Back in 2017 we spoke to Cregagh CC’s Graham Watt, who shone a light on the club, club cricket in Ireland – and club tours. Thompson Dawson of Cregagh CC is the man responsible for organising the club’s annual tour, and we spoke to him about his role, the trips and the shenanigans! What goes on tour stays on tour – except for the bits they reveal to KUDOS.

KUDOS: Your main area of responsibility at the club is the touring side, and you’ve organised all of the club’s European tours to date, including last year’s trip to Amsterdam, your 10th tour so far. First of all, why is touring so important for a club side?

Thompson Dawson: I have indeed organised all of our 10 tours to date.  We’ve so far travelled to Monaco, Budapest, Vienna/Bratislava (one tour), Croatia, Portugal, Lanzarote, Ljubljana, Vilnius, Warsaw, and latterly to Amsterdam. We enjoy touring as a bonding experience, which quickly helps to bed any new players into the ‘Cregagh ethos’, and encourages the more seasoned members of the club to keep coming back. It’s always great to play cricket outside our country to see how the game is played, and to see the challenges they face in other countries. Of course the chance of actually playing somewhere where rain is unlikely to be a significant factor always helps!

In terms of your role, what is your remit? Do you pick a destination – and if so, how and on what grounds – and do you have to arrange fixtures as well as other logistical stuff?

How the tour destination is actually chosen has varied from year to year. We do generally like to visit countries where cricket is not a major sport – to try to help foster an interest in the game wherever we go. We were interviewed by a Slovenian news channel when we went there. Sometimes we have a contact and will try to get to a particular location – other times we are governed by the limited number of places we can fly to directly from Belfast. We have embarked on tours involving travelling from Dublin and via London in the past, however the additional transport costs involved in these options is sometimes prohibitive, as whilst the club helps with tour costs, the bulk of the funding is met by each individual tourist. The internet has opened a lot of doors in terms of arranging fixtures and transport within the countries we have visited. For instance when we flew to Bratislava, we saw an opportunity to play cricket in 2 different countries in 2 consecutive days, so we arranged a match in Austria and sourced a local coach company to take us from Bratislava to Seebarn, just outside Vienna, to play the game and then return to Bratislava that evening. But so far we have counted them out and counted them all back home again.

We very much understand that, broadly, what goes on tour stays on tour. However, Amsterdam must’ve been…interesting?! 

The Amsterdam tour was indeed interesting, especially for some of younger members! However it was more a tour of Holland – as soon as we arrived to we actually travelled from the airport to play an evening game and stay the first night in Leiden in the west. The next day we travelled from Leiden to Bloemendaal in the north to play a game there, before reaching Amsterdam that evening, and we had an early start as the next day we headed south to play our 3rd game in Hilversum, so the leisure time opportunities were somewhat limited. Going back to logistics though, that was challenging with a variety of coaches having to be booked with a number of companies for our tour party of 16, to get us to all our destinations in time to play the games and get to the next location. It doesn’t always turn out exactly as planned though as a couple of our lads were suffering a little on the 3rd day and missed the rendezvous with a bus I organised and ended up travelling the hour journey by taxi (an expensive lie-in)!

Have you forged any relationships that lasted beyond the tours?

We have invited all the teams we have played against to come to Belfast for a return fixture, assuring them they would be made very welcome, but so far none of them have taken us up on our offer – however with Belfast becoming an ever more popular tourist hotspot, perhaps one of them will risk our weather and be tempted to make the trip.

Of the 10 tour destinations you’ve visited, which couple stand out the most and would you recommend to other clubs?

My personal favourite, shared by a lot of the guys who were there, was Croatia. On arrival, (we had a three quarters of an hour window to catch the last ferry, more logistical nightmares!), we travelled by boat from the port of Split to the beautiful little island of Viz, were we were royally entertained by Oliver Roki and his team, playing a couple of matches at the ground at his vineyard. I would definitely recommend other teams to make the effort to go there, that evening ferry trip through the Adriatic to get to Viz was one of the most relaxing and scenic boat trips I have ever been on, culminating in our picturesque arrival at Viz, just as the sun set over the harbour.

And so to this year’s tour – where are you heading?

This year for a couple of reasons, the main one being the success of our first team has closed the opportunity available to us to tour at our traditional time in early June, due the number of competitions they compete in, we are going to La Manga in October to play in an 8 team tournament. This of course has the added attraction for me, of not having to organise fixtures, transport or accommodation, so it is a win/win scenario for me!

The last time we spoke to your club, each of the three sides were challenging for honours. How has the club fared over the last couple of seasons?

Yes, on the field things are going well at Cregagh, having been promoted a season before, our young First team are now holding their own in Senior League Section 1, one rung below the Premier Division, and last year the Second and Third teams both finished third in their respective leagues. Off the field our Clubhouse is currently undergoing a major refurbishment, which hopefully will be completed in time for the new season.

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We’d like to thank Thompson for the time he took to talk to us. We’ve been delighted to work with Cregagh CC for a number of years, and provided their special edition Amsterdam 2018 tour shirts. We look forward to continuing our relationship with this great club. Good luck for the season ahead!

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