Martin McGuinness was a lover of cricket

The former Sinn Fein leader had a keen interest in the game

BY Daniel Kelly 08:19 Tuesday 21 March 2017, 8:19 21 Mar 2017

Ian Paisley (left) and Martin McGuinness (right) with the then Ireland cricket captain Trent Johnston (second right) and Kyle McCallon in 2007. Picture by: Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Images

Former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness died overnight, aged 66.

The Sinn Fein leader, who was one of the main instigators in the peace process, was a lover of many sports. A Derry City fanatic, McGuinness also played football, hurling and gaelic football as a youngster, but he also held a massive interest in all things cricket.

Martin McGuinness was a fan of the England cricket team. In his 2012 autobiography, Outside In, former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain claimed the Derry native had more than a passing interest in the game.

"Incredibly for a hardline Irish republican he was also a big fan of the English cricket team, able to recite match statistics and comment expertly on each of their batsmen or bowlers. England's victory over Australia in the Ashes series in 2005 especially enthralled him, and we marvelled at Welsh fast bowler Simon Jones's then novel 'reverse swing' technique."

Martin McGuinness (right) attended his first cricket match in 2012, when he accompanied Peter Robinson (left) to a ODI between Ireland and Bangledesh in Belfast. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/PRESSEYE/Darren Kidd

In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, McGuinness revealed that his interest in the sport came from watching late-night television highlights. "None of my friends were into it," he revealed. "The part of Derry where I lived, on the west bank of the Foyle, there wasn't any cricket whatsoever."

"The closest I got to playing cricket was what was called rounders. There was a very large field at the top of our street and we used to play there."

In the same interview, McGuinness spoke about his hope for the Irish team gaining Test status, adding he felt sectarian divisions in the sport were lessening as a result of the peace process.

"People say it's mostly Protestants who take an interest in cricket. But I don't think that's the case. All over the north, we have people from the Catholic tradition who also play. And I have to say I'm very proud of that."

As recently as 2015, McGuinness dressed up as the English cricket icon WG Grace in a fundraising campaign for the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.

"When I arrived for the photo-shoot and saw the false beard and the cricket gear along with a make-up artist I wondered what in heaven's name I was getting into" he told the Belfast Telegraph. "But it's a fantastic idea."

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