“As a southerner coming north about eight or nine years ago, it struck me how cricket is just ingrained in the fabric of Yorkshire life. Everyone either seems to play or has a connection with it, from professional level to grassroots. It’s unbelievable.”

Those are the thoughts of Kieran O’Shea, the secretary at Thongsbridge Cricket Club from the Huddersfield League, where Yorkshire and the Northern Diamonds launched their landmark T20 shirts for 2023 late last month. 

O’Shea moved up to God’s Own County from Reading, with the family link to Yorkshire coming from his wife.

O’Shea was immediately struck with his new county’s passion for cricket, and was particularly taken by life down at Miry Lane.

Kieran O'Shea

Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com. Kieran O’Shea. 

There is something special happening at Thongsbridge, as Yorkshire clearly thought when asking them to play an integral part in their launch of kits which celebrating grassroots cricket from North Yorkshire to South, from East Yorkshire to West.

“Back in February, Yorkshire asked for an expression of interest from around the county to host some filming and photography at certain clubs with regards to the launch of their new kits, and we threw our hat in the ring,” said O’Shea.

“They came down one fairly bleak February morning, and we had four juniors model the new shirts. A couple of them then went back up to Headingley later that day for more filming stuff. 

“Then we didn’t think much more of it. We were told we’d see the end product when the kit was launched. 

“But then a couple of weeks ago, we got a call saying that they’d like to come down on a Friday night training to launch the kit with us. We were delighted to accommodate it.”

Members of Yorkshire’s media team travelled to Huddersfield a week ago last Friday along with fast bowler Mickey Edwards, where they were met with a thriving training evening.

“Our normal Friday night training session includes our Little Lions – the 5,6 and 7-year-olds – the Under 9s and a growing women’s softball team. Then we also have our Under 11s and 13s and girls teams,” said O’Shea.

“We have somewhere in the region of 110 signed up in our junior section, of which a good majority were there. 

“We had a Q and A with Mickey, who signed some autographs and had a bowl at the juniors in the nets. The kids absolutely loved him. He was fantastic with them.

“Before the kit launch video, there was a short clip from Jonny Bairstow who was in part saying thank you to Thongsbridge and how important grassroots cricket is to the professional game. That was really nice to see.”

Mickey Edwards

Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com. Mickey Edwards.

The Yorkshire men’s Vitality Blast kit has printed on it the names of all 632 affiliated league clubs from across the county, while the Diamonds’ kit for the forthcoming Charlotte Edwards Cup is adorned with the names of 152 clubs from across Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland who have female teams.

“It’s a fantastic idea, and something I’ve never seen before,” said O’Shea. “It makes professional cricket accessible.”

That Thongsbridge’s name is printed on both shirts indicates they are thriving at present.

“A Friday night is a big focal point for our club,” continued O’Shea.

“Naturally, the kits were on sale, and a lot of the parents were snapping them up, myself included – having to furnish two of my three children with one. The first thing that everyone was doing was looking for Thongsbridge on the shirt, ‘Where are we?’.”

It takes you quite a while to scroll down the teams page on Thongsbridge’s website, starting with a trio of senior men’s teams. 

Seven junior teams run from Under 17s down to the Little Lions, while there is also a thriving ladies section. 

“We had a softball team which is part of the newly formed Yorkshire Women and Girls League, and we have two girls only teams,” said O’Shea. 

“We have girls Under 13s and 15s teams playing in respective softball and hard ball leagues and girls in our mixed age-groups.

“Thongsbridge has a long history with the women’s and girls game. We’ve spent a lot of time investing in that and have had a good degree of success, both developing players who have gone on to representative and the national game.

“Post Covid, one of the resurgences the club has had is the women’s and girls game.”

Last season, Thongsbridge firsts finished fourth in the Huddersfield League’s Premiership division and were beaten finalists in the T20 competition. 

This season, they have started slowly, going winless in three games. But O’Shea said: “We have to be challenging to finish in one of the top spots in the league.

“We’ve been able to get three good overseas players. We have two UK passport holders and one overseas pro, Jiveshen Pillay. He’s been around the South African Under 19s set-up and will bring a real firepower to our batting.

“Alex Kemp has captained for a number of years now and has done a brilliant job. The success we had in the T20 competition, certainly, has filled the team with a lot of confidence for this year.”

O’Shea says the Yorkshire shirt launch event has created an extra buzz around a club who were “very proud” to be awarded ECB Clubmark last year – an accreditation scheme for cricket clubs which shows they are sustainable, well run and provide the right environment for members.

“Absolutely it has,” he went on. “What we’re really conscious of is not to divide the club into juniors and seniors. We want it to feel as one in that sense because there’s a lot of cross-over, you know seniors who have kids in the juniors. That was very evident on Friday.”

Wouldn’t it be just great for Thongsbridge to see a player or two in attendance at the launch night go on and wear the Yorkshire and Northern Diamonds shirts for real and not just as part of a photo shoot. 

“Off the top of my head, we have five juniors playing representative cricket – boys and girls – for various teams in Huddersfield and county age-groups,” added O’Shea. 

“We’re aware that comes with a degree of responsibility as a club. We want to be exposing them to the right levels of cricket and to the right facilities and coaches. 

“We want to give them the best chance to progress.”

Lily Newman

Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com. Thongsbridge youth cricketer Lily Newman models the new Northern Diamonds shirt.

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