Lee Nelson: It was an easy decision to become Waringstown captain again

When the 2020 season rolls around, Lee Nelson will once again be in charge of Waringstown.

Having enjoyed a successful three-season stint as captain between 2014-2016 in which the Villagers won Irish Senior Cup and Premier League titles, Nelson will return to the role after replacing Greg Thompson.

Thompson steps down after leading Waringstown in one of their most successful periods ever, helping the club become the most successful Irish Senior Cup outfit of all-time and he picked up seven trophies in three seasons.

Those boots will be big to fill at The Lawn, but Nelson, who paid tribute to his predecessor, is excited by the challenge.

“I probably always knew when I stopped doing it previously that I would take it on again.,” he said.

“Greg obviously did a great job there and I’m delighted to be back. It was a fairly easy decision.

“I had an inkling towards the end of the season that Greg was going to be finishing at the end of the year so I kind of had myself prepared for it. It was fairly straightforward.

“It was probably Waringstown’s most successful spell ever and Greg was at the helm. It’s going to be big boots to fill but I feel I’ll be capable enough to do it.”

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Nelson led Waringstown to the 2015 Premier League title . ©CricketEurope

Nelson was 23 when he was named captain back in October 2013 ahead of the 2014 campaign and he will be looking to replicate how successful that first stint was.

“We won the All-Ireland at The Lawn which is probably the best day for a lot of us,” he reflected.

“To win an All-Ireland at home was special and that remains as a very strong memory for us. We won a league title, won the T20 and won several trophies.

“To be honest, I would nearly take winning the same amount again! If the next period goes as well I would be happy enough.”

While reaching a fifth consecutive Irish Senior Cup final last year and losing out to CIYMS in the Twenty20 decider at The Lawn, Waringstown didn’t fire on all cylinders and put in some poor performances.

With the level of success achieved over a five-year period where they cemented their place as the best side in Ireland, that blip can be forgiven and Nelson will be looking to win more silverware in 2020.

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Waringstown squad ahead of the 2019 Irish Senior Cup final. ©CricketEurope

“Any team can have a bad year,” he added.

“We still got to an All-Ireland and T20 final and people still class it as a bad year. We missed James McCollum and Greg for quite a substantial period of the season.

“James only played six games for us and that’s tough to try and replace. You can’t keep missing two or three of your better players and just bring others in and expect them to do the same job – it just doesn’t work.

“That’s just a sign of the times and we are going to have to live with that and try to counteract it the best way we can.”

With McCollum’s international emergence and Ireland’s packed schedule throughout 2020, it is unlikely the 24-year-old will be able to play much of a role at club level again next season.

Those runs were desperately missed last season, so will Waringstown be on the lookout for new players to help fill that void?

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James McCollum batting for Ireland. ©CricketEurope

“We are in no different situation to any other club probably,” said Nelson.

“Every club is trying to bring people in and seeing where they can strengthen. It’s not just easy to click your fingers and say we will have him, him and him. It’s not as easy as that.

“We are probably trying to have a look around and see where we can strengthen, but there’s no guarantee that you can do that. We have to get our own house in order and improve on where we went wrong last year.

“Collectively, if we can improve 10-15% each I can’t see us having too many problems.”

They have already moved to bring in Shadley van Schalkwyk as their overseas professional, replacing Haseeb Azam who was at the club last season.

Van Schalkwyk, who scored 608 runs at an average of 43.43 for Armagh in 2018, will almost certainly thrive in Waringstown’s middle order while his pace will provide many problems for NCU batsmen all season long.

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Shadley van Schalkwyk batting for Armagh against Carrick. ©CricketEurope

When Nelson took over as captain, there was only one man he wanted to be their professional and he couldn’t be happier to have the South African on board.

“It’s brilliant,” he added.

“When we sat down at the end of last season, I made it very clear to the chairman who I wanted to have and who I wanted to get, and to be fair to him he went and got him. I’m delighted with that.”

With their dominance in recent times, it has been tough for young players to break through consistently and it led the likes of Morgan Topping, Aaron Wright and Jonny Waite to leave in order to gain more first team opportunities.

The next crop of youngsters will be looking to make their mark in an established and experienced side, and Nelson says it’s important they continue to develop their own stars.

“There are a couple of guys that we let go for a period of time because we just couldn’t get them into the team,” he said.

“Every couple of years we have been able to bring through boys of a certain standard, but when we had that team it just wasn’t possible to do it because there was no one you could leave out at the time.

“The conveyor belt remains strong at Waringstown and we have the likes of Jack Carson playing at Sussex. He’s a Waringstown kid from U11 upwards and we are still able to produce them.

“It’s just at times we have struggled to get the next crop through and whether that is something we will be able to do this year or not is another thing.

“We have to keep producing our own players or the club won’t survive.”

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