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Former Local Rivals Join Forces In Promising Debut Season

Michael Martin  

Ards & Donaghadee CCIt was a case of adapt or die for 2 local clubs whose rivalry stems back to the 1950s with many illustrious and competitive games over the decades.

In recent years, and with an undoubtedly negative impact from the pandemic, Ards CC and Donaghadee CC found themselves in a bit of a pinch with player availability and a decrease in the high standards of cricket each club was used to. With the increased risk of either club struggling to the point of no return, and with encouragement from other clubs in the union who have reaped the rewards from merging, committed, and enthusiastic members from each club met in December to discuss the possibility of their merger. After a few weeks of meetings and discussions, Ards & Donaghadee Cricket Club was formed.

ADCC 1st XI Captain Andrew Savage was at the forefront of negotiations and since the merger, he has been effervescently involved in every aspect of club life from skippering the team to running the club's social media and can often be seen down at the grounds on Sundays supporting the 2nd and 3rd XI's.

"I think it was imperative to merge the clubs on our terms before one of the clubs ran into more difficulty than they were in. It was about being proactive and not reactive. We could have waited another year or two, but I felt the time was right, as did many others.

Andrew's focus now turns to Saturday as the 1st XI have had an enjoyable run in the GMcG Junior Cup and have a home semi-final against a talented Lisburn 2nd XI. In recent history, neither Ards nor Donaghadee CC has reached the semi-final stage of this historic competition and it is a credit to the captain and his players for working hard, sticking together, and progressing this far. For most of the ADCC players, this will be their first semi-final in the Junior Cup, and for some, a first semi-final in senior cricket and it is a real opportunity for them to get a taste of a potential cup final and all the excitement that comes with it.

"The overarching feeling amongst the players is excitement. We have an opportunity to reach a final in our first season as a club, so it's a fantastic opportunity for us. We are hoping that the home advantage will play into our hands, but we are fully aware of the quality we will be up against."

Andrew is relishing the opportunity to lead his side into the final, and when asked how much it would mean to him, he added…
"It would mean a whole lot! In seasons gone by cup competitions have been over very quickly due to the knockout nature. The extra quality that we have because of the merger gives us a great chance. I know that come Saturday we will be focussed on the game and give everything to reach the final."

With any club merger, there is always a doubt that things may not go according to plan and certain difficulties may arise, however, due to the easy-going nature of club members and their aspirations of a successful cricketing future for the communities of Newtownards and Donaghadee, there is a real sense of belonging and togetherness around the new club, with players old and young coming together and enjoying their cricket.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying the opportunity. It has been an extremely smooth transition in my opinion and hopefully, we can continue to build year in, and year out. The selection headaches that are being caused can only be seen as a positive, and the competition between players for places only improves the standard at the club."

The newly formed club has also been boosted by much-needed facility improvements at The Pavilion at Northfield in Donaghadee, with new changing rooms, toilets, showers, and kitchen all being included in the refurbishment. Ards and North Down Borough Council got work underway during the winter months and to their credit, The Pavilion was able to be used at the start of this season. With the addition of the first-ever roll-on covers to be used on the Northfield turf, and the use of the excellent practice net facilities at Londonderry Park, the club has set some solid foundations for the future and has given themselves the best possible opportunity to develop further.

"There are a lot of good people involved in running a club and our club is no different. Establishing the correct roles in the committee was pertinent to get us heading in the right direction. Every club needs a member like Freddie Gilroy, he is the club secretary and groundsman at Northfield and keeps everything running smoothly."

The club will now look to consolidate their league positions and build a foundation for next season and of course, a GMcG Junior Cup final would be a great achievement in their debut year. Looking ahead to the next 5 years, club members have met to discuss plans on how to keep improving and ensure there is cricket in Ards and Donaghadee for generations to come.

"I want this club to thrive and have success going forward. I want us to bridge the gap with some of the other teams in our league. I don't feel like we are far away, but consistency is key.
In the initial meetings we had regarding the merger, one of the most vital points that were raised was the youth section. We plan to get this up and running within the next couple of years and it is extremely important that we do so. The youth section is what will keep the club alive for many years to come."

"A massive thanks to our three main shirt sponsors, Fisher and Fisher Solicitors, Belvoir Lettings and Pier 36 for their continued support. I'd also like to thank our training wear sponsors Bullhouse Brew Co and HazelRon Landscapes for their backing."

Lisburn II vs Ards & Donaghadee CC is being played at Northfield due to Lisburn using Wallace Park in their Gallagher Challenge Cup semi-final.

Junior Cup (sponsored by GMcG)
Lisburn II v Ards & Donaghadee (at Northfield, Donaghadee)
CSNI II v Cooke Collegians