IT WILL be an historic day for Templepatrick Cricket Club members on Saturday when the First XI contests its first ever Junior Cup final.
Since its humble beginnings with a handful of enthusiasts 39 years ago, the club has come a long way. In 1969 the Boys' Brigade 20 Overs Evening Cricket League was one team short, and Robin Beatty, a member of the First Templepatrick BB Old Boys Football team, volunteered to gather up a team, and so the cricket club was born.
Matches were played at the Grove pitches on Belfast's Shore Road, and the first major step on the road to becoming one of the largest cricket clubs in the area came in 1971, when admission was gained to the Belfast Cricket League.
Current club President, Arthur Bowron, who is the only surviving active foundation member, recalls the primitive conditions in those early days, often with no official umpires, no sightscreens, no scoreboards, no marked boundaries - indeed it was fun cricket run on a shoestring.
The next major step forward was the decision to join the Northern Cricket Union in 1976, and take up residence at the new City of Belfast Playing Fields at Mallusk. Eight years later a 2nd XI was formed, but it was a constant struggle to field two teams.
In the early Nineties membership increased, and when Ballyclare Rugby Football Club invited Templepatrick to become the cricket section at The Cloughan in 1996, there was a very positive response.
A National Lottery Grant paved the way for greatly improved facilities in Ballyclare. Sightscreens, portable covers for the wicket, a scorers' hut and an artificial wicket soon followed, so that Templepatrick now boasts some of the best facilities in Northern Ireland, and the club with in excess of 120 members is now run professionally in terms of administration, coaching, development and finance.
Commenting, Youth Development Officer, Andy McCrea said, "We have built from the bottom up, with the development of young players having a high priority. We have nine fully qualified coaches, and we field teams from Under 11s to senior standard. Numerous players have received representative honours at all levels throughout the youth spectrum, and we now field arguably the youngest team in the NCU Division 1 Section 3, after gaining promotion about five years ago.
"After stabilising at the higher level we are now one of the top teams, and our ambition is to move further up the scale to Section 2 in the not too distant future. Reaching the final of the prestigious Junior Cup is another milestone. A few years ago we reached the semi-final, so we continue to make progress. It will be a marvellous experience for our young players, and we are quietly confident, even though our Academy opponents will be much more experienced," ended Andy.
Throughout all the changes there is one constant factor - Arthur Bowron. Keeping the cricket square at The Cloughan in prime condition is his special interest. It is not unusual to see Arthur driving round on the tractor with the mower at dusk on Thursday or Friday evenings to ensure that everything will be in order for Saturday's game.
Arthur is regarded by the lads as Mr Templepatrick Cricket Club, and there will be nobody prouder than he will be at Osborne Park on Saturday afternoon.
The President, officials, players and all connected with Templepatrick Cricket Club extend sincere sympathy to their Youth Development Officer, Andy McCrea, on the tragic death of his brother Stephen, who received fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident near Larne last week.