Roy Torrens has talked about retiring for a good few years now but it looks as though the big man from Portrush has at last given his final answer on stepping down as Ireland team manager and will depart after next year’s World Cup.
As Ireland’s cricketers completed a month-long acclimatisation tour of Australia and New Zealand in preparation for that tournament, Torrens’ bosses know they will soon have the unenviable task of trying to find a replacement - or more accurately a successor.
For it will be impossible to replace a man his players dubbed ‘The Sir Alex Ferguson of cricket’ after Ireland’s unprecedented treble in 2013.
A larger-than-life character in every way, the 66-year-old has been the jovial yet dominant focal point of Ireland touring parties for the past decade, the logistics man who kept the wheels turning smoothly, the transport arriving on time, the kit clean and the players’ needs met.
He ran a happy ship - occasionally oiled by deliveries of supplies that were not easy to access in far off parts - but also a tight ship, as any who stepped out of line would quickly discover.
In size and personality Big Roy would often dwarf his counterparts from the more established cricketing countries but opponents found him wonderful company and it should never be underestimated just how much he furthered the cause of Irish cricket, often over a Famous Grouse as anecdotes from his playing days were told amid gales of laughter.
Roy loves a story. His players know they only have to cheekily ask “Just how good were you, Roy?” to set in train a stream of wonderfully imaginative tales that somehow manage to combine both extravagance and self-deprecation.
“You see that young Ed Joyce,” Torrens once remarked, “he reminds me a lot of myself at the same age - although I could bowl as well, of course.”
A possibly more plausible claim is that the West Indies would only have scored 16 at Sion Mills in 1969 if he had not had to miss the game for work commitments. Torrens in those days was first-change seamer and the West Indies last pair added 13 of their total of 25 all out.
Robert ‘Roy’ Torrens played 30 times for Ireland as a seam bowler between 1966 and 1984, taking 77 wickets at an average of 25.66. His best bowling analysis in an Irish jersey was 7-40 versus Scotland at Ayr in 1974. Domestically, he played along with his brothers Ross and Norman in a very successful Brigade side which won many NW trophies, before finishing his career with Coleraine.
He served as a National selector, being Chairman for two seasons, before in 2000 becoming a very popular and successful President of the Irish Cricket Union. He then accepted the role as Chairman of the Cricket Committee, before becoming manager of the Ireland team in late 2004, ahead of the ICC Trophy which Ireland hosted in the summer of 2005.
“The late John Wright approached me to take over the reins from himself,” said Torrens. “I asked him about what would be involved and his reply was that it would be 3-4 games a year, half a dozen at most, not a huge commitment. It turned out to be quite a few more than that.
“The job is unrecognisable now, with some years having 30, 40 or even 50 matches. To date I’ve been manager for 260 games, and that’ll increase to around 280 by the time the World Cup finishes. As the team has progressed so the workload of the manager has progressed.”
What are the happiest memories from all those games? “The World Cup wins against Pakistan and England immediately spring to mind. Those matches took Irish cricket to unprecedented levels. It’s still hard to believe how far we’ve come in such a relatively short space of time, and who knows where we could be in another 10 years?”
To emphasise the changing nature of the Irish fixture list, his first match at the helm was against Loughborough in April 2005 when half centuries from Eoin Morgan, Dom Joyce and Peter Gillespie led Ireland to a convincing 163 run win - John Mooney is the sole survivor from that game in the current set-up.
By the end of 2005, Ireland had secured ODI status after finishing runners up to Scotland in the ICC Trophy final at Clontarf and, helped by an audacious declaration, had stunned Kenya in the InterContinental Cup final to claim their first global trophy - it wouldn’t be the last.
Torrens was manager in 2006 when Ireland played their first ODI, a memorable occasion against England in front of 8000 fans at Stormont, claimed the European Championships, and also defeated Gloucestershire thanks to inspired spells from Kyle McCallan and Shahid Afridi.
“I always enjoyed the wins over the English counties,” said Torrens. “They had a tendency to underestimate us without our county players. The win over Worcestershire in 2009 when Peter Connell took five wickets (including Moeen Ali first ball) as they were skittled for just 58 brought us a lot of satisfaction as their media had been rather disparaging in the run up to the game.”
Ireland played 29 matches in 2007 including their first World Cup in the West Indies, which Torrens described as ‘an incredible experience’. “Anyone who was there will never forget it. It was such an adventure and it really put Ireland on the global map. The tie with Zimbabwe, the win over Pakistan and the Super Eight win over Bangladesh all were so special.”
Torrens has travelled all over the globe with the Irish team, with South Africa being his particular favourite. “ Port Elizabeth was really special, and I loved being there. Jamaica had many happy memories and also Barbados and Bangalore. It hasn’t been all plain sailing but I don’t think I’ll talk about the countries which weren’t so pleasant - you’ll have to wait for the autobiography!”