Mark Hawthorne is probably the top umpire in the Northern Cricket Union area, if not in Ireland, and not only his fellow umpires but his union are justifiably proud of Mark. He is just home from the opportunity of a lifetime where he umpired at the Women's Cricket World Cup in India.
Although Mark’s competitive cricket playing days are behind him, in the past Mark used to play competitively for Cliftonville 3rd and 4th XI's before he took a path into umpiring which has literally led him from Mallusk to Mumbai!
In 1995, Mark went along to a weekly umpiring course at Shane Park, where the instructors included Arthur Thompson, Stanley Long and George Archer. After a couple of seasons of playing a bit and umpiring a bit Mark decided to concentrate on umpiring.
Mark's first match was Woodvale 2nd XI v Instonians 2nd XI – where play was rained off after a couple of hours. Right from the start Mark enjoyed umpiring and he made steady progress with his first Senior match being North v Bangor at Ormeau with Paddy O’Hara.
Talking about his experiences Mark said: “I enjoy cricket and I like meeting cricket people. Umpiring has given me the opportunity to meet many cricketing people and it has also enabled me to be involved at a much higher level than was possible as a player.
Umpires who want to progress are given every opportunity but there is no pressure on anyone to keep climbing the ladder; you can umpire to a level you feel comfortable with and always remember to enjoy your umpiring. With my family and work I am involved in umpiring because I enjoy it and that has been the case from my first match and my view has never changed. There are clear pathways for umpires who want to progress, but that decision is always up to you.”
Early in his umpiring career Mark went on exchange visits to Leinster, the North-West and Merseyside and by 2002 he was appointed to the Irish International Panel. About his first International match Mark said: “My first International match was Netherlands v Italy and the match lasted 100 overs. By the final ball any one of three results was possible. Some of the lessons I learned that day have stayed with me ever since; it was a very difficult game to umpire with a lot of contentious issues but I enjoyed the challenge.”
Mark has been a member of the ICC European Elite Panel since 2007 and this enabled him to umpire at tournaments in Jersey, Guernsey, Netherlands, Scotland, Cyprus, Croatia, Spain and various locations in Ireland. After umpiring at an ICC World Cricket League tournament in Kuwait Mark was appointed to the Associates and Affiliates Panel. This is the highest level that an umpire from a non-Test playing country can achieve.
Talking of his experiences the last few years and umpiring in the recent Women's Cricket World Cup Mark continued: “I have been fortunate during the last few years to have umpired with many of the umpires you see on television – Simon Taufel, Tony Hill, Ian Gould, Steve Davis and Richard Kettleborough; without exception they have been supportive and helpful. In March 2012, I umpired at the World T/20 qualifying tournament in Dubai, in August I was at the U19 World Cup in Australia and I am just back from the Women’s World Cup in India. During the tournament in India I umpired two day/night matches that were televised live throughout the world – so no pressure then!”
“From my earliest days of umpiring I met many good colleagues and without their advice and encouragement I wouldn’t have made much progress. Umpires are good people who care about the game of cricket and who like to do their best. We are not robots and we do make mistakes but recovering from setbacks is all part of the challenge. People who take up umpiring will be appointed to matches with experienced colleagues and whether you are umpiring at Mallusk, Melbourne or Mumbai it is true that as an umpire you get the best view of the match. Give it a go – and remember to enjoy it!”
For anyone who wants to give umpiring a try or for more information, please contact Ian Houston from the Northern Ireland Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers (NIACUS) by email: firstname.lastname@example.org