9th June started early for the Cregagh 2011 Tour Party, with a chilly 4am meet at Belfast International Airport on the Thursday morning. It was our fourth venture into Europe and our largest touring contingent so far, with no less than 7 virgin tourists, (some more virgin than others though, with several youngsters, and few in the first flush of middle age), on board.
Tour packs were distributed, the Cregagh Code of Conduct’s signed, if not completely taken on board, the Tour pink cap unveiled and Simpo, not so ably assisted by Bob, was introduced to his constant companion for the rest of trip, the Tour kit bag. Then it was time to check-in.
Having safely negotiated security, even with Davy’s metal leg, the party split into two distinct groups, the coffee and scone sophisticates led by the Big Phil, and the beer and crisps brigade led by the usual suspects, the Dave twins, eager to challenge previous tour records.
Naturally enough by the time we were boarding the plane, the pink cap, awarded for uttering’s of extreme stupidity, had changed hands a number of times, moving swiftly through the Thompson family, with previous holder of similar awards, Mark, getting an early touch, before coming to rest on its spiritual home…..Copey’s head.
We arrived at Stansted without any hitches, and dug in at the nearest café, for a beer and fry breakfast, to spend some of the 6 hours until our onward flight to Split. Having eaten well and consumed a few beverages, some of the party, led by our most enthusiastic napper, the Vet, for the first, but undoubtedly not the last time, decided to get the head down for a while. Some found the games arcade, a few did a little shopping, whilst others, mindful of the great step into the unknown we were taking, made full use of the airport facilities, and more than once!
It is fair to say that even at this late stage of tour, there were still a few things that were less than clear, i.e. would we get to the harbour in Split in time to catch the last ferry that day to the island of Vis, and if and when we got there, would we have somewhere to stay.
Our opposition on Vis had kindly undertaken to look after the booking of our accommodation on the island, however unfortunately even now the details were a closely guarded secret.
The Stansted flight left on time, and we were even slightly early, when we arrived in Split. It was a pleasant 25°C on arrival, but more importantly we were still on schedule, and happily we were met and led to our air conditioned transport. They had thoughtfully turned the heating up in the bus to make us feel more at home and Watty nestling cosily in the back seat was able to shed a few pounds even before the bus left the airport!
We got to the ferry terminal on time, secured the tickets and boarded the ferry all with half an hour to spare, it was time for the tour skipper to kick back and relax, the sun was shining and the tour party still numbered 20, accommodation worries were another two and quarter hours away.
The bar opened as the boat left Split, the lads rifled through their cases and then we were all up on deck in an array of shorts and tour tee shirts, enjoying the rays, the beers and the ambience, as we sailed into the sunset to Vis. As we negotiated our way into Vis harbour at around 9pm that evening as the sun finally went down, after one of the most pleasant journey on car ferry, I, for one have ever had, it was undoubtedly one of the seminal tour moments of all time.
We had also received a call from Oliver Roki, the Chairman of Vis Cricket Club, with the bonus news that we had in fact somewhere to stay. He told us we would be met by Rob, an Australian/Croat, on the dock, to take us there and after leaving our cases, on to his bar for pizzas, and beer……..ideal. However on arrival, what was even more ideal, was the 50 yard walk from the ferry terminal to our new home, for the next few days, in a series of flats above a bakery/taverna on the sea front, Disco Dave thought he had arrived in heaven.
18 of the party were accommodated here, in varying degrees of luxury, for instance Pete got his own suite with a separate toilet, whereas some of us had one toilet between four, and it was in the corner of our bedroom, which made for few an interesting and challenging mornings. Meanwhile the Donny and Marie of the group, Davy Mac and Copey were taken up the street a few doors to a separate and more private residence in deference to their burgeoning relationship.
Half an hour later and we were on the streets again, as Rob led us to his bar. It is fair to say, that as some of us hadn’t eaten since the plane journey to Split, and we were more than a little hungry by the time we made it to Rob’s bar at the far end of Vis town. We had a few beers though, as Rob fired up the ovens, and the pizzas were quickly scoffed as soon as they appeared. We had a few more beers to wash them down and a bit of banter with Rob about the coming day’s 20/20 match, before retiring after an eventful day’s travel. The match wasn’t scheduled to start until 4pm, so many of us were looking forward to the opportunity to catch up on some sleep, before exploring the town in daylight
Talk on the way home centred on the make-up of the team for tomorrow’s first fixture, and with a large and eager tour party, there would undoubtedly be disappointment for some. The tour skipper had some tough choices to think over that night.
A great weekend for the club- the 2nds led it off with a hard fought win over Templepatrick at home on Saturday followed up by the 1sts against Donaghadee on Sunday and rounded off by the 3rds with a ruthless win away at Academy where Haider took a hat trick and Neil Pinkerton got his first '5 for' for the club.
On top of this Scolari umpired one of the top Premier League games at North Down. Well done Phil.
Also for those who do not know the club will be hosting an U13 Interprovincial game between Munster and North West on Tuesday 5th July starting 11.00am. Our first representative game for many years. We will be looking for helpers on the day.
On Thursday 9th June 2011 Cregagh Cricket Club will embark upon its 4th European tour with the destination this time being Croatia. This year’s tour sees our largest tour party to date as 20 members make the trip.
Our first port of call will be the Island of Vis to face the Sir William Hoste Cricket Club. Surprisingly, cricket was first played in Croatia on the island of Vis in 1809 when Captain William Hoste, taking a break from sinking French ships in the Napoleonic wars, encouraged his men to play ‘cricket’.
On the Sunday we catch the ferry back to the mainland to plan Sir Oliver Cricket Club in Split, a club formed by two friends whilst serving in the Croatian army in the late 90’s who had stumbled across the game being played in Zagreb. Over the 4 day tour we intend to play three games, two on the island and our last game on the Sunday in Split before returning home on Monday afternoon.
Once again the Cregagh club would like to place on record our gratitude to the Northern Cricket Union for granting our request for a free fixture weekend.
Peter Kerr hit an incredible 132 on Saturday as the captain led from the front against the PSNI in securing another 4 points. Well done from everyone Peter and very well deserved skipper. To cap the day the firsts beat PSNI to record the teams second win on the bounce and now sit joint top of the league.
They say the sun always shines on The East, and it certainly did last Friday (3rd June) as Cregagh Cricket club in association with Simon Johnston from SportNI hosted a Kwik Cricket competition for East Belfast primary schools. In what has been the best day of the summer so far, over 60 kids turned up and played in a mini tournament for over 4 hours. The games were all very competitive with some exciting last ball finished as boys and girls from each school battled hard to get to the final. Best two teams on the day, Orangefield A and Downey House, battled out a hard fought final, with Downey House coming out on top as eventual winners. But well done to all. Both Simon and Cregagh CC hope that this competition can now be an annual event at the club as all kids really enjoyed the days crack. Simon & SportNI in association with CCC will also be running a summer cricket school in the last two weeks of July and first week of August (details to be confirmed by end of this month). All ages welcome.