Rising standards impress visitors
With the growth of Irish cricket in the last decade it's no surprise that Wexford Wanderers has started to feel the knock-on effect in its under-age structure. Recently, the club had as many as 19 lads turn up for a practice match, eight more than is needed to fully field a team.
A lot of those youngsters were out in force on Friday as the club had the honour of hosting three coaches down from headquarters for the day. The trio, headed by Cricket Ireland's Regional Development Manager for Leinster Brían O'Rourke, were in town to pass on technical tips to the youngsters in a bid to improve their skill level.
'This is something we do in the Cricket Union,' explained O'Rourke. 'We are basically in the city of Dublin but two or three times a year we travel outside of the city. Last year we were in Bagenalstown, we're in Dundalk next week and we are in Wexford this week.
'What we have here is a lot of local cricketers, we've got some visitors from Gorey, some visitors from Carlow and some from Bagenalstown, so a really good 50 or 60 kids here who are keen on the game. We have the assistants here giving them a hand, trying to fine-tune some of their techniques and introduce them to a few new things.'
Being based around the Dublin system, where youngsters are generally further along in their development, having had access to top level training for much of their lives, O'Rourke might have even been a little surprised by the talent he saw in Wexford.
'The interest is huge and the standard is actually very good as well, (we're) looking at a few bowlers here that we have been working with the last hour or so, very fine athletes and good bowlers so please God they will stick at it and represent their clubs and who knows after that,' said O'Rourke.
The closest Wexford has come in recent years to an Irish international is through connections with former fast-medium bowler Trent Johnston, married into the county, and current spin-bowler George Dockrell's grandfather from Enniscorthy.
With much of the Irish team made up of lads playing from a young age in the metropolitan areas such as Dublin and Belfast, it's difficult to see where and when that trend will stop, especially with most of the attention from Cricket Ireland based there. O'Rourke believes local support is vital to any future success.
'The four County Councils in Dublin all financially support us. We have seven to eight thousand children introduced to cricket in 2015 already, that's on the back of going out and introducing the game into schools. That's not just introducing the game to children but also to teachers to educate them as well.'
As it is, the youngsters at Wexford Wanderers are enjoying their cricket and O'Brien believes that this game is a great basis for improving at any sport, simply because of the skills learned through proper training and practice.
'When I was in school, I'm from Carlow, it was very much a G.A.A. town,' said O'Rourke. 'Nowadays they can travel around to a variety of different sports and I think for us, whatever sport they go on to play they will use the skills, the catching, the throwing, all the different things they do.
'You'd love them all to play cricket but that's just not going to happen, but we'll find a few players who are interested and get them down into local clubs.'
One man hoping to keep the numbers high in Wanderers is under-age coach Peter Hudson. He's enthusiastic about the future of the club with the youngsters coming through and delighted to see numbers rising.
'It's all about guys playing cricket, learning the basics from early on,' explained Hudson. 'In Wexford we have about 17 Under-15s, and in Under-12s and -11s we have about 18 as well. The success of the Irish team has increased awareness.'
There are also new clubs popping up around the south-east which means that games are easier to organise, which has made playing opportunities more plentiful.
'We'd have had about six games so far this year, compared to at this time last year when it was about two or three. It's all about getting games for the kids without having to travel too far,' said Hudson.
Fellow youth coach Herbie Honohan is also pleased with how things are progressing, pointing to the new grounds, at the side of the Wexford Wanderers Rugby Club, as another step in the right direction. He also hopes that a league might be around the corner for the youngsters.
'You have to go to Dublin (for leagues) and it's a lot of travelling. What we are hoping to do next year is create a Leinster League, divided between Waterford - we'll allow Waterford into Leinster - Carlow, Bagenalstown, Wexford and Gorey in one section, with the likes of Mullingar, Portlaoise, Kentstown, the northerly teams, in the other.'
Honohan continued: 'Then the winners of each section would play together, So you would have a bit of competitive action as well as playing the friendly games, which are very important as well'.
For those with a youngster looking to try out the game, there's a great opportunity upcoming with beach cricket returning in early August as part of the Sports Active Wexford's 'Fun in the Sun' week, which caters for children aged seven to 14. Maybe, just maybe, it will be the first step to Wexford getting that international.