Some members will remember back to the days of scandal in Ireland for which the acronym GUBU was invented. For those that don’t remember the letters stood for grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.
The term does not quite fit the event that took place in Merrion on Sunday morning when the Merrion Boys U17 team won a remote bowl out against CSNI from Belfast. It was not grotesque in any way. So I have launched a new term, SUBU, with the first letter standing for surreal. The rest stands.
The background was a combination of late season scheduling, bad weather and difficult to comprehend and shifting regulations. With many grounds already undergoing end of season maintenance works the search for a venue up North was difficult. Eventually, Waringstown agreed to host the fixture but rain during the week meant the ground was unplayable. Merrion offered to host, we had already put back our end of season work to accommodate the U13 All Ireland final, or to find another ground in Leinster easier for those travelling from the North to get to.
Despite the considerable effort of Merrion coaches, team managers and officials it was not possible to reach an agreement on the venue. An offer was made to share the trophy but this was turned down and a remote bowl-out was determined as the best way to decide the winners of the competition.
Now a remote bowl out, for anyone who has never attended one, involves two sets of players in different grounds bowling to try to hit a set of stumps with no batter in the way. Following a late change to the regulations, details arrived at 21.00 the night before the event, it was decided that five players would bowl one ball each and that if the scores were tied at this point it would go into sudden death with the same five players going again. An official umpire was present to ensure all the balls bowled were legal deliveries. The bowl out took place in the nets.
The Merrion team duly arrived at Anglesea Road at the appointed time with a good crowd of supporters. The tension was considerably reduced, whether this was a good thing or not I leave for others to decide, by not opting for a live commentary between the two grounds. Both sets of players completed their tasks and the umpires then communicated to determine if there was a winner or whether we had to move to sudden death.
Trying to hit the wicket with a single ball is never easy. The Merrion nets provided an extra challenge as even a well directed ball can easily bounce over the stumps. So it was as captain Isaac Dijkstra bowled what looked like a perfect ball only to see it narrowly rise over the target. Yorkers were really the best option and that is what Cormac Hayden produced to be the only player to hit the wicket.
A tense period followed as the two umpires conferred. Finally it was announced. CSNI had failed to hit the stumps in any of their deliveries. Merrion had won. Cue celebration, photos and speeches.
I am not sure I have ever witnessed such a strange way to determine the outcome of a competition. Hopefully there are some lessons to be learnt and better and clearer regulations can be put in place. It was not the best way to end the season but still much better to have won by this strange method than to have lost.
So congratulations to the U17s who have fought hard throughout the season and fully deserve their success. On a personal note, it is great that even after over sixty years watching and playing the game that one can still come across something that you have never seen before. But hopefully fewer SUBU events in the future.