Clondalkin Cricket Club - Punching Above Their Weight
Clondalkin Cricket Club are a very new club attempting to establish themselves in an area more accustomed to GAA, soccer and boxing success.
The great GAA commentator once said of legendary Cork hurler Seán Óg Ó hAilpín; “his father’s from Fermanagh, his mother’s from Fiji. Neither a hurling stronghold!”
Well, to adapt a phrase to suit Clondalkin Cricket Club; “an Olympic boxer from Neilstown, a council pitch in Tallaght, neither a cricketing stronghold!”
What Clondalkin Cricket Club did have on their side however was a tyro, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm from the Jessore region of Bangladesh. They had Chunnu Matber who came to Ireland in 2001.
Chunnu is a man for whom nothing is too much trouble and establishing a cricket club in an area where there was no history of the sport wasn’t going to faze him. Along with Abul Shapon, captain of the first XI, they set out to establish a warm, welcoming club but also a successful one.
In 2014, Chunnu had established where the club wanted to play and before knocking on all the doors needed in the formation of a new club, he approached his local county councillor for support. That their local councillor was Olympic silver medallist Kenneth Egan seemed to be a good fit, as Egan campaigned on getting young people more involved in sport, among other things.
“I was only 6 months into my position in the council (in 2014) when the lads came to me and they had an idea about getting a cricket club going. I thought bingo, talk to me about it!” says Egan.
The ‘lads’ are Abul and Chunnu, Captain and President of Clondalkin Cricket Club respectively. A little informality is allowed when you come on board as Chairman, as Egan did. The three sat down and looked at potential sites before settling on Tymon Park, Tallaght as their base.
“Now obviously it’s Clondalkin Cricket Club but we’re in Tymon Park in Tallaght, unfortunately Corkagh Park, which is our park,” explains Egan, “was already taken by Lucan CC and we couldn’t share the ground because of two teams playing on the pitch.”
It’s not easy to found a club and it involves lots of bureaucracy, knocking on doors and looking for the sponsorship the club badly needed, which Chunnu was tireless in doing and Ken was happy to get involved too.
“When I got into politics, I always said I wanted to get young people involved in sport. So when this opportunity arose, I was never going to turn it down. We got a grant for the square itself to be laid. The lads and I went around knocking on doors, raising the funds, sponsorship and everything else that’s needed to run a club.
“We went straight to the council looking for the pitch. It’s a sheltered piece of land with bushes all around it and it’s flat. They were initially worried about the M50 and balls flying onto it but we positioned the square in such a way to make sure that’s not an issue,” Egan continued.
Egan believes the decision to give the land over should have been an easy one for the County Council as it is such a positive story but it didn’t hurt having the contacts he had. His sporting background also meant no stone was left unturned in sourcing funds/grants for the club.
Abul and Chunnu are very active members of the Bangladeshi community in Ireland. Using the contacts they had they were able to gather a group of players to represent Clondalkin CC. Chunnu, a soccer player in his youth, through his sporting network, can call key figures within the ICC and the Bangladesh Cricket Board friends.
A more welcoming and hospitable man it would be hard to find. Arriving to the interview, there is a full spread of traditional food prepared by Chunnu, and his partner Baby Naxnin, waiting to be shared at the clubhouse. It’s a great dynamic to see in action between the President and Chairman of Clondalkin Cricket Club.
Chunnu immediately attracts those from Bangladesh who may have a cricketing background, while Ken’s profile attracts many youngsters who may otherwise never have heard of cricket. Together their energy and drive to get into the local schools and establish themselves within the local community is infectious.
Clondalkin is not an area readily associated with cricket, the Round Towers GAA club, boxing and soccer have always held sway so there must have been a real drive and deep-rooted passion in Egan to get the club off the ground?
“No,” he laughs, “the only link with cricket I had was Trent Johnston, who I met through the Olympic Council and the Irish Sports Council. He’s a funny man and we had a bit of craic together so that was my only introduction to cricket before the club was founded.
“We’ve two senior teams at the moment and we’re tipping away at the schools, with the help of Leinster Cricket, to introduce new children to the game,” Egan says as his passion for getting children and teenagers active through sport rises again.
“It’s going to take time with the GAA and boxing around us but you have to start somewhere.
It’s what I admire about cricket players is that they all help out and get stuck in for the team, there are no messers, there are no prima donnas, everyone is here to promote the game and try and get Clondalkin up the divisions and we’ve no upper limit on where this club can go.”
Egan is learning the rules of engagement in cricket, just as he has done in politics and psycho-analysis, and that desire to grow can only transfer to anybody who gets involved with Clondalkin CC.
He spoke to the players before the Whelan Cup final this year. Nothing tactical he admits himself but he told the lads to enjoy the game and most importantly to have fun. “Work hard for every shot or run saved and don’t come off the pitch with any regrets. Give it 100% and if it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough.”
After the match, with victory secured, you can see the pride in his face as the team celebrate. The last thing he wants to do is lend his name to something he knows nothing about or to a club that is being run incorrectly.
“I’m a proud chairman of Clondalkin CC and I go to all the meetings and the matches. I want to see this club succeed and I don’t want to be seen as a blow-in.”
With players travelling from Clondalkin, Tallaght and as far away as Swords and even Mullingar to play for this team, Clondalkin Cricket Club is succeeding off the field as well as on. Ken Egan even sees similarities between boxing and cricket.
“Obviously there are similarities in the concentration levels and sport is sport after all. There’s teamwork and a respect that is vital in all sports. In team sports you’ve got to respect your teammates and carry out the wishes of your coaches and managers.
“A lot of people think boxing is an individual sport, but when I step in to the ring I’ve got to do what my coaches and trainers have told me and prepared me to do.
“If I lose, the team lose and if I win, the team wins. We need to get on with one another and on the pitch is a time for teamwork.”
Off the pitch this team is running smoothly too. Chunnu Matber, the man from Jessore who had an idea to create a cricket club where cricket was barely heard of before, leads them in a quiet but driven way. He doesn’t shout his achievements from the rooftops, instead he continues to knock on doors and visit schools to drum up support for his club.
Like any good cricket team, Chunnu likes Clondalkin to do their talking on the pitch.