Falkland Village Cup Success
The small Fife village of Falkland is enjoying the national stage with progress to the last 16 of the Village Cup. Neil Drysale takes up the story of a tournament bestowed in the best values that the game has to offer.
The Village Cup is one of the most cherished events in grassroots cricket.
And Freuchie will forever be famous for winning the National Village Cup at Lords in 1985.
But, in recent years, it has been their near-neighbours in Fife at Falkland, who have seized the competition by the scruff of the neck and brought an bonnie brio to their efforts.
They enjoyed some stirring performances during the 2015 event and established a reputation for competitiveness and camaraderie in equal measure.
And the Scroggie Park organisation are on the march again in this year’s tournament and will face one of the biggest challenges of their lives when they tackle reigning Cricketer National Village Cup champions, Sessay, on July 9.
It promises to be a memorable occasion; a battle enacted in one of the most picturesque settings anywhere in the whole world of the game.
And although Falkland aficionado, Paul Watson, who has worn more hats than Audrey Hepburn – whether as player, captain, organiser, committee member, past president or stakhanovite volunteer – admits the Scots will be underdogs, he is clearly relishing the imminent challenge, as he told Cricindex.
He said: “There is little doubt that the Sessay game is a very big game for the club. Reaching the last 16 of the tournament is no mean feat and our minds will be cast back to 2015 when we travelled to Yorkshire in the last 32 to beat Ouseburn and then onto Stockport in the last 16 to play Hawk Green; only to be beaten in what was a great game.
“Sessay will pose the hardest challenge yet as they have a fantastic Village Cup pedigree and are of course the current holders. But the difference between 2015 and 2017 is we have home advantage and we’ll have a large crowd of supporters cheering us on.
“If the Staxton game in the last 32 was anything to go by, the place will be buzzing and you can sense that people are already getting excited about it.
“Preparation is well underway and will be thorough as we expect a large following from Sessay and our own bumper crowd of locals to cheer us on and support the club. So, without going overboard, it’s a pretty big game for Falkland.”
The Fifers have an indefatigable determination to spread the gospel and their infectious attitude is contagious. You get the feeling that some Scottish clubs would like to have their telephone number unlisted, but not in Falkland’s case.
As Watson said: “We are very much part of the local community and have a reputation for being a very welcoming and open club. We have established excellent relationships with local groups as well as individuals and have growing support from local business and sponsors.
“We are keen to make cricket more accessible to the community and held a fantastic Fun Sixes tournament in June that attracted 100+ non-cricketers to the club to try out the game, sample the delights of Scroggie Park, have a few beers and enjoy the game.
“The feedback to initiatives like this is very positive and it attracts more members and supporters. If you couple this with the work we do in the schools which in turn feeds into the Falkland Falcons, then it’s clear we are doing our utmost to market the club properly as somewhere people want to come, visit and hopefully join.
“As a result of all the good work going on which includes raising £1000 for MND Scotland this year, we are seeing more and more volunteers stepping forward – for instance, a parent runs the bar on a Friday evening at junior training and the parents are becoming involved in running junior teams and the new All Stars programme.”
Watson and his confreres used to dwell in the shadow of Freuchie, but they have emphatically stepped into the limelight and are blazing their own trail.
Indeed, the club are in the Eastern Premier Division – a league above Freuchie – these days, and yet there is no sense on Watson indulging in schadenfreude.
Instead, as he said: “We are delighted to have reached the last 16 of the competition equalling our best ever performance (in 2015).
“What Freuchie achieved was fantastic, but I don’t think the fact that when they won, they beat Sessay on the way, will be on our players’ minds on Sunday.
“Times have changed, we’ve broken the shackles of being ‘in the shadow of Freuchie’, and gone about things our own way and are now making our own stories and history.
“Will that end up in an appearance at Lords? Who knows at this stage, but we’ll give it a real good go both this year and in years to come.”
There are plenty of wonderful characters in and around the Scroggie Park environs; men and women in love with the sport and who fling themselves into their endeavours with whole-hearted ebullience.
Watson is one such redoubtable individual, but he was quick to single out somebody else.
He said: “Our President and my Uncle Robbie Nellies IS ‘Mr Falkland cricket club’ – everyone knows the history of the Watsons and Nellies family and their ties to the village and the club and that remains the case today.
“He is the driving force behind a lot of what we do and we are lucky to have a 13-strong committee who help with the general running of the club. We very much take a ‘Whole Club’ approach and the various captains are key to this.
“We are not alone in having issues with consistent playing selection which often results in players moving around XIs and we are lucky to have three very strong captains in Stuart (Campbell), Ash (Anson) and Dave (Chambers).
“[Sri Lankan professional] Harsha Cooray has been a breath of fresh air on his return to Falkland after his sabbatical in Aberdeen. He has an infectious smile, enthusiasm, and love for the game. He has been a real asset both on the pitch and off it and we love having him back at the club.
“We’ve brought in an excellent amateur in Aaron Paul who has settled into the village and the club very well. This is reflected in some excellent performances to date. Then there’s Ben Strachan who has remained at the club and helps marshal the kids in the 2nd XI.
“He talks for fun but, like Harsha, has an infectious enthusiasm for the game and the club. Finally, we have the Falcons. They are a major focus for the club as this is the future.
“We have some great and very talented boys and girls competing across the age groups (U-11, 13, 15 and 18) and are competing at national level against some far bigger clubs than us.
“We have a number involved in the Caledonian Highlanders and hope to see one or two make that next step to be involved in the Scotland set-up. This bodes really well for the future of the club.
“Last, and by no means least, let’s not forget the women in the club. There are the wives and girlfriends, mothers, aunties and grandmothers who help out at every event, and help with teas, which always receive excellent feedback, on a Saturday and embrace what the club is all about. With a special mention to Jan (Watson) and Elaine (Meikle) who work tirelessly behind the scenes for us.”
It’s a wonderfully positive story which deserves greater exposure. Get along to Scroggie Park on July 9 and discover it for yourself!