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Torrens edging towards 50 years not out as go-to man for Ireland

By Ian Callender

Players may come and go, even coaches and physios, but the one constant in the Ireland team structure for the last eight years has been team manager Roy Torrens.

The popular Portrush hotelier may still be one of the few part-timers involved in what is now such a professional Ireland set-up but he is not unsung and is almost indispensible.

Manage – as National Coach Phil Simmons calls him – is the person everyone turns to if they need something done. Yet, if it is not done, it is Roy's fault. The buck stops with him.

He can supply anything from a needle and thread to a blood pressure monitor – both have been used in the last year by players – while if it's bananas or chocolate on the players' wish list then they too will be in the dressing room, virtually on demand.

The biggest surprise is that he has never been offered a full-time position in cricket, but then, for the last 49 years Torrens has treated cricket as a hobby which has taken him round the world, fulfilling many of the top offices in the old Irish Cricket Union, now renamed Cricket Ireland.

'A Derry man' – not a Londonderry man despite his religion – Torrens made his senior debut for Brigade as a 16 year old in 1964 and two years later had impressed enough as a fast, opening bowler, to be given his Ireland debut, one of the four in the same match, against Middlesex at Ormeau, the old international ground opposite University Street in Belfast which is now a housing development.

"I always remember my first figures, four for 77 – this was in the days before limited over matches – but it was good enough to keep me in the team for a few years. Not that it won me many caps," recalls Torrens.

"Back then we were playing three and four games a year so by the time I retired from the Ireland team, I had played 30 times in 18 years! Paul Stirling played 38 games in 2010 alone."

His playing days may have finished but the voluntary work with the Ireland team was about to step up a big notch. In 1992 he became the North West's selector on the international panel, a role he undertook for seven years before he stepped down to take on the office of ICU president in 2000. For the next few years he was on the Cricket Committee before, in 2005, the late John Wright asked him to become Team Manager

"I signed up to six games a season and back then I was booking flights, hotels and transport, not only for the official team party but even for supporters. But then, all we had was a trip to Scotland, sometimes Holland, a one-day game against a county side and, if we were lucky and it suited them, we got a visit from the Test team touring England. But that certainly wasn't every season.

"This year we have already been to Sharjah for two weeks, hosted two one-day internationals against Pakistan, England are coming in September playing at the new Malahide ground which can accommodate up to 11,500 people and in November we will be in Dubai, hopefully for four weeks, at the World Twenty20 Qualifiers – the finals are in Bangladesh next year – and playing in our fourth Intercontinental Cup final."

Roy no longer has to look after hotel or flight bookings; that has passed on to the Cricket Ireland office in Dublin which has a full-time staff of 17. The manager's duties today are involved with drug-testing – selecting two players from the opposition, at random from numbered cards face-down, for a post-match sample, his opposite number chooses the Ireland players to be tested – and facilitating post-match interviews for an increasingly interested media.

Ask Roy to name the best ever-player he has watched and he has no hesitation in naming Sir Garfield Sobers.

"I was lucky enough to play against him in an exhibition match at Eglinton. He and Rohan Kanhai, another great West Indian, came over as guests of the late John Hunter in 1968. Garry was a lovely gentleman and a magnificent cricketer (and still living in Barbados at the age of 76)."

Torrens' reluctance to name an Irish player is simply because most of them are still playing.

"I rated Ivan Anderson tremendously and, without doubt, he could have made a career in England if he had wanted or had the opportunity.

"Andre Botha is another right up there while Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling are both world class, not forgetting Ed Joyce. If I was to pick the best ever Irish XI there would probably be six or seven of the current team in it and that is a reflection is how strong the national side has become."

As for Torrens future: "I have an unwritten agreement with Cricket Ireland that I will take it six months at a time, just to see what the work load is. I'm not getting any younger, I'm just past my 65th birthday but my aim is to go to Australia for the next World Cup finals and that would be my 50th year involved in Irish cricket. A fitting way to pull down the curtain."

And that would be an excuse for one hell of a party toasted by a Famous Grouse, Roy's favourite tipple.

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