The North West is celebrating the news that two of this season’s national awards are headed to the region with Roly Black picking up the Official of the Year gong while Varun Chopra has been named Young Player.
Bready man, Black, has been an ever-present in the umpiring ranks since retiring as a player in 2006 and has quickly established himself as one of the most composed officials throughout the country.
He held off the highest quality of opposition in Mark Hawthorne and Paul Reynolds to be named Ireland’s top official but played down the achievement.
“Of course it’s a great honour to be recognised in this way but there are many excellent umpires throughout Ireland. In a way I prefer not to be noticed at all as that’s usually the mark of how well things are going,” he said.
“There’s no secret to it to be honest - commitment, hard work and respect are probably the main principles. I always look back at the top umpires of my playing days for inspiration and Eric Cooke is one that always springs to mind.
“If I can umpire today the way I wanted to be umpired back then, that’s half the job done.”
Roly is currently on the European Elite Panel and his next goal is the Associates & Affiliates list.
“There’s plenty more work to be done between now and then. We usually get loads of homework to do over the winter and in a way you are glad when the season starts to get on the field. Obviously I would like to go on as far as possible- that was the main reason I stopped playing at 35,” he added.
“Being involved with people like Nigel Llong and experiencing the International side of things has been a big help too”.
“I’m very thankful for the recognition of the award if a little uncomfortable” he smiled.
Coleraine teenager Chopra wins the Young Player award after a season in which he played for Ireland at under-15, under-17 and under-19 level.
The spinner has received major plaudits from the Ireland coaching staff and appears to be improving at a massive rate of knots.
Domestically he picked up 20 wickets at an average of 18 for the Bannsiders in the year that they claimed a second senior title in three.
The 15-year-old, who also won the Junior Sportsman award at last weekend’s Causeway Coast & Glens Sports Awards, played pretty much every game for the new champions and skipper Scott Campbell was lavish in his praise.
“For someone so young he has a great head on his shoulders,” stated the Bannsiders captain.
“He picked up some really vital wickets for us this season and one thing I really like about him is that he wasn’t afraid to tell you what he wanted in terms of field placing.
“I’m never keen to ‘big up’ anyone so early in their career as there are enough pressures around but if he keeps doing what he’s doing, Varun has the potential to go a very long way.”