Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Final Countdown!

As anticipated dawn did come quickly the next morning, as we struggled to get packed up and across the harbour to the ferry for the 7.00am sailing the lads from the Sir William Hoste team had advised us about. However perhaps they managed to extract some little measure of revenge, as the ferry did not actually leave until 7.30am. Miraculously we were all present and correct although it has to be said, in various states of repair, including a now fully illustrated and foreign speaking version of Bob.

Bye bye Vis
Once we set off, many went up on deck to enjoy the early morning sun and yarn about our past triumphs and those yet to come. Below deck it looked more like a train wreck, with bodies strewn all over the cabin, as people tried to catch up on some sleep.

Amongst them though, was the Vet who was simply having his customary morning nap, before preparing for his late afternoon nap. As he advised all afterwards you don’t get to the ripe old age of 75 by skimping on your rest periods! Disco Dave meantime had a another beer!
Split Skipper welcomes Cregagh Tour Skipper
It was already warm when we boarded the buses in Split to go to Kastela, where we were staying and playing the Sir Oliver C.C. in the grounds of the Hotel Resnik. By 11.30am we had checked in and were on the way to the game, and by 11.40am Watty had lost our room key. The Sir Oliver team were ready and waiting, and on winning the toss, we decided to bat again, and to continue our family theme we opened with another father/son duo, as Pete and the Vet started our innings off.
Exchange of pennant's!
We had reached 36, when Pete, who hadn’t had as much sleep as his Dad and was clearly struggling in the heat, was run out for 13, as he laboured to make his ground. The Bionic Man, Davy Mac was next in, and he set about the Sir Oliver bowling with an array of shots, as the Vet notched up his 3rd European 50 at the other end. At 124 the Vet was bowled and 5 runs later Davy followed him, as he was unluckily LBW to a shooter, just 3 runs short of another well deserved tour 50. The Ross brothers were in next, and Willy started in confident fashion, with a couple of fine boundaries, before the tall Croatian skipper managed to take a great one handed catch leaping on the boundary to rob Willy of a six and his wicket! As we tried to step up the scoring Wayne went for 16, and Greek Steve went for 2, although on the plus side at least on this occasion he wasn’t stumped. It was left to Watty to marshall the tail with unbeaten 35, to carry us to a final competitive total of 237 off our 30 overs.
Watty marshalling the tail
After our lunch and a well earned drink, Pete had to retire to a darkened room, and sunstroke was a definite possibility as Cregagh took the field. This where our logistics staff came into their own, as Rooster and the guys made sure we were constantly given drinks whilst also dispensing sun tan lotion, and without this we would have really struggled, as temperatures soared.

The TANK!!
The opening bowlers were once again the Thompson twins, and we soon knew were in a game as Mate and Antonio managed a few big hits of their own. In a rare change of fortune the Thompsons were wicketless again, for a second day, when the skipper turned to Wayne Ross, as the openers celebrated a century opening stand. The writing was on the wall for Cregagh unless we got a quick breakthrough, and big Wayne obliged in his third over by bowling Mate, just 4 short of his 50. At the other end Antonio was still carving the ball to all parts, and in rare moment of inspiration the skipper threw the ball to the Ginger Ninja for a spell. After going for 13 in his first over, Copey struck twice in his second, removing the number 3 and 4 batsmen, with Greek Steve getting in on the act taking a well judged gully catch, for one of these. So from 104 for 0, the score rapidly went to 105 for 3. In a telling blow with the score on 119, Antonio launched a delivery from big Wayne into the deep towards the long off boundary, where the Vet, lurking like Victor Meldrew, plagued by hayfever, with one eye partially closed, was sheltering from the heat, barely awake, under the trees. Despite his dilapidated state the Vet atoned for his error of the previous day, and took a fine overhead catch to send Antonio back the hutch, and the Vet started dreaming about his next kip. After that the skipper and Willy Ross came on to tie things up in a miserly spell, taking a further 3 wickets between them. Safe in the knowledge the Sir Oliver team now required 63 runs to win off the last over, the skipper brought back Big Phil, against the current couple of 9 year olds now batting, in a vain attempt to buy him a tour wicket! Cregagh finished off their tour in style then with a 51 run win in their last match.
Sir Oliver CC & Cregagh CC
The Sir Oliver team had arranged a meal for us at their club, a short drive away, and with the exception of the Vet, who by this stage required another sleep, we were happy to go along with another good bunch of lads. Although to refuse, apart from being impolite, may have been dangerous, as two of them were air traffic controllers, both on duty the next day when we were due to fly home! We enjoyed another good meal, and made our customary presentations, including our newest addition, the tour duck, to one of Copey’s victims! The Sir Oliver lads then shuttled us back to the Hotel Resnik at various intervals where we were scheduled to have an early night, before our 7.30am pick-up to take us to the airport for our return to the U.K. the next morning.
Think its the Chairmans round?
Things don’t always go as planned on tour however, as arriving back at the hotel in the last car around 9pm, I anticipated a few quiet (and not quite few) beers before retiring. As it happened, in an unprecedented last tour night scene, when things are traditionally a little more low key, when I arrived at the hotel bar, it was clear everyone was there, and as the saying goes, the joint was rocking! The outdoor area of bar overlooked the bay, and in fact ran down to a shingle beach with the waves lapping onto the shore. As the sun finally sank behind Big Phil, it was picture postcard stuff, and the amber nectar was flowing. As the regular clientele shuffled to their rooms, we enquired what time was closing time, only to be informed it would be whenever we left……..Oh dear, a tour organizer’s nightmare! 
Have you any Prodigy??
As we had the bar almost entirely to ourselves, Pete turned DJ, and beers gave way to vodkas, whiskeys and even cocktails, it was mayhem! The Magnificent Seven even made a belated, if somewhat under dressed appearance before the evening finally came to close sometime in the early hours.

Four magical days of cricket and fun had finally ended in “the best last night ever”, which obviously preceeded the roughest next day after!

Fear naught, intrepid tourists however, 2012 planning, has already commenced!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Little ole wine drinker me

As day dawned on day 3 of our trip, it was very much business as usual a few doors down at our favourite breakfast venue. The locals all scattered as we all gathered for a lot of bellowing and a bite to eat, before being collected for the journey back to the vineyard at Plisko Polje around 11.30am. There was just time after breakfast for a supply run to the local supermarket to stock up on some essentials, i.e. some chocolate bars and 10 pack of toilet rolls, all of which we quickly stuck in the fridge for later. This was to last us through that day and night, and that was only for our room! Then the bus of fear was back in town. After Pip informed Oliver that he had children he would very much like to see again, Oliver promised to use at least one hand to steer this time, whilst stroking his dog, Piko. Pip having been suitably reassured was happy to put his blindfold on and got back in the front seat, clutching his toilet roll.

Simpy on the drive
Match day two, this time for a 30 over game, commenced with Cregagh winning the toss and the skipper having no hesitation in deciding to bat. After that it was very much déjà vu, with Simpo and Pete sharing a healthy opening stand that saw them both pass 50, before Simpo was bowled on 53, and Pete was out for 76. This allowed Pip to blast a quickfire 26, before an even quicker 24 ball, 52 not out from Gibby, and an attractive cameo of 17 not out, from the Wattster, saw us complete our allotted overs with 271 on the board. Another tour first, with three Cregagh fifties and very handy total, which the skipper was extremely confident was a winning score, as we paused to replenish our beer levels, and eat a sandwich or two.
Back (l-r) I. Kerr, C. Copeland, T. Dawson (Cpt) P. Kerr, P. Walker, Willy Ross
Front (l-r) R. Moore, M. Thompson, M. Simpson (wk) G. Watt, S. Gibson

Following up on our family theme, the skipper opened the bowling with the Thompson father and son duo. However the Sir William Hoste openers, Stanko “The Wall” Aleksic and Craig Wear, managed to negotiate this tricky opening spell successfully. As Bob and Pip replaced the Thompsons, whilst the required run rate was steadily climbing, Stanko solidly defended at one end, as Craig began to unfurl a few of his sublime range of shots, and the partnership remained intact at the drinks break. Copey and Willy Ross were then introduced into the attack. Willy finally made the breakthrough, in his first over, bowling Stanko for a resolute 40. However this was the cue for Craig to go on the attack, and it became abundantly clear how fortunate we were get him out so cheaply the previous day, as he pillaged 26 of Willy’s next over.

The required run rate was still over 14 an over, but with Craig at the crease, it was now dropping rapidly and all things were possible. It became a matter of keeping the other batsman in check and on strike now. Copey helped slow the rate by taking 2 wickets, including the chairman Oliver Roki, who had opened up with 2 boundaries and was looking dangerous at the time. Craig was still averaging 2 sixes every over he faced, and heading for his hundred when the Vet uncharacteristically dropped him in the bushes in the deep. It was looking slightly ominous for Cregagh at this stage, as Craig’s run rampage continued. However in the end despite his magnificent undefeated innings of 125, Craig could not get enough of the strike and the Vis team finished 25 runs short of their target. The tour skipper finally was able to breathe a sigh of relief and it was back to Oliver’s patio for a few more well earned beers and lot more banter.

Craig gets his hands on a Cregagh Cap!
Skippers Union

We were kindly invited back later that evening to have a meal and sample some of Oliver’s fine wines, and so were driven back into Vis to shower and change before being collected and returned a couple of hours later. Everyone enjoyed the slow cooked lamb stew, Oliver provided, however some enjoyed his wine even more possibly, naming no names, Bob. As is customary, we presented our club plaque, (to be given pride of place at Olivers’s restaurant beside the MCC plaque), the man of the match trophy, (this time to the young wicketkeeper with the durable head), and our bottle of Bushmills (as revenge for the grappa Oliver plied us with as we arrived). Whilst Craig Wear was presented with what he always wanted…..a coveted Cregagh cap. Oliver then presented us with Vis Tee-shirts, (as modelled by Rory McGrath on T.V.) and some of his wine. We thanked Oliver for all the arrangements, including accommodation, transport and of course, food and drink, he had made for us during our memorable visit to Vis. Then it was time to bid farewell to Oliver and the Vis islanders, as we had a ferry to catch early the next morning to take us to Split, to play our third game against the Sir Oliver C.C. on the mainland.
Vis Wicketkeeper
Back in Vis there was just time to set alarm clocks and get a few hours rest, as we had been advised the ferry was leaving at 7am and not 7.30am, as we had thought. The youngsters meantime, much as they do at home, had decided to go back to Davy Mac’s place. The night was drawing to a close, and so were the youngsters! Apparently they were keen to do some colouring in, unfortunately in the absence of colouring books, they used Bob, as we were all able to read him the next day!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Good Morning Sunshine (Part 2)

Disappointment was one word to describe the opening of day two for the Tour Skipper, who had went to bed looking forward to catching up on some well earned rest, after the previous arduous day of travel and stress.

However the sight of Big Scolari, in his birthday suit, at the end of his bed early that morning, clutching only the face cloth the apartment offered as a bath towel, to hide his ample charms, on his way to the shower in the corner of the skipper’s room, was a less than ideal start. Then Phil decreed that after he was finished, everyone in our room would be accompanying him to breakfast!

Never mind, a leisurely stroll along the harbour front, to breakfast, a few doors down from our apartment, was an ideal tonic. Most of the squad were already there, having chased away any of the usual clientele from yachting fraternity, who probably would have prefered a quieter breakfast experience. Mark was tucking into the ham and egg omelette he had ordered, with some relish, before someone enquired what he anticipated an omelette without the egg would be like, and so momentarily Copey was deprived of the pink cap.

Cat finally slips up!!
As breakfast was finishing the call came through from Oliver Roki to say the Vis team would be a little short of bodies for the game at 4, and could we lend them a few, so one of the skipper’s problems was solved at a stroke, everyone would play today. All that remained was to decide how best to spend the afternoon, until we were to be picked up at 3.30pm.

Having been told there was a beach on the far side of the harbour, where we could see a few people swimming, that seemed to be our best option. Our old favourite, “a day at the beach” beckoned, trunks were donned, towels acquired and we set off, only to find our beach had more stones than a quarry. Nevertheless the water looked inviting, as the temperature rose and many of the boys ventured in, at this stage blissfully unaware of the dangers that lurked in the depths. Then sea urchins began to claim their victims, as Davy Mac, Pete and Greek Steve, all managed to step or lean on one, resulting in them collecting a number of hedgehog-like spikes. Cue Dr. Rooster with his medical kit to sooth the wounded warriors, although his pronouncement that he had a previous experience of this happening, and the victim had actually died was not so encouraging!

Cregagh 20/20 Team
Oliver was good as his word and arrived at 3.30pm in his recently repaired vintage bus, which proved not to be quite as scary as its driver. He then drove, in the loosest sense of the word, us to the ground at his vineyard in the hills behind Vis town. The journey was thankfully short and we arrived overlooking the small ground prepared in a field, beside an old World War 2 airstrip. Whilst the ground looked pretty from afar, sliding on it proved to be as recommendable as sitting on a sea urchin. Pete found this out later when he tried it out saving a boundary, but losing a shin full of skin, the coarse vineyard grass being a little different from the lush Gibson Park Oval version.

Vis answer to Lords
The Cregagh volunteers for the Sir William Hoste team were, Big Phil, Copey, Pip and Cat, and the match got underway with the hosts batting. Craig Wear and Oliver Roki were the openers for the Vis team, whilst opening the bowling for Cregagh were the Ross brothers, a family theme which was to carry on throughout the tour. Vis opened brightly with Craig and Oliver getting off to a good start, before Willy had Craig smartly taken behind by Watty, the gloveman for the day. What a wicket that was, however we would not know that until the following day! Willy followed that up with Copey’s wicket next ball, again taken by Watty behind the stumps, and he was on for our first ever tour hat-trick. However Ben Heywood, in at number four, just managed to negotiate Willy’s next ball.

Vis team with guests!
After 3 overs each in the heat, the skipper rotated his bowlers. Without the option of Cregagh’s leading spin bowler, or is it 2nd spin bowler, Davy, it was more pace, as Bob replaced Wayne, and then in a surprise move, the skipper asked Matthew Simpson to replace Willy. So far we had used 4 debutant bowlers and none of them was letting us down, as Bob ended Oliver Roki’s stay at the crease and Simpo also notched up 2 tour wickets. The skipper then took out Rob, our host from the previous evening, before he also removed Cat, comprehensively bowling the big hitting dangerman of the lower order.

Pip gave the Vis innings a boost with some lusty blows, before with just 3 balls left Scolari was sent out to the crease to face Davy Mac, in duel to decide who would enjoy the evening more, if at all!

STRIKE ONE, Davy, a swing and a miss from the big man,.

BALL TWO, a little shorter and quicker, and despatched, as Phil larruped it to the boundary, with the fielders all in catching positions…….honours even now.

FINAL BALL, this time a sharp lifter, and guided/edged past Gibby’s ear, as he stood at slip, for another boundary, 2-1 to Phil, so it was going to be earplugs all round tonight now!

131 to chase, after a medicinal beer of course. We opened with Pete and Simpo who put on a fine opening stand of 70, before Copey caught Pete off Craig Wear for 30. Simpo went on to post his 50 and retired to allow Mark Thompson, with a quickfire 33 and Gibby, with a stylish 11 to take us to our target in 13 overs and a 20/20 win. More beers and a presentation to our hosts, the Sir William Hoste team, followed, before Oliver or was it his dog, Piko, drove us back to Vis for the evening.

Phil bowled well the day lads didnt he?
A leisurely (if you weren’t sitting near Phil) meal followed, before we hit the bar on the harbour for just the one nightcap, eagerly anticipating the longer game tomorrow.
Right TD we are off to bed, honest!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Ian Kerr (aka The Vet) 43 Seasons and counting

Every club across the NCU needs its own fair share of clubmen and certainly at Cregagh we have been extremely lucky in having one of the best in the form of Ian Kerr (The Vet). I’m sure we all have ideas of what makes the ideal clubman, but for Ian, not just happy at his sons playing he will try and recruit any player who he comes across to come down to Cregagh for a game, and is now coaching our junior section passing on his knowledge to the next generation.

Peter Kerr, Ian Kerr & Aaron Kerr
This season is a landmark one for Ian, one that we believe will not be beaten at our club. Ian joined Cregagh in 1968, living close to the Cregagh Road and attending Harding Memorial it was a natural progression to play cricket at Cregagh his local club. What has followed has been incredible as Ian has now played for Cregagh during the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and now the current decade sees Ian still turning out for his beloved Cregagh as he enters his 43rd season spanning across 6 decades.

But that is only the first unique aspect of a recent trilogy of events.  The 2nd event occurred last season when Ian took the field for the 1st XI with his two sons Peter Kerr and Aaron Kerr.  Most Father’s would like to take to the field with their son at some point, Ian managed to do it with both sons in a 1st XI match.  To complete the trilogy of events Peter’s century against the PSNI now means all three Kerr’s have achieved centuries in the black and gold colours of Cregagh.  A feat that I doubt will ever be surpassed.

1st XI Section 4 Winners 2007 Ian, Peter and Aaron in the back row

At a time when we all complain about how cricket can be a time consuming hobbie the example Ian set and continues to set speaks volumes. When Ian took up employment in Scotland he thought nothing of coming back to Belfast to play cricket for Cregagh! Moving the family each weekend to play cricket and turn out for Cregagh, that is the measure of the man, that in our opinion is what makes Cregagh’s clubman the best!

All this time that Ian has invested over the years couldn’t have been managed without the support of his wife Laura. The teas during the mid to late 90s are still remembered and Laura is still there on a Saturday assisting with the teas and supporting Cregagh both on the field and off it.

Ian has won leagues for senior teams throughout his playing career, a Graham Cup winner (the only time Cregagh won the Graham Cup) he has also accumulated 3 half centuries across Europe representing Cregagh on our recent tours. His two sons have followed him to Cregagh with Aaron representing Ireland at under 15 level and now Peter who is the current 1st XI captain yet I suspect his greatest achievement was keeping the club alive in the mid 90s when everyone else had given up. His mantra at the time ‘not on my watch’ ensured we would get through those times with the help of Philip Walker it must be said.

So on behalf of the Committee at Cregagh, the players both senior and junior and most importantly from all your friends a big thank you for the total and absolute commitment that you have shown towards our wee club to ensure Cregagh Cricket Club is still in business.

PS You available on Saturday?

PPS and Sunday?