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Martin McGuinness dresses up as bearded cricketer WG Grace for Northern Ireland Children's Hospice fundraising photograph

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Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as WG Grace

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as WG Grace

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness getting prepared to be photographed

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness getting prepared to be photographed

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness getting prepared to be photographed

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness getting prepared to be photographed

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness getting prepared to be photographed

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness getting prepared to be photographed

Tommy Hassan

Tommy Hassan

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as WG Grace

Martin McGuinness has revealed how 'heartbreaking' visits to the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice moved him to help a fundraising campaign on its behalf - by posing for one of his most unusual ever photographs.

The picture shows the Sinn Fein politician dressed up to look like bushy-bearded English cricketer WG Grace and the quirky photo-shoot was the brainchild of lensman Tommy Hassan who plans to publish a book of his off-the-wall images of local celebrities in aid of the hospice on the outskirts of Belfast.

More than 30 prominent people from all walks of life in Northern Ireland have already had their pictures taken, including the late DUP First Minister Ian Paisley, TV personality Eamonn Holmes and the late Radio Ulster star Gerry Anderson.

Tommy approached the Deputy First Minister with his WG Grace plan after discovering that he was a cricket fan.

The former Mid Ulster MP said: "Obviously it was for a good cause and I was more than willing to assist Tommy.

"I have paid a number of visits to the hospice and we have been able to assist them in various ways and I think the more support they get the better because whenever you go out there it would break your heart to see some of the cases they are dealing with."

Mr McGuinness added: "When I arrived for the photo-shoot and saw the false beard and the cricket gear along with a make-up artist I wondered what in heaven's name I was getting into. But it's a fantastic idea."

Mr McGuinness said that his passion for cricket had started in his teens when he saw big games on the television, adding: "I always admired the ability of a man to stand at a crease and take on all-comers."

Mr McGuinness had never seen a live game until he and Peter Robinson went to watch Ireland playing Bangladesh at the nearby Stormont cricket ground three years ago.

"GAA and soccer were the big games in our sports-mad family. My older brother Tom played for 10 years with the Derry senior GAA team who won three Ulster championships and my younger brother Paul turned out for Derry City, Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers," he said.

"I was the least talented of the sporting trio but I have tried my hand at hurling, GAA football and soccer."

However, Mr McGuinness said that he did play cricket with small bats and little stumps on the beach during summer holidays with his family in Co Donegal when the opposition was provided by his Sinn Fein colleague - the new Stormont speaker - Mitchell McLaughlin and his children.

"There was nothing more infuriating than to be put out by a five-year-old," said Mr McGuinness, who is backing Irish international team who are taking part in the World Cup Down Under and who recently caused a massive shock by beating the West Indies in Australia.

"It was tremendous result," the politician said.

"I remember when we hosted the team at Stormont after their World Cup heroics in 2007 some people thought it was a one-off. But they've gone on to prove that their success was no fluke."

Profile

William Gilbert Grace, known as WG, was born in 1848 and is considered one of the greatest cricket players of all time.

He was an English amateur player who was pivitol in the development of the sport. Born near Bristol, he went on to play first-class cricket for a record-equalling 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, during which he captained England, Gloucestershire, the Gentlemen, Marylebone Cricket Club, the United South of England Eleven and several other teams. He died in 1915 at the age of 67.

Belfast Telegraph