Comedian Hal Roach once remarked, “You know it’s summer in Ireland when the rain gets warmer.” There’s little sympathy on offer as an Irish cricketer breaks into a wry smile. After all, they have spent more time rain watching or training indoors than on-field during the Inter-Pro Championship this year.
Following Ireland’s impressionable show at Lord’s in July, the Inter-Pro Championship holds a renewed sense of high regard amidst all generations and is now seen as a realistic pathway to Test cricket, more so than ever.
Thankfully, young cricketers aren’t made to rue their missed opportunities as they represent Ireland ‘A’ with a trip down to Bristol against Gloucestershire second XI in a four-day fixture. Having lost the toss and put in to bat first, Ireland ‘A’ were reduced to 27-4 in only 6.5 overs with only Leinster’s Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin able to respond to the new ball onslaught ensued by Matt Taylor’s left-arm swing on a quick Bristol pitch.
Rush CC’s Nathan Maguire (34) and Neil Rock (57) steadied the ship and coupled caution with aggression as the day progressed. McLoughlin-Gavin, who outshone with a composed 51 off a hundred deliveries, talks to LastWordOnCricket about his knock and the takeaways.
“I think we learned today about the importance of getting through that tough opening period to open it up for ourselves in that final session. Taylor bowled really well today and caused us a bit of trouble because of the swing he was getting back into the right-hander.
I was happy with how I played him most of the morning and managed to ride my luck a bit but eventually he managed to get a good yorker in which was too good for me today.”
Enroute his half-century, he stitched a 56-run partnership with Maguire and a crucial 39-run one with Rock.
“Was great batting with those two guys today because they play in the same area of Fingal in North county Dublin as me and was nice to finally play together. Both the guys have real potential and if they continue to improve going forward there is no reason why they can’t be massive players for us or the senior team in the future.”
He also acknowledged how such four-day fixtures against County Second XI sides contribute significantly towards getting some much-needed red-ball action under the belt.
“It’s a great opportunity for us because we were unlucky this year with the summer we had in Ireland weather-wise. It’s nice to be able to gauge where you are at against a professional outfit like Gloucestershire and also continue to improve in longer format cricket.”
McLoughlin-Gavin has come a long way after coming through the U15s and U19 ranks for Ireland. The Hills CC batsman received his first call-up for the Leinster Lightning side and made his first-class debut in June. In just his second game, he batted with grit and composure to bail his side out of trouble as he notched up 86 against a very good Northern Knights bowling unit at Pembroke.
Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Andy Balbirnie, Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell and Albert Van der Merwe has helped him take his game to a higher level. He concedes, “So far it’s been great to be able to chat to the more established guys and see how they go about their business. They have all been a big help to me since I got my call up with the Leinster lightning earlier in the season.”
With Irish cricket on the rise, hopefully there are more Ireland Wolves call-ups and a Test debut in the offing as McLoughlin-Gavin continues to grind it away but the focus right now lies in capitalizing key moments.
Brief scores as of Tea, Day 2: Gloucestershire 2nd XI 56-1 (B. Charlesworth 24* M Foster 1-23) trail by 233 runs against Ireland ‘A’ 289 (N. Rock 57 McLoughlin-Gavin 51 M. Taylor 5-30)