Herbie feted for schools scheme
A new approach to introducing cricket to the children of Wexford, and the countless hours seeing the scheme through, were recognised by Cricket Ireland recently when Herbie Honohan won their prestigious 'Oasis Group Volunteer of the Year' award.
For Honohan, a long-term Wexford Wanderers member, player and coach, the recognition was just desserts for years of unpublicised, unrelenting work, trying to keep cricket alive in the county town.
However, it was a specific programme, aimed at schoolchildren around the county, that caught the attention of the Cricket Ireland judges, a panel that picked Honohan out of a five-person shortlist that also included members of bigger establishments like Leinster Cricket, The Hills, Malahide and Bagenalstown.
'To have a small club like us there was fantastic,' Honohan beamed. 'A lot of people approached me and congratulated me, like the C.E.O. (Warren Deutrom), the Irish Senior coach (John Bracewell), and the President of Cricket Ireland (Joseph Doherty), so it was nice to be recognised on the day.'
Many around the county with primary school age children will be familiar with the programme that brought Honohan to national attention. In fact, almost nine hundred children were introduced to the sport in eleven schools around the county on the back of his work, and the efforts of his fellow volunteers from Wanderers and Gorey Cricket Clubs.
Honohan himself explained: 'The big thing is, since I retired from work I've more time on my hands. I have been coaching the boys and girls in the club for a good few years now and I've done occasional visits to school here and there.
'What I had in mind was something more definite, to try to get into several schools and get little matches between them. That would be my idea.
'I went to Sports Active, they gave me a bit of support towards it as well. We selected a few schools, we ended up doing eleven schools in county Wexford. It ran for eight to ten weeks and I'd do a particular school at a particular time each week.'
The game itself, and Honohan's energetic approach to teaching the fundamentals to the children of the county, ensure that the spell in the schools was a roaring success. So much so that not only have all those involved this year asked for the scheme to be repeated, but also other schools have made their own queries about getting involved.
'It was a great success,' Honohan admitted. 'It was the first time I did a project that big, there was great enthusiasm from the kids, teachers and principals on it. One of the good things is that each school that I went to would like it to continue, which is a good sign.
'We started out with just the basics of catching, throwing, batting. Gradually we were showing them how to bowl. Playing quick cricket to begin with as a fun game, and by the end of the few weeks a lot of the schools had progressed to be able to play full cricket. We ended up with a four-team blitz up in Gorey, on Courtown Hibs pitch, and played full 15-over games.
'I didn't have to put the kids anywhere, they all knew where to go and were encouraging each other, I thought it was great to pick it up (so quickly). I'd say 95 per cent of them knew nothing about cricket starting off and to think eight to ten weeks later they could play full games was amazing.'
So, with such a massive success story in just one year, it's clear the Cricket in Schools initiative started by Honohan is here to stay, with the next run pencilled in for the spring.
Who knows, maybe a home-grown international might come from the scheme in the years to come.