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Lords Groundsman’s ‘Dream Job’

Lords Groundsman’s ‘Dream Job’: Karl McDermott, the new MCC head groundsman, may be preparing the Lord’s pitches for the World Cup final and the Ashes this summer, but when it comes to romance, Ireland’s first Test there will take some beating.

He is from Dublin, and his journey to the home of cricket, replacing the legendary Mick Hunt, has been remarkable by any standards.

Lords Groundsman's 'Dream Job'

His maths teacher at Mount Temple School needed somebody to help out in the summer holidays at Castle Avenue, home of Clondarf Cricket Club.

“I didn’t play cricket and knew nothing about it at the time – I played tennis instead,” says McDermott, 43. “I had never even been in the club’s ground which was half a mile from my house. The job was for a couple of hours a week, for five Irish pounds.”

He spent 17 years working there before joining the ground staff at Worcestershire in 2007. He then became deputy head groundsman at Hampshire in 2009, before taking their top job three years ago. Now his first summer at Lord’s will be epic to say the least.

He actually says he is not looking beyond Middlesex’s County Championship opener against Lancashire on April 11, but admits Ireland’s four-day Test from July 24–27 will be special.

“This is the dream job and I am looking forward to the summer hugely,” he says. “The World Cup and Ashes will be brilliant, but how many times will Ireland play a Test here again? It will be a brilliant experience and I have lots of friends coming over, including my maths teacher, who will be my guest on the first day.

“I have received lots of texts joking that the master plan is in place, but I just hope we get past day two the way we are playing. I have heard from so many people I haven’t heard from for years and years.

“After it was announced I got the job I went back to the club and there were about 80-90 people there to greet me. When the day comes up I will be very proud. I know Kevin O’Brien and Will Porterfield and a few of the older players.”

He insists Ireland will receive no favours from him however. “I will take a good pitch over an Ireland win,” although he adds: “Hopefully it will be a high-scoring Ireland win.”

Hunt, in the role for 49 years, was known for his fierce independence when it came to Lord’s pitches for Middlesex and England, and McDermott will maintain this tradition. But he did hint that there may be a bit more in it for spinners in the future.

“From a Lord’s point of view, we want a bit of pace, a bit of bounce and then some spin at the end. Speaking to a few ex-players they say the ball doesn’t seem to spin here too much. They are excited that might happen. I want that to naturally evolve though. This year will be just finding out how the pitches evolve over four or five days.

“When I was at Hampshire we never had any requests for the three Test matches we staged. I was always asked to produce the best cricket pitch and I expect the same here. Middlesex coach Stuart Law has told me he just wants to play on good cricket pitches – and win in the last hour on day four.”

McDermott says he learned much from the visit of the counties to Ireland to play in Trophy matches at the start of each summer, and names the 1999 World Cup match between West Indies and Bangladesh as the “favourite moment of [his] career to date”. He also spent winters working in Australia and South Africa as part of his education as a groundsman.

There is no bigger groundsman’s job than Lord’s, but McDermott says: “I am excited, not daunted. I am not one that loses sleep over cricket, I am quite comfortable where I am.”

Lord’s stages four World Cup matches (Pakistan v Australia on June 23, England v Australia on June 25, New Zealand v Australia on June 29 and then the final on July 14). The second Ashes Test is there from August 14–18. But there is also a long list of other matches, involving – among others – MCC, Middlesex, the Oxbridge sides, Eton and Harrow, and the Village Cup final organised by The Cricketer.

“In terms of days’ cricket it’s not that dissimilar to Hampshire really but the big games are bigger here and the smaller games are smaller. It’s about managing that package, and at the moment that package is loaded in the middle. It will present some challenges but every county groundsman will moan about schedules and too much cricket. A couple of games squeezed in are not ideal but everything else is manageable.”

Asked how he could deal with potential criticism, he said: “It will be nothing I haven’t heard before. Comments come with the game. Everyone is an expert.”

McDermott lives in the ground, which he says is a “handy commute”. He has five full-time assistants and three summer helpers, and MCC Young Cricketers work with him on major days.

Lord’s is famous for its slope of course – a decline of 2.5 metres from north to south. “Mick told me to beware of it as the water literally runs down it. It is going to need managing for sure.

“He also gave me one great bit of advice. Make sure you get away now and again. Because the place does take you over with the volume of cricket.”

And has he done that yet? No. not with Ireland, the World Cup and Australia visiting.

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Karl McDermott Begins Lords Role

Karl McDermott Begins Lords Role: Karl McDermott has started work in his new role as the Head Groundsman at the famous Lord’s cricket ground.

McDermott joined from Hampshire and has taken over from Mick Hunt, who retired after 49 years in the job.

Karl McDermott Begins Lords Role

He joined Hampshire as Deputy Head Groundsman in 2009, becoming Head Groundsman in 2016, having spent seventeen years at Clontarf Cricket Club in Dublin.

There will be an initial bedding-in process where they work alongside each other before Hunt officially retires at the end of 2018.

With the Cricket World Cup and the Ashes happening during 2019 it will be something of a baptism of fire for McDermott, but one which he is ready.

“I am very excited about my new role and I am already looking forward to a busy and challenging season in 2019,” he said.

“Being Mick’s successor is a huge honour, and I aim to keep the extremely high standards that he has set at Lord’s during his long and distinguished career.”

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New Lords Head Groundsman

New Lords Head Groundsman: MCC has confirmed that Karl McDermott has been appointed as the new Head Groundsman at Lord’s.

McDermott, who will join MCC from Hampshire County Cricket Club, will replace Mick Hunt, who is retiring from the role after 49 seasons.

New Lords Head Groundsman

After beginning his career as Assistant Groundsman at Clontarf Cricket Club in Dublin, McDermott took on the Head Groundsman role in 1997, ahead of the venue hosting an ICC World Cup Fixture in 1999.

He spent seventeen years at Clontarf, working on numerous international and domestic fixtures and winning the European ICC Groundsman of the Year award in 2007, before moving to Worcestershire as Assistant Groundsman.

He then took up post at the Ageas Bowl where he was initially appointed Deputy Head Groundsman in 2009, ahead of the ground’s inaugural Test Match in 2011 between England and Sri Lanka.

McDermott became Head Groundsman in 2016 and most recently presided over England’s victory over India, the third Test Match to be held at Hampshire’s headquarters.

John Stephenson, MCC Assistant Secretary (Cricket) said: “After a rigorous recruitment process, we are delighted that Karl has accepted the role of Head Groundsman at Lord’s. He is very well respected throughout the game, having spent the past nine years producing top quality pitches at the Ageas Bowl.

“Karl emerged from a competitive field as someone who will be able to maintain the reputation of Lord’s as the ultimate ground at which cricketers of all levels wish to play.

His first season will be a challenging one, with five World Cup matches including the Final, Ireland’s inaugural Test match at Lord’s as well as the prospect of England facing Australia in an Ashes Series but we have no doubt that he will prove himself up to the task.

“We’re very much looking forward to Karl beginning his role and working alongside Mick Hunt for a short time before Mick begins his well-earned retirement.”

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Lord’s Head Groundsman Honoured

Lord’s Head Groundsman Honoured: After 48 years of service, Lord’s head groundsman Mick Hunt has been recognised by the ECB and MCC for his work, with the MCC also awarding Mick with an honorary lifetime membership.

England recently became the first ever team to complete the milestone of playing 1000 Tests. They celebrated it with a 30-run win over India at Edgbaston in the first Test of the series. Youngster Sam Curran was the top crusader for the English side as they won a humdinger of a contest. As the hosts headed to Lord’s for the second Test, there was another milestone by an Englishman.

Lord’s Head Groundsman Honoured

For a change, it wasn’t a cricketer but a groundsman. Mick Hunt who has been the Head Groundsman was felicitated for his tremendous 48 years of service. The England skipper Joe Root presented him with an autographed bat at the Home of Cricket. The event took place just moments before play began on Day 3. The Lord’s Cricket Ground handle on Twitter posted a picture of the same.

It was indeed a busy morning for the groundsman. Not because he had a lot of ground related work but that the rewards didn’t stop coming his way. In what was a wonderful gesture by the England Cricket Board, Mick was also awarded the MCC honorary lifetime membership.

The first day at Lord’s was completely washed out. The second day saw just 212 balls being bowled. However, it was enough for the England pacers to bundle the Indian batsmen in overcast conditions. The ball swung like a snake out of James Anderson’s hands and all the bowlers took full advantage of the same. England don’t have a great record at Lord’s recently and they will be looking forward to changing that. They haven’t beaten an Asian team at the ground in their last five instances.

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Lords Set For Hybrid Pitch

Lords Set For Hybrid Pitch: The cricketing venue of Lord’s is revered as the Mecca of Cricket. The ground is arguably the most iconic venue in the world cricket. Every cricket aspirant wishes to play at the ground at least once in their lifetime. The ground officials and the administrators also ensure that they keep the venue updated to the newest trends.

In the recent times, there has been a lot of talk about using the hybrid pitches in cricket. Last season, the County Club of Warwickshire had expressed their plans of using these hybrid pitches for some matches in the future. And now, as per the reports in Sky Sports, the Lord’s is in process of having a partly synthetic pitch installed on the grandstand side of the iconic pitch square at the venue.

Lords Set For Hybrid Pitch

This pitch, when completely installed, could potentially be the first ever artificial surface to host a County match. However, it is being speculated that the wicket will predominantly be used for practice and the minor games. For now, the surface could host the limited overs matches of Middlesex. However, it is not allowed to host the international matches or First Class matches. This is because of the reason that the artificial surfaces are not sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) yet.

What are hybrid pitches?

Hybrid pitches are common in football. The iconic Wembley Stadium uses this technology. About 90 per cent of the pitch will be grass. But in addition to that, the pitch will also have plastic yarn which will be inserted into the ground using a laser-guided stitching machine, helping to bind the grass roots together. Edgbaston already uses a synthetic pitch on the edge of the square at their venue.

They had installed the same in the end of the 2016 season. Meanwhile, the Worcestershire club uses these hybrid surfaces in their nets. If Lord’s gets these hybrid pitches, then it is expected to be a historic move. Many other clubs could follow the move after witnessing the developments at the iconic venue.

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