Ireland vs Zimbabwe, Stormont Cricket Club, Belfast

Ireland’s final winning score. There really is a bar behind the scoreboard, though you order there, then they wander off to the pavilion, the other side of the pitch, to bring it back to you.

Scorecard from Ireland vs Zimbabwe, 3rd ODI, 13/9/21.

I had been checking the Northern Cricket Union website on and off, hoping to catch a league match, but without success – fixtures are published but I never found a start time. That might be me, or just that spectators are discouraged in Covid times (unlike England, Northern Ireland hasn’t given up and given in to the macho “pchaw, I’ll be alright” crowd). It was with some excitement, then, that I spotted that the Ireland team would be playing in Northern Ireland, after some sell-out T20s in Dublin.

I managed not to over-excitedly book tickets weeks ahead, figuring that the weather might be changeable, but relented with a week to go, in case they hit the 500 limit. When the previous Friday’s match was abandoned after one innings, I was worried, especially with rain in the forecast, but the rain spread itself through the day, and they got a result even after a 2.5 hour delay to the start.

Rain delays the start, as a blotter patrols the outfield.

I knew it would be convenient, given the terms and conditions promised free parking at the ground, but still didn’t expect to be able to drive right in and parked at the Stormont car park next door – it’s small, but free all day, and a short walk to the ground. But I could have driven right in and parked more or less by the door, it’s that convenient. Adelaide was good, given you can park very close for $20 on the day, but this is better, and the convenience feels like a thrill after the hassle of attending any large-scale event.

The crowd wasn’t large, with 30-40 in to begin with, swelling to 100 or so in the afternoon, helped by schools and work finishing for the day, so tickets were not hard to come by. They were also a bargain at ¬£15, so I wasn’t overly bothered by the tough refund conditions. So long as 9.5 overs were bowled, you’d see nothing back.

Ireland warm up to bowl, having won the toss.

I had brought plenty to read but ended up chatting to fellow cricket lovers who were glad to see a game after cancelling their trip to Manchester – before the game itself was cancelled, and just because England seems too insane a place to visit right now. We passed the time before the game finally started, and then Brendan Taylor walked out for his final international innings. An overcast day didn’t look likely to provide conditions for a glorious end, and so it proved as Josh Little bowled both openers after a slow, solid start. He is a useful weapon.

Rain took the players on and off, with the number of overs gradually nibbled away at, and the usual comedy that cricket’s laws ensure – at one point they played through a shower, walked off as it ended and then didn’t appear again for half an hour as we sat there in the dry.

Getkate fields on the boundary as Zimbabwe lose wickets, including to him, later.
A few guidelines. We didn’t have to worry about touching the ball, with the few sixes hit either out of the ground or, twice, to the pavilion.

Covid-wise, we were asked to download the NI app, take a test beforehand and have a mask to hand for going inside, not that we needed to. It was all pretty relaxed on the day, other than us being asked not to handle to ball. Stewarding was in place, but relaxed – it is very straightforward to get on to the pitch, it’s just that almost everyone just doesn’t, as we’ve seen in England recently.

No need to bring your own chairs, just grab one of these from the pile.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, even though it was a fairly low-key game that Ireland won fairly easily, despite worries about losing the light if they went on too long, and losing a few wickets without too much batting further down. Chasing was much easier than trying to set a pace, though Ervine would have single-handedly scored plenty if he could have stayed there, and provided most of the runs in any case. The first ball of Ireland’s reply went for four as we strolled back from the ice-cream van, which set the tone, and Stirling did more or less as he pleased. He was given out at least twice and successfully overturned with reviews before eventually bashing one up in the air. Zimbabwe did much worse with reviews, with Ireland reviewing two, maybe three decisions that weren’t given in the field, and players trooping off afterwards (without screens, that was how we knew the decision went against them). The Irish umpires were perhaps being extra careful not to be perceived as being in favour of the home team, backed up by technology.

Raza fields as Stirling hits one up in the air – if you look carefully, you can see the ball, a little above Stirling and to the right, a lucky shot that would have made an excellent photo with a zoom lens.

There were Zimbabwe fans there, too, who chatted happily to Raza when he came close. He was the highlight of the day for me, as I gestured to the umbrella I’d just put up as they played on in rain, and he shouted “Ump! Look! And these are the locals!”

Near as dammit, anyway.

The cricket ended some time before 7 – a long day, as I was there for the 10:30 start which didn’t happen, but one which whizzed by. Having parked at Stormont I took advantage of the last of the light to have a walk around the estate, which is a lovely spot, with the parliament building way at the top of the hill. Apparently the trees are planted 200ft apart at the start of the drive, spreading to 250 near the top, which gives a false perspective and makes the building look closer than it is. Clever. And perhaps good motivation for the runners who were using it for training: “It can’t be that much further! It is, though”.

View down the Avenue, past Carson’s statue.
Stormont Parliament Buildings.
Stormont.
From the car park to the grounds.
Stormont is another place with a parkrun. Running it will be another chance to talk about hills, I can tell.
Celebrating and commemorating Mo Mowlam.
A final view of Stormont. At this point, the building appeared to be ticking. Whether from the flagpoles or some monitoring system, or something else entirely, I couldn’t tell.

Dundalk parkrun, Ireland

As parkrun returned in Ireland, I decided that heading a short distance across the border wasn’t too out of keeping with the spirit of things, and the fact that Dundalk was well under an hour’s drive away sealed the deal.

Dundalk parkrun route. Start at the pictures, into the middle and round the roundabout, then three anti-clockwise laps and back down the middle section.
Dundalk parkrun sign at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

As it’s only just starting back and they’re feeling their way, there are no facilities on site – use the hotel was the general idea. There is plenty of parking, free on a Saturday, though that didn’t stop many people bumping onto the pavement by the yellow lines. Let’s be charitable and there were many people who figured 5k was their absolute limit, so walking an extra 150m would be too much.

Parking at DkIT.

There’s a lovely big windmill on campus, which is a feature you can’t miss.

View of the windmill from the middle of the park.
The start is just behind the zebra crossing. The laps run left to right.

As a multi-lap route running round some fields, this could be uninspiring, but I found plenty to look at, and the course twists just enough to keep it interesting. One side is slightly downhill, the opposite slightly up, but otherwise this has the potential to be pretty quick, so long as you can get round everyone. Not an issue I had, so this was my quickest of the year again – I’m not running much, but it is still getting easier now I can parkrun regularly.

Cross the zebra crossing and follow the path round.
Path past the windmill.

Let me jump you straight past the fact of three laps to the finish. I was moving fairly well, and looking forward to the finish and a guarantee of being quicker than previous weeks. As a result I perhaps switched my brain off, and accelerated towards the very obvious finish line, next to a container in the middle of the park. We had run down there already, so I knew it. I accelerated to use up whatever I had left.

And was applauded as I past the finishing line, pointed towards the roundabout, which now seemed an implausible distance away. I had overcooked it, because the finish line had shunned me, facing the other way and waiting for me to return. I had thought my watch was going to make this course a little short, rather than reaching the more obvious conclusion that having run 4.7km, the finish line was not quite as imminent as I was attempting to make it.

There you have it – be careful with the finish, it may be slightly further away than you think it is, if you forget about the loop.

View from the roundabout in the middle.
Far end of the field.
Heading down the middle of the course.
Past the finish, round the roundabout and back to finish.

Otherwise there were no dramas, plenty of happy people and a few – though not too many – visitors from elsewhere, glad to be back at a parkrun with .ie in the URL. The playing fields were fairly busy, so be sure to follow the crowd, and paths, rather than any small groups who might break off to run across the grass, but otherwise you can’t really go wrong.

Till the finish.

Results for Dundalk parkrun event 247, 11/9/21.

Dungannon Park parkrun, NI

A novelty – a parkrun that still has the extra word ‘park’ in the name.

The route – two clockwise laps. The start is on top of a hill.

Although I could see where the run was, I wasn’t sure where to park from the website, so trusted to the directions, which said to look for the sign to the park from the road. I was relieved, then, to see volunteers gathered by the car park.

Everybody gather, huddle close beside.

Even better, behind those trees there’s a sign that clearly says start. I relaxed a little too much at that – once I got closer after some faffing, I realised that it was pointing towards the start, not its actual location. I had plenty of time, but it’s worth bearing in mind, especially as the start is on a large clearing up a cruel hill, so you don’t really want to have to rush up it.

A really large area for the start.
A downhill start, on a wide path.

It really is a very large clearing. As a result of all that space, and the first path being downhill, the start was tremendously exciting, and definitely got legs and blood moving. The surface is hard-packed, if a little rocky – think big gravel, not the stuff you’d put on a driveway – so watch your footing. You’d probably be fine running in shoes without much cushioning, so long as you’re not blas√©.

A sweeping downhill turn to get to the lake.
A downhill path brings you to this uphill section, and a sharp left turn to take the path on the right.
The view from the downhill path, which I missed both times. Lovely, though – the boards near the car park have more info about building the water feature.
A view of the lake.
You’d do well to spot this on the run, but it’s there.
View over the lake, more or less on the run route.

The course is two laps, clockwise round the lake, past the campsite and through the woods. And, of course, up that sodding hill a couple of times. The route picks a less cruel incline than the one we walked up to reach the clearing, but still – it’s a fair way up. The finish is lower, though, so it is at least a net drop. And, as ever, the total elevation was disappointing (20m) given how hard the hill felt.

Narrow bridge at the back of the lake.

Some of the paths are fairly narrow, so pick your spot to overtake carefully – the start is an excellent spot, as is the long straight just afterwards, which becomes the finish. From there it is twisty and narrow, round the lake and over the bridge above.

Climbing the hill takes you to the highlight, the section through the woods. It is darker in there, and still slightly uphill, but it’s a lovely spot, with the course snaking through and back up to the clearing.

Snaking through woods.
Climbing towards the wooded section.

After doing the whole thing again, you can gallop as best possible down the tremendously exciting start (I didn’t find it quite as exciting the third time), take a right turn at the bottom and along to the finish, next to the campsite.

Right turn towards the finish.
The finish line, with scanning immediately at the finish.

The cafe is right next to the car park, and with toilets behind it – those were open even though the cafe is currently closed.

Flowers by the bandstand. Behind is the start sign, which actually points you towards the start, a few hundred metres away (but up a hill. Did I mention the hill?)
Relief map of the park.

It’s a lovely run of many features, and a nice park to have a stroll round afterwards. Dungannon itself has a series of interlinked parks, and near to Dungannon Park is a posh, if under-rented, outlet centre ensuring that not only can you get refreshments, but also a whole new wardrobe – of clothes and probably an actual wardrobe, if you’re short one. I didn’t even get to the centre of town, as the parks are a little outside, but enjoyed both a run and a walk, plus doughnuts from a supermarket. Everything I needed, and plenty I didn’t.

Results from Dungannon parkrun event 89, 4/9/21.

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