5 Regt AAC vs Irish Air Corps Cricket Match
You probably wouldn’t think of cricket when guessing the enduring activity that links 5 Regiment AAC and their Irish Air Corps neighbours south of the border.
This is now the third year that 5AAC, with help from 38 Irish Brigade, has competed against the Irish Air Corps at cricket as a way of fostering ties with our Irish counterparts. In the first fixture, held in Ballykinler in 2012, the AAC team edged to victory. The 2013 rematch in Dublin was very one-sided with the Irish demolishing the tourists. So with the series tied at one match apiece and the reputation of our Armed Forces at stake, there was all to play for in this year’s tie.
The venue was the Newforge Country Club, kindly made available by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in exchange for the loan of a number of 9×9 tents. The facility was fantastic with changing rooms, bar and terrace overlooking the oval for our exclusive use. Being the Emerald Isle in May, the ground was still fairly soggy, with plenty of rain threatened in the forecast. However it would take more than a shower to stop play with both Brigadiers vowing to play on regardless of the weather. Being an international cricket match, we had managed to get hold of an international level umpire from 2 RIFLES, who also provided a number of ringers for the team!
Having had only one practice a few days before the fixture, the home side was unsure how good their form was going to be. A few decent players from 38 Brigade had been drafted in to ensure the team did not repeat the result from the previous year. Despite the lack of practice, we had managed to pull together a decent set of cricket players but were unsure what standard we would face.
The match was played using the 20twenty format, each team batting for 20 overs or until bowled out. This allowed just enough time to squeeze in a match between the curry lunch and BBQ dinner. 5AAC won the toss and elected to bat first. After a nervous start, the batters settled into their swing and started to accumulate the runs. Having practiced earlier in the week, our batsmen had obviously found the weight required to find the boundary. They completed the 20 overs having posted an impressive 184-4. With the rain staying away, the Irish went in to bat and started very strongly, finding the boundary on every ball from the first over. We were concerned that we had drastically underestimated our opposition. However, the British bowlers, led by Capt Hewison (651 Sqn), gradually zeroed in on the wicket and slowed the Irish run count. As the last over approached, and with no scoreboard available, the players on the field were not sure how close the score was. It was not till after the last ball had been bowled and the score was counted that the result became clear. 5AAC had won by about 50 runs. The exact score was debatable, as the Commanding Officer had been buying beers for the scorer throughout the afternoon!
After the match, both teams retired to the bar for a BBQ, drinks and a chance to improve international relations. The whole day proved to be a great success and both sides are looking forward to the return fixture in Dublin next year.
There are few opportunities to engage either socially or professionally with our counterparts south of the border, but this event showed how much we have in common, especially in the small world of aviation. Cricket may have been the start of the socialising but the activities have inadvertently continued; six week later we ran into a couple of the Irish pilots who we met at the cricket while attending the Royal International Air Tattoo, they later helped to coordinate a Gazelle heading south to Dundonald (The Irish Middle Wallop/RAF Cranwell) for the Brae Air Show. It is hoped that we can build on the success of these connections and branch out into other activities in the future.