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NCU chief has big plans as Ireland get set for new era

 

By Ian Callender

Angela Platt's arrival as the first General Manager of the Northern Cricket Union could hardly have been better timed for her. Two weeks into the job, she had the chance to go to Lord's to watch Ireland play England.

The sports fanatic described it as a "phenomenal experience" but it was also a real eye-opener for someone from a non-cricketing background.

"People come along with their picnic baskets, which is all new to me. I have been used to just going to a hockey or football match and going home, but you do get a lot of time to interact and socialise and the information you can gather from people is great," says Platt.

It was a big call by Cricket Ireland to give the new role in one of their three major unions to not only a female but an applicant whose only practical experience of cricket was a "tiny bit at school in Dalriada" more than 20 years ago.

But for a job which oversees the governance and commercialisation of the union, she has an impressive CV.

She is chairman of the Female Sports Forum, vice-chair of the Northern Ireland Sports Forum - where she has worked with Richard Johnson, one of the more influential people in NCU Cricket - and for the last seven years chief executive of Ulster Hockey. She has also been one of the judges of the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards for the last two years.

"I'm six weeks into the job so I'm meeting a lot of people and seeing what we have and haven't. So, it's a bit of an auditing role and building relationships with people heavily involved in cricket and tapping into that knowledge and getting up to speed as quickly as possible, while I bring the knowledge of the business concept and governance structure to the role," she says.

She acknowledges that it is an exciting time for Irish cricket with the expected announcement of Full Membership and Test status later this month

"There is a huge opportunity, not just for the Ireland team but also the structures below that and all aspects of Cricket Ireland and hopefully I can be a part of that and the unions can support that," she says.

"But the one thing for me is making sure the investment comes into the grassroots of the game because without the grassroots you don't have the international team.

"The priority is for the men's game but we are looking for more opportunities to get women involved and the board is taking that seriously.

"Women's cricket is growing but it is still an untapped area, especially with the potential of Test status, so there will be a pathway for women's cricket."

Platt knows about reaching the top on the playing side as well, with 75 caps as Ireland hockey goalkeeper and three for the Northern Ireland football team in a career which only started at the age of 27, after appearing in the 2002 hockey World Cup and the qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics.

"We lost out on the golden goal to America, so that was the one I never got to play in," she says. "Football has always been in the family. Uncle Jim was a Northern Ireland goalkeeper and brother David manager of Coleraine so I grew up in the garden being target practice!

"I played football for Ballymoney - most of the hockey team played in the off season - and then moved to Crusaders where I won three caps across two seasons at the European Qualifiers in Turkey and against the Republic."

Still, at the age of 37, Angela was called back into hockey action last season.

"I was goalkeeping coach for Ulster Elks and when they went to Prague for the Europeans, the second and third-choice keepers couldn't go because of exams and they gave me a run-out. But that is definitely it," she insists.

All Platt's energy now is in the NCU and Irish cricket and, with a new face at the helm at the start of a new era, it could be the perfect combination.

Belfast Telegraph

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