Winners of the North Yorkshire South Durham Premier League in five of the last eight season, these are heady days indeed at Richmondshire Cricket Club.
But the Covid pandemic has been a huge no-ball for the club, with revenue having plummeted, matches postponed and staff furloughed or let go.
These are tough fiscal times for Richmondshire but despite the setbacks this was still another season of success as the Dalesmen managed to win a truncated league campaign – it started in July instead of April – with a final game victory over Saltburn.
Over 300 people attended that match in the warm September sunshine, a reminder that support for the club remains very strong. The following day the first XI secured a Kerridge Cup success at Thornaby, bringing a league and cup double to Richmondshire CC for the first time in the club’s history.
“It was a memorable day,” said club chairman Mark Layfield.
“And a reminder of how much the club means to so many in the town.
“This has been a really difficult season in so many ways off the pitch, but at least on it we are continuing to go from strength to strength. We have had to cut our cloth accordingly and some tough decisions have had to be made in terms of finance because Covid has hit us hard, as it has so many clubs, societies and businesses in the town, but at least with a vaccine theoretically on the way we can see a way out of this. Hopefully, the clubhouse and ground will be in full use again in the New Year.”
Formed in 1837, the high point of Richmond’s history was the 2018 National Club Championship victory, followed by an invitation match at the home of cricket itself, Lord’s. That win really put Richmond on the cricketing map, with star all-rounder Mattie McKiernan earning a professional contract at Derbyshire CCC, where last season he achieved the county’s best bowling figures in the T20 competition.
“It was an incredible success,” said Mark, who captained Richmond for several years in the 80s and 90s.
“Our efforts are now geared towards trying to win it again. We got to the last eight in 2019 and we are determined to get back to those heights. You can imagine what it felt like for everyone connected with the club to be invited to play at Lord’s.”
Mark puts their league and cup wins down to a simple strategy, to create a solid foundation. The club has 150-plus junior members, which is in stark contrast to when he first started to play at Hurgill Road.
“Thirty years ago we did not even have a junior section. Everything has really come about due to that philosophy of building from the bottom upwards. Now we have a conveyor belt of players coming through at all levels and around 80 percent of the first team who have won so many trophies were homegrown here in Richmond.”
Aside from McKiernan, a born and bred Lancastrian, Richmondshire’s furthest ‘achiever’ in the game has been fast bowler Lewis Stabler, who played for Yorkshire’s Second XI for several seasons.
Mark said: “We would love to develop more elite-level talent but it not all about that. It is about creating a good, healthy club environment where everybody enjoys their cricket, from the juniors, up to the first team.”
In any week of the season Richmondshire CC will select five adult sides and can also boast nine junior teams and a ladies XI.
Off the pitch they are building a new groundsman’s shed, courtesy of a generous patron and a digital scoreboard for their ‘other’ ground at Richmond School, thanks to a Richmondshire District Council grant, but Mark admits this past year has been challenging in terms of finances.
“We host so many societies and community groups in the clubhouse and of course that all went, almost overnight,” he said. “Also, the revenue from the bar disintegrated, although thankfully for a couple of months in the height of summer we were allowed to open and use what we all say is the best beer garden in Richmond.”
Mark says much of the credit for Richmondshire’s emergence as one of the most powerful sides in local cricket is due to local businessman Randall Orchard, who has served the Dalesmen since the 60s as player, captain, chairman and now president.
“Without a doubt none of what we have achieved would be possible without Randall, who continues to this day to have an active role at the club.
“All our volunteers and staff who work for Richmondshire CC have played their part too.”
Plans are afoot for a change of direction in the clubhouse as a new caterer has been appointed.
“They have got really ambitious ideas and once the New Year gets underway hopefully we can start to recover financially from the Covid pandemic,” said Mark. “This has been a traumatic period for so many but some great times lay ahead.”