Northern Ireland

Sion Mills Cricket Club's future in doubt after arson attack

Ride-on lawnmowers were among the equipment destroyed in the attack Image copyright Sion Mills Cricket Club
Image caption Ride-on lawnmowers were among the equipment destroyed in the attack

A 155-year-old cricket club that hosted Ireland's famous 1969 victory over the West Indies has said an arson attack has put its future survival in doubt.

Extensive damage has been caused at Sion Mills Cricket Club in County Tyrone after vandals broke into an equipment store and set it on fire.

Lawnmowers and other machinery used to maintain the cricket ground were destroyed in the overnight blaze.

The club captain has said they may not be able to afford the repair bill.

'Thousands of pounds'

Simon Galloway, who is also club secretary, told the News Letter: "It could be a final nail in the coffin for Sion Mills Cricket Club after 155 years."

Image copyright Sion Mills Cricket Club
Image caption The club is located next to the former Herdman's Mill site

He blamed "young hoods" for the attack, saying that there had been a long-standing problem with vandalism and arson in Sion Mills.

The cricket ground is located next to the former Herdman's Mill site, a derelict linen mill which has been targeted repeatedly by arsonists.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Mr Galloway said his club has also been vandalised in the past but "nothing on this scale".

Intruders used a ladder to get into to the outbuilding where the club's equipment is stored, entering the shed through a hole in the roof.

Image copyright Sion Mills Cricket Club
Image caption Vandals entered the shed through the roof before starting a fire

It contained ride-on lawnmowers, manual lawnmowers, a grass roller, strimmers and other groundskeeping equipment, most of which were badly burned.

Mr Galloway said the bill to replace the items could run into thousands of pounds and the club does not have the money.

"We struggle financially from year to year, even under normal circumstances," he said.

The small amateur club has about 30 members and depends on the sponsorship of local businesses just to break even.

Members face regular bills including public liability insurance, petrol for their lawnmowers and playing fees to the North West Cricket Union.

The captain said many organisations had contacted the club to express support after the fire but he added they will need financial help to survive.

The attack happened just weeks after the 50th anniversary of the most significant match to be played at the Sion Mills ground.

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Media captionThe scoreboard at Sion Mills from Ireland's win 50 years ago

In July 1969, the Irish national team bowled the West Indies out for 25 at the County Tyrone club.

Graffiti mystery

As well as starting the fire, intruders also daubed graffiti on the roof and base of the shed, writing the words: "Hoods Run Young."

Mr Galloway said he had no idea what the phrase meant but he guessed it may refer to some kind of gang.

Image copyright Sion Mills Cricket Club
Image caption The intruders daubed graffiti on the club's equipment store

Police visited the scene of the attack on Tuesday morning and said they were investigating "a fire and criminal damage".

Sgt Niamh McDermott said officers received a report of the fire at about 09:40 BST and attended the scene, where "it was observed that graffiti had been sprayed on the premises".

The police have appealed for information.

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