Cricket Ireland’s field of dreams grows ever closer

HOPES are high that the international cricket ground planned for Malahide will be ready to host the 2013 one-day international between Ireland and England.

The two nations meet in Bangalore in the World Cup this morning and will face off again in August at Clontarf when less than 5,000 people will be able to squeeze into a ground whose capacity for expansion is nullified by surrounding roads and residences.

There are no such issues at Malahide which, when it is finished, should hold anything up to 12,000 spectators and which will be the first on this island to concur with the highest standards of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

The venture began life as a joint venture between Fingal County Council, who provided the land, and Malahide Cricket Club who have made use of €450,000 of government funding to complete the first stage of the project involving the pitch, outfields and a second satellite pitch which the club would use on international match days.

Despite the economic situation, alternative sources of funding are being sought for the next stage of the project, which would involve a larger clubhouse, pavilion, stands and media centre capable of hosting the game’s powerhouses.

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom said: “We have England coming in 2013 and are hopeful of having another major Test country coming in 2012 for the RSA Challenge so we would hope that we could have 10-12,000 people fitting in to a major Irish cricket match.”

The West Indies are a good bet for the 2012 fixture, being the only nation set to tour England in the summer months that year, according to the ICC’s Future Tours programme.

Whoever provides the opposition, Deutrom is confident there would be little difficulty in filling a ground the size of that envisioned for Malahide.

Ireland welcomed Ricky Ponting’s number-one ranked Australia to Clontarf for the annual RSA Challenge last summer. The sun shone, fans baked and the Aussies almost came a-cropper, all of which made for a hugely successful day.

“We pre-sold the Australia game last year and had loads of people unable to get their hands on tickets so we have no doubt that we would be able to sell that venue out,” said Deutrom. “What would that say? It would say we have an indigenous Irish side mostly made up of young Irish cricketers playing in front of a home crowd of 12,000 people in Ireland. There are very, very few ‘minor’ sports that attract that level of interest.”

Building a stadium is one thing but increasing the amount of top-class fixtures Ireland could play there is another as there are a number of significant obstacles to be overcome if Malahide is to see more than just a game every 12 months. For a start, most of Ireland’s players are tied up to county cricket contracts which restricts their availability during the summer months when games would have to be played. Even then, the notorious Irish climate makes the hosting of such days something of a commercial risk.

“It is a bit of chicken and egg,” said Deutrom. “We wouldn’t be able to host all these major events if we didn’t have the proper facilities and yet you need the match in order to generate the interest and justify the construction of the facilities. What we are saying is that we are not embedded in the ICC’s Future Tours programme but we will play something like 12 or 13 one-day internationals against Future Tour countries, six of those being in the World Cup.

“We will play many more away from home but even with just two matches at home a year, that is something like 25,000 people coming to watch a game which has a genuine economic impact for the local area in Fingal and Malahide in terms of hotels, bars etc.”

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