THE FIRST World War had finished only 10 months before Illingworth St Mary’s last played a Halifax League game.
They bowed out in a blaze of glory as 1919 champions and switched to the Yorkshire Council to seek more competitive cricket.
On Saturday, after a gap of 98 years, Illingworth will play in the Halifax League again when they travel to play Leymoor.
The Halifax League only had nine clubs when Illingworth departed. Current champions Booth, Greetland, Mytholmroyd, Triangle, Stainland and Illingworth are the only other ones still in existence.
Those harbingers of doom who have become fearful for the future of cricket in the last few years should note that there will be 33 clubs in the Spenser Wilson Halifax League this summer.
The net has admittedly been cast wider, with Leymoor’s ex-Huddersfield Association bedfellows Birchencliffe, Bradley & Colnebridge and Mount also brought into the fold, following the demises of Denholme Clough and Old Crossleyans.
Illingworth will be keen to move through the divisions as quickly as possible following their switch from the Aire/Wharfe League, and new skipper Ben Robertshaw is excited by the tests ahead.
“We have netted well over the winter and have the strong nucleus of last year’s side,” he said.
“It will be a challenge to face new teams on grounds we are not used to.
“The shorter travelling distances between clubs is a big attraction and we are hoping to get off to a good start.”
Illingworth will be missing top batsman Matty Smith on Saturday. He is still playing college football. They will also be without new keeper Dan Patchett and Kieran Heaton, who are both injured, but should still have plenty of fire power.
All rounder Robertshaw, last year’s leading wicket taker, will be backed up by vice captain Luke Brooksby, who is good for runs and wickets.
The skipper should not be short of bowling options with Jamie Moorhouse and Steve Cook also in the wickets last year.
James Lawton and Callum Cook scored well with the bat in 2016 and Veryan Brooksby is back after missing much of last season.
The long tradition of having an overseas amateur is gone. Club president Andrew Smith said: “We will miss the very positive influence that our overseas players have brought to the club over the years.
“However, times change and with different qualification rules and increasing costs of helping them to come over it was becoming unsustainable. We are now putting all our efforts into our junior set up.”
Illingworth have already hosted an indoor year six schools competition this year and other age groups will compete in the early summer.
The club is looking to run junior teams from under nines upwards and is looking for boys and girls to play. Training is on Friday evenings from 6.30pm. More information can be obtained on the club web site or by ringing 07979-645379.
Illingworth are also putting much effort into hosting All Stars Cricket for five to eight year olds.
This is an exciting project promoted by the English Cricket Board to get more youngsters playing cricket. It will be starting soon on Friday evenings. You can book in online, Google ‘All Stars Cricket’ or contact the club.