Nothing could prepare us for the impact of the pandemic on Irish life. The Leinster Cricket Union was founded in 1919 during the last world pandemic, the Spanish Flu, but the game [at club level] still continued to be played. The Second World War did not interrupt the game – even if Phoenix did take damage from a stray bombing. But Covid-19 has been different and it has stopped cricket in its tracks.
But finally, club cricket [over a much shortened season] is about to commence. But it will be a strange affair. For a start it is all T20 cricket. This is partly understandable as we would want to get more games played to allow as many members as possible to participate. But Cricket Ireland’s insistence that there be no 50 over cricket [except for their own games] has simply meant that there are more gaps in the calendar. Cricket Leinster have done their best to organise meaningful competitions based on a League/Cup format. Every team will have six or seven matches with the possibility of a semi-final and final. But it still seems strange that with so little of the season available that for most players matches will end before the 1st September.
Perhaps this will leave more opportunity for social cricket, and some will certainly welcome this, but for those teams that don’t qualify for finals it will seems like a wasted opportunity.
In terms of the cricket itself things will look and feel strange for players and spectators alike. There is a lot more paperwork [for recording who is at the ground for track and tracing purposes], behaviour on and off the field designed to minimising the spread of the virus will [hopefully] become the norm and widely accepted and there will be a new emphasis on cleaning and hygiene [e.g. washing hands when you enter and leave the ground]. The big uncertainty, as I write this, is whether the government will delay the re-opening of club bars until the start of August. We will apparently know next Wednesday.
The first match of the season, a friendly between Merrion and Pembroke, will take place tomorrow the 12th July [14.00]. Although the bar won’t be open members will begin to get a sense of how things will operate for the rest of the season. A detailed plan, really a series of plans, have been put in place by the club’s Covid Committee. This can be read elsewhere, but a flavour of what every member and guest can expect is set out below.
1 Members should take care to protect themselves at all times in accordance with the current guidance from the health authorities.
2 When arriving at the ground everyone [member and guest] has to sign in. There will be a book and hand sanitiser station outside the front door of the pavilion. Also observe the White Board where there may be a ‘daily’ message.
3 Parking for spectators [members and guests] and visiting players is restricted to the lane. The area to the right of the pavilion [as you look down the ground] is reserved for outdoor seating. The parking area to the back of the Pavilion is for home team players and officials.
4 At the entrance to the club those who are there to watch the game should turn to the right and all players to the left around the back of the pavilion.
5 The terrace at the front of the pavilion has been split in two. The area in front of the dressing rooms and the tea room is reserved for the teams and umpires. When the bar opens the remainder of the terrace will be available for seating [but not for congregating or walking around].
6 The main toilets in the pavilion will be open for spectators and there will be a one-way queueing system in place – on the basis of one out – one in.
Before the bar opens [on 20th July or early August] there will further guidance on safe usage.