep it in shape.
The club actually enjoyed their best season in 2000, winning the old Section Four League, but were relegated the following year and, with the restructuring of the leagues, they have remained there ever since.
In 2008 there was another setback for the club when lorries destroyed the square and outfield during the music festival Countryfest which again made them homeless until August 2009.
But the Adrains and long-serving captain Jeff Meeke were determined to keep the club going, to preserve a proud tradition which goes back to 1865.
And the club has produced two Cricket Ireland presidents, Basil McNamee as recently as 2011, and Bob Kerr, who died during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, played for Dungannon when he was principal of a primary school in the town.
Basil's son Michael was also one of the regular players until his work commitments took over on BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound programme every Saturday.
Others, however, do not have such a good excuse, which disappoints Willie Adrain.
"The boys from the Royal School, Dungannon are just not joining the club, married men do not want to help out and the players are just drifting away," says the octogenarian.
"I hope new members, both young and old, appear soon or we are doomed.
"We coach every Tuesday and Thursdays at the Tennis Nets in Dungannon Park from 7pm. There is no charge, equipment is provided, so please come along and help save the club."
Fixtures (1pm) AJG Challenge Cup first round: Bangor v North Down, Carrickfergus v Civil Service North, Donaghcloney Mill v CIYMS, Downpatrick v Lurgan (12pm), Holywood v Woodvale, Instonians v Derriaghy, Muckamore v Waringstown (12pm).
GMcG Junior Cup first round: Victoria v Larne Il, Service North II v Ards, Waringstown II v Cooke Collegians, Monaghan v Cregagh, Dunmurry v Newforge, Laurelvale v Lisburn II, Instonians II v Waringstown III, Ballymena v Muckamore II.
North West T20 Cup: Drummond v Bready, Ardmore v Coleraine, Newbuildings v St Johnston, Killyclooney v Burndennett. (4.30pm): Drummond v Eglinton, Ardmore v Fox Lodge, Newbuildings v Strabane, Killyclooney v Glendermott.
Sunday: Eglinton v Donemana, Coleraine v Brigade, Strabane v Ballyspallen, Glendermott v Bonds Glen. (4.30pm): Eglinton v Bready, Coleraine v Fox Lodge, Strabane v St Johnson, Glendermott v Burndennett.