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Wed 30th Jan 2019
Greetings from Johannesburg. I am here on a TY cricket exchange between Cricket Leinster and St Stithians College, which is an amazing experience. I can’t believe it’s over three weeks since eight of us departed Dublin Airport for South Africa: Patrick Guest, Stephen Black, Daniel Thorne, Jack McGee and Joe McCarthy (all at Glenwood High School, Durban), Matthew Lynch and Seamus Lynch (Muir College, Port Elizabeth) and myself.
I said my goodbyes to the lads when we touched down at OR Tambo in Johannesburg, and was met in arrivals by Tom Winter, my host, and his mother Caryn. I’m lucky in that I already knew Tom well after his stint at YMCA CC in the 2018 summer. I was also lucky to arrive with another week to go in the school holidays. That weekend Caryn drove us down to Chelmsford Dam, a popular holiday destination a couple of hours outside Johannesburg. This was a lovely way to settle into the South African conditions and lifestyle – and to get used to the heat!
I really enjoyed my two days there but it was straight into cricket as soon we arrived back in Johannesburg. I went to St Stithians for my first team practice and it certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the best cricket schools in SA, if not the best. I was amazed by the incredible facilities the school has to offer. The standard of cricket was brilliant too which I knew would only benefit me as a player. I met the Head of Cricket at St Stithians, Wim Jansen, and some of their coaches – Peter Stringer, who played for Yorkshire back in the 1960s, and first team coach, CK Coventry, a former Zimbabwean international. With a week or so of practice before our first match, I worked hard with Mr. Stringer in the nets which I feel has already had a positive effect on my cricket.
School started on the 15th of January and I was quite shocked by the difference in school culture from here to back home. Every school day begins in the school chapel where there are prayers and school announcements, and after that, the whole school performs the St Stithians ‘war-cry’. It’s a little bit like a ‘haka’ but with everyone standing still, arms linked. Very different to the way the day starts at St. Michael’s College, Dublin. But I love that difference.
I was really looking forward to my first games of the new term – we played two games against Grey College, from Bloemfontein. Disappointingly, we lost both games against strong opposition but I was lucky to have had a good personal start, being happy with how I bowled in the T20, taking one wicket, and hitting 79 in the 50 over game on the Saturday.
This settled my nerves of playing in different conditions. It was 30 degrees and we are at 1,750m altitude, so it was hard work! It’s also a bit weird hearing opponents yapping away at you in Afrikaans! But I’m really enjoying the great wickets over here with their extra pace and bounce.
I have been training every school day, whether it be with Mr Stringer or with other exchange students who have come over from England. We have also had more matches against famous sporting schools. Last week we came up against Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool from Pretoria, better know as ‘Affies’, which was another brilliant challenge. We lost again but I was happy with how I bowled.
Cricket is really popular over here, as I discovered when I went to the first day of the Test between South Africa and Pakistan at the Wanderers club. It was scalding hot that day but a great experience. I have also been fortunate enough to join Wanderers CC, as Tom is a member. Hopefully I’ll get to play a few games for this famous club in the coming weeks.
I’m very grateful for the great opportunity I’ve been given – grateful to Mr Jansen and the other coaches at St Stithians, grateful to Caryn who has been such a generous hostess and especially grateful to Brían O’Rourke for arranging everything here on my behalf. I’m having a brilliant experience and already I can feel my cricket has benefited. I’m loving the entire experience of South Africa so far.
St Michael’s College & YMCA CC
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