Originally written 08-02-2015.
G’day Blarney Armies.
Cobwebs. Warm-up matches are always full of them and Friday’s clash against the local Randwick-Petersham club at Coogee Oval proved to be exactly that. Whether it was pre-match nerves, jet lag or we were playing against a club that were such lovely hosts over the past week, we just did not perform to our usual high standards.
I was so upset with our performance and wasn’t game to look at coach Simmons in the eye after the game. He didn’t say a word. Didn’t need to. You could tell that he was fuming.
Now I am not talking about our batting, our bowling or our fielding … the boys did pretty well and would be glad to get the match under the belt after training all week. I am talking about the fourth facet of the game, and the most often forgot … our supporting!
The Blarney Army, as the country’s unofficial 12th man, really struggled and let the team down. As we prepare for the World Cup starting in Nelson on February 16th we really need to improve our one-percenters … whilst beer consumption and application of sunscreen was good (remember to Slip Slop Slap in Australia lads!), our vocal efforts weren’t up to scratch. I guess at the end of the day we weren’t playing for World Cup points and it is time to move on and put the performance behind us. It will be a long month or so and we will have plenty of time to make an impact.
A special thank you to the World Cup organisers for creating our 8132 mile odyssey around Australasia. Of course scheduling our pool games in the cities with the largest Irish ex-pat communities in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth would have been far too logical. I suppose that is why they are in cricket administration. But they will be in for a surprise when the Irish juggernaut will be playing in those cities in the next stages of the cup. So our numbers will be low but we will make it up with that much noise that Chris Gayle will be saying that he thought Jamaicans knew how to party. If you happen to be in Nelson, Brisbane, Hamilton, Canberra, Adelaide or Hobart then make every effort to take the day off work, wear your green and come along and be a part of the Blarney Army. It will be mighty craic.
Randy-Petes, as the local club are affectionately known as, were great hosts. So good a host you would have thought they were Irish. And not just on match day but the whole week. Former Australian fast bowler Mike Whitney was an absolute gentleman to the Irish in his official capacity as club president. Cricket would be a lot greater if more former stars put back to the game without having their hands out looking to be a part of the gravy train.
Talking about gravy, we will be licking our lips come World Cup time. Sure we lost the game, but the boys showed that they are going to perform over the next 6 weeks throughout Australia and New Zealand. The batsmen got spend some time in the middle with all getting a start and the bowlers got to roll the arm over. Yes there were cobwebs against Randy-Petes and perhaps our best side wasn’t out there with Big Kev, John Boy and Dockers on the sidelines for the day but no excuses.
The players themselves are in good spirits. They seem to have loved living on the beach this past week. A happy camp off the field invariably performs on it. As for my predictions, I believe that we will upset the Windies in Nelson and easily account for UAE in our first two matches. Something tells me that it will be 2007 all over again with our 2nd World Cup tie against Zimbabwe and we will knock off the inconsistent Pakistanis. I am expecting a huge crowd in Canberra as the Irish in Sydney will travel down the Hume Highway to watch our boys in green. By the time we return to New Zealand and play in front of a sold out Hamilton crowd, we will be resting a few players as we would have already qualified by the next stage. As a supporter, I would love to see us pull a surprise packet and promote big Kev with Stirlo at the top of the order. Imagine if the two of them got going one day … we would beat any side on the day after just 15 overs. It would be like Sri Lanka 1996 all over again. Porters and Ed, our Mr Dependables, could steady the ship if these two boys didn’t come off. And our bowlers will have to feel ten feet tall with Brett Lee coming on board as our new bowling coach. All augurs well with Craig Young my tip to be the leading wicket-taker in the pool stage.
The boys wore their old strip against Randy-Petes. I am not sure if management are saving the hi-vis lime for the World Cup proper … or the dull weather that New Zealand is famous for. Likewise, I elected to wear my old strip from 2007. I have two new ones courtesy of my last visit to Carrolls in Dublin so expect a revitalised Larry come 16 February. At least they are matching the colours of Larry this time round … although the jury is still out if it is a good thing. Look out!
On Friday it was great seeing a number of familiar faces from World Cups gone. It was like returning to the first day of school in the New Year where you got to catch up and reminiscence with old mates. I can already sense that the next month will become a blur … in a good way of course. I look forward to meeting all newcomers to the Blarney Army. Don’t be shy. Come up and say g’day and have a beer or two with us. And make sure you join the conga when we get a wicket!
Come on you boys in green lime!
Yours in cricket
Larry the Leprechaun, occasionally known by his pseudonym Dr Adrian Raftery, is Ireland’s biggest cricket fan. Listed at number seven in a recent All Out Cricket list of cricketing superfans, he made the ICC’s World Cup list too.
When he’s not donning his greens and gamboling around the cricket world, Larry runs a tax and finance advisory company, Mr Taxman.