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Veteran Coetzee enjoys one last hurrah for CSN

Around The Wickets

By Ian Callender

They say you should never come back - or it was much better in our days - but a quartet of former Ireland internationals proved otherwise last weekend.

Junior McBrine, at the age of 53, answered Donemana's call to bowl 10 overs (and conceded only 15 runs) in their Irish Cup game on Sunday, Nigel Thompson (52) hit a half century for Eglinton II, Neil Doak (44) is still playing regularly for Lisburn, and Ralph Coetzee (45) was the latest to never say never when he starred for Civil Service North II in their Junior Cup quarter-final victory on Saturday.

For Coetzee it was "the first time I had lifted a bat" since 2011, so it was even more remarkable that he top scored with 67, and then in three overs of bowling took a wicket.

"My main focus was on watching the ball and, although not in trouble, we had to bat out the 50 overs. I was out the first ball of the 50th after going in at No.5. Wayne (Horwood) got a quick 50, and when he was out it was 90 for three, and it soon became 110 for five, so it was a case of occupying the crease," said Coetzee modestly, as CSN finished on 230-9.

"As for the bowling, they were seven down when I came on and it was a case of Wayne making sure all his six bowlers got a bowl and I got a wicket."

So what made him come out of retirement after six years?

"Wayne Horwood," was his simple answer. "Wayne is the 2nd XI captain this year and has been pushing me to turn out for the last couple of years and I finally relented.

"I've been playing with Wayne ever since I came over here as professional for North (of Ireland) in 1999, so we go way back. I also played with him at Muckamore in 2011 but when he went back to Civil Service North, I stopped.

"Last week, Wayne told me he had a few injuries, a lot of young players and not much experience, so I had a free Saturday and that was the only reason I played.

"But," he adds hastily, "it's not a comeback. I have no ambition to play First XI cricket, I'm away a lot during the summer and I certainly don't want to take a place away from a young player.

"I'm very much into my running and am now a member of the new Victoria Park Athletics Club in Connswater, east Belfast, and I've run eight marathons, so I'm perfectly happy in retirement from cricket, although Wayne might not agree!"

Coetzee still follows the cricket "very, very closely" from international level right down to club level and knows this is a big week for Irish cricket.

"It's an exciting time for Irish cricket with the big meeting on Thursday which should give them ICC Full Membership and Test status," he asserts. "It's a great opportunity for the guys, and just a pity they're not doing as well at the moment, but all teams go through that."

Maybe they should call on Coetzee because he has the best win record of any Ireland international!

"I read somewhere a while ago that I played eight and won eight (between 2003 and 2005) which I'd forgotten about. So I am available!" he jokes.

"I also saw on the Cricket Europe website some old pictures of my international at Lord's, which Ian Johnston took, but I didn't realise it was as long ago as 2003. Oh, I am old!

"But they were happy memories, walking through the Long Room at Lord's." The following day, Coetzee made his top score for Ireland of 34 in the game that saw the debuts of 16-year-old Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin (19) for Ireland.

Coetzee is still encouraging the youngsters to get involved with cricket as a teacher at Brooklands Primary School. It has a close link with CSN, with captain Graeme McCarter and professional Mansoor Amjad coaching the children, while Brooklands take part in the annual Kwik Cricket competition at Stormont.

Meanwhile, Saintfield beware. Expect to be facing Ralph Coetzee in the semi-final of the Junior Cup.

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