“It is in our blood,” says a proud Reji Koottungal. He is a man at the heart of the burgeoning cricket scene in the Northwest of Dublin.
Here lies Finglas Cricket Club, home to a broad range of members, young and old, from across the globe. All united in one goal; to play and enjoy their sporting passion.
“Where I grew up in India, all of our friends played cricket. We played in our local housing estate or some available space. We would just start and play with what we have. We set up anywhere.
“Here there is football or GAA, for us it was just cricket. Everyone was interested. Everyone wanted to play at one stage of their life. It is what we did. It is there, in our blood.
“My parents were really into cricket. I remember years ago when you had one day test cricket, it would take all day and my mother would take a day off just for watching it. That was the spirit they had. That is in us and gets passed on. “
Reji is the manager of the junior team. He arrived in Ireland 13 years ago and carried a love for cricket with him. It is a love he is keen to share and one being fostered in Finglas.
“Some people have played before they join but not positional cricket, just some experience of it. Others have not, but they have played Camogie or hurling! We don’t need anyone to have prior experience. Anyone can join and we will train them; that’s how we work. All the kids we have at the moment, lots of them didn’t have prior experience, but they had seen it.”
These words do much to articulate the true essence of sport. A unifying force binding people across and within communities. Beyond winning and losing, sports real profound impact is on what it does to people on the field and up in the stands.
Romy Mathew is a head coach in Finglas. His fingerprints are all over their remarkable rise from a leisurely pastime for some to community focal point for all.
“When I come over here, I didn’t have any opportunity to play other sports but I saw people playing cricket so I joined them. We didn’t have a team. it was just socialising and something to look forward to.”
So they quickly decided to form a club.
“It started as entertainment but it has gone to another level,” he explains.
“There are people coming from Blanchardstown. There are people coming from the Swords area. People from the local area used to see us playing and kept asking ‘what is going on?’ After a couple of weeks these kids came over and asked can they join us.
“Last year we were invited into the cricket league. It suddenly changed everything, we had played here and there but not competitive. Our senior team were contacted and asked did we want to play. It was very exciting for us, especially for the kids. Previously we just played locally, now everyone got to see the need to bat better, field better, to be a team.”
They grew from humble beginnings thanks to enormous vision. It began with several adult members but few children. For Reji Koottungal, the greatest advertisement for the club was exposing people to it. By simply playing, they were able to attract a host of new members.
“We started with very few kids, maybe seven or eight. But as we kept practising in our sports club, the kids from around that area started to come to us and ask, ‘can I bat?’ or ‘can I bowl?’ It grew from there. There are a load of people travelling from the surrounding communities now.”
They found a home in Ireland and embraced it, for better and for worse. With a laugh, Reji explains there was no escaping one typical issue on the island.
“The main problem here is that we can only play five to six months here because of the weather conditions. During the winter it is difficult to play outside because the ball will not spin. When it is wet the ball is very heavy, so batting is difficult in those conditions.
“It is seasonal. Even if we play indoors, if we get a wooden floor the ball will not go in the right direction. If we had mats, that would be great for us to practise.”
The club are in conversation with local government to secure such facilitates but that is only a section of a much more significant long-term plan. The priority is continued growth and success in spreading the sport. For Romy Mathew, hopefully they can even encounter some silverware along the way.
“I am hoping our senior club will win some silverware this year and bring it to our club, even if we don’t have a place to keep it! Still, I think we can win a trophy soon. We were runners up in a tournament already. Everyone is ready to put their suits on to go and receive it. We want to bring it back to the community.”
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