When ABdV appeared in the Northern Ireland league – News Block

When Bobby Robson replaced the legendary Johan Cruyff as FC Barcelona manager in 1996, taking over one of football’s highest-pressure jobs, the club’s president told him that a team in transition badly needed a striker and asked if I knew of one. There was a 19-year-old boy at PSV Eindhoven, Robson replied. Mr. Núñez duly took out the blaugrana checkbook and paid a world record fee of £13.2m for Ronaldo Luis Nazario from Lima, while also making Robson well aware that his job depended on Brazilian goals. oh freak he struck 47 times in 49 games and won the FIFA World Player of the Year award, which was not enough to prevent Robson from receiving a ‘lateral promotion’ to Director of Football when Louis van Gaal replaced him as manager.

A similar, if slightly reduced, situation faced the Carrickfergus CC committee in the winter of 2003-04 after the club, founded in 1868 but a permanent home since only 1988, gained promotion to Ireland’s top flight cricket. del Norte for the first time in its history. A professional, a foreign player, who was not allowed at the lower levels if he had played first-class cricket, was needed to give the team an advantage and allow them to be competitive against established Ulster cricket sides. Although it is fair to say that the club’s budget did not break any world records.

One step forward, the club’s stalwart Roger Bell, who earlier that summer had been watching Sky Sports when an energetic youngster in the South African under-19 team made 143 against their English counterparts in Arundel before being sacked by Liam Plunkett. Bell floated the player’s name to the committee, and after a brief deliberation, they made the appropriate calls.

It was a gamble: diving into the southern hemisphere youth market can be dangerous, and the club’s near-term future depended on an Abraham Benjamin de Villiers, who had only seven first-class appearances in his career and averaged a spectacular 33.7. doing some racing. He probably doesn’t need a spoiler alert at this point before being told that it turned out to be quite useful. A little useful. It’s not the worst. But in the spring of 2004, Carrickfergus was more interested in what he could do for them in the here and now, or there and then: namely, not allow one of Ireland’s oldest clubs to be embarrassed on their journey. high-flying inaugural

De Villiers was due to arrive on the morning of Carrick’s third game of the season, a bank holiday Monday in May, but after a delayed flight stopover in Germany and another transit through London, there was still no sign of him as Ryan Eagleson got prepared. to play for the Belfast Harlequins captain. Just then word reached the team that the flight had finally landed at Belfast International, so the new professional’s name was quickly noted on the team sheet in the hope that he might bat at number five or six.

However, after a full-blown climb from Bell Airport, and an opening partnership of 54 runs in 16 overs, AB ground out, came up and strode out in the first fall, joining the man in whose house where he would stay for what turned out to be a 12-week stint on the Emerald Isle. Barry Cooper was a New Zealander who first went to Ulster as a replacement foreign player, settling there after getting a job as a surveyor. He had recently bought the house from Roger Bell, “and part of the deal was that he had to house the foreign professional,” he says, very seriously.

“The first time I met him was literally when he came out to bat,” Cooper continues. “It was like, ‘Okay, hello. How are you? I’m Barry.’ It was a stinky, wet wicket, doing quite a bit and slow. I said, ‘I know you probably never have.’ played in a wicket like this in your life. I know you want to impress. But you just won’t be able to play the shots you’re used to playing. Let’s see how it goes here. .’ He took a few and almost got caught in the middle of his first balls. But he adapted.”

De Villiers would finish with an 82-for-85-ball debut, working his way through those now-familiar gears. “His pro for him abroad was Ijaz Ahmed Jr, who played a couple of Test matches for Pakistan,” recalls Cooper, who batted for 87, not out. “He came up with his spin and I said to AB, ‘This guy is going to be next to impossible to get away from. It’s tough ground and he’s not going to throw any bad balls. We’ll root for him, and if we can get 20 out of his 10, we’ll worry. for the rest later.” AB obviously took that as a bit of a challenge and in the first over he hopped for the wicket and placed it back over his head for six. Twice. That was the first time I can remember thinking: This kid is a little bit special.”

Despite De Villiers ending up spending just three months in Northern Ireland, his Carrick teammates would only see him bat nine more times, beginning the following Saturday with a visit to North Down and a breezy 44 in a blowout defeat to the champions of the three previous seasons. The following day’s Ulster Cup first round match saw a coach trip to Donemana CC in the town of Strabane, located just on the western border with the Republic of Ireland.

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