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All-rounder Adair enjoying whole new ball game

By Ian Callender

Just turned 17, Mark Adair is already a talent at both cricket and rugby. The Sullivan Upper pupil has just been selected for the Ulster Under-18s in the round-ball game which will keep him busy next autumn and winter but this summer is hoping to make a name for himself with the red ball on the Ireland Under-17s.

It is not time to make a decision yet but in the next couple of years Adair is likely to be under pressure to choose the sport to which he will commit.

These days it is impossible to play both at the top level and the out half or the bowling all-rounder will come to the fore.

For the moment, cricket is leading the way if only because he has a summer contract with county champions Warwickshire. He heads to Birmingham at the end of next month, once he completes his A/S examinations, with seven weeks to play at the club where Ireland captain William Porterfield and Boyd Rankin have established themselves in the first team.

It is his second term at Edgbaston; he was invited over last summer and must have impressed to earn this year's contract with the Academy team.

"I was there for two weeks and played eight games," says Mark. "I opened the bowling and batted at six or seven which is probably where I see myself, as a bowling all-rounder."

But Adair is reluctant to give up his batting and it was the encouragement of Nigel Jones, the Civil Service North captain, which made up his mind to join the Premier League club, when the big boys came calling after starting his career at his local club, Holywood.

"First of all it is a quality club," Adair says of the Stormont set-up, "and I knew Jonesey from the Under 17s (he is the coach), but he promised they would develop all aspects of my game and that made my mind up. When youngsters break into the senior team, they are usually No 11 but he has given me a chance with the bat."

Well at least at club level. Adair wasn't so impressed with his club captain in the NCU's first Under-17 match against North West this month when he found himself at No 8 and only fourth change bowler.

"I was actually raging," he admitted. But at least he took his anger out on the opposition, finishing up with the best bowling figures and top scorer, albeit on the losing team. Adair is hoping to make more of an impact when the Under 17s continue their representative season on Sunday, at Dublin YMCA when the NCU take on the Southern XI.

It seems a safe bet Adair will be promoted up the order because he is not bowling at the moment as he is suffering from plantar facilitis – a swollen tendon in his foot, in everyday language – which has kept him away from the crease for the last three weeks.

"But that's where the batting comes in handy, and I'm keen to concentrate on that as well. But at the minute I'm a bowling all-rounder, adds Mark, who is steeped in a sporting background with his dad Ricky the former Glentoran goalkeeper.

"I play the same position as dad did at rugby and this year Sullivan reached the quarter finals of the Schools Cup before losing 12-10 to Ballyclare, but 13 of the team will still be at school next year so hopefully we can go even further," added Mark.

Sullivan's progress in the Schools Cup at cricket was not so successful with Adair suffering the ignominy of being dismissed to the first ball of their game against Belfast High as they crashed out but it looks likely to be only a hiccup in Adair's rise to the top.

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