Simmons joins stars for Mardyke party

If you want to know how tough it is to keep a club going year after year, through good times and bad, all you have to do is look at Cork soccer’s challenges for your answer.

Simmons joins stars for Mardyke party

But there is a club on Leeside that seems to have found the secret to long life.

Cork County Cricket Club has not only survived for 140 years but is once again blossoming. That alone is reason for celebration.

Today at the club’s picturesque home ground at the Mardyke, the great and good from Irish cricket will be gathering to help get the club’s birthday party started.

But there is one man everyone is really excited about seeing don the whites again and that is Ireland coach Phil Simmons, who made his name as an all-rounder in 26 Test matches for the West Indies.

Also swinging the willow today are Ireland stalwarts John Mooney, Jeremy Bray and Kyle McCallan — now an analyst with Sky — former England and Essex batsman John Stephenson and some of the heroines from the Irish women’s team that won the European T20 Championship just last week.

While good times are guaranteed, the weather is not. But with a fully stocked bar and catering provided by the River Lee Hotel, first team all-rounder and former skipper Andy Wootton insists that, off the pitch anyway, no one will be caught short.

Originally from the cricketing hotbed of Yorkshire, Wootton pitched up in Cork seven years ago having “searched for a cricket club before I began looking for a house”, and celebrated another major milestone last weekend when the team’s victory over Malahide clinched promotion to the Leinster League Division 1 — Irish cricket’s big time.

“Promotion is massive for us, as a club,” said Wootton. “We’ll be playing against the best players in Ireland and the game in Cork will only develop from there. It’ll also encourage more people to get involved in the club and that can only be a good thing.”

However, in a county addicted to the adrenaline rush provided by hurling, where does cricket — with its old-fashioned sportsmanship and breaks so players can sit down to lunch — fit in? The attraction for Wootton and the other members of Cork County is clear.

“It’s a team sport but there is a very big individual element as well,” he said. “You have to meet your individual targets for the team to succeed.

“There is a view cricket is about cucumber sandwiches and is elitist, but that really isn’t the case. Everyone is welcome down here and the friends you make in cricket are friends made for life.”

The pace of the game also makes it much more likely for players to still be turning out for their clubs well into their 40s and beyond, although not even Cork County can guarantee you’ll still be carrying your bat past your 140th birthday.

President’s XI v Cork County takes place today from 12.30pm at the Mardyke, Cork. Entry is free.

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