IT HAS been a long time coming, but finally the Upper Airedale Junior Cricket Association have formed a girls’ league.

In his report on the 2022 season, league secretary Terry Thompson said: “The creation of the girls’ league fulfilled a key objective set by the executive (committee) back in 2003.

“But there was to be one further objective ticked off from that list. That was the tremendous performance of our under-13 representative team in winning the 2022 Under-13 Yorkshire Festival competition, defeating York District in the final at Southowram.

“It was a fabulous moment in our 68-year history, a first-ever Festival (Taverner’s) win.

“Managers Mark Stoneman and Tony Fordham have worked wonders in honing and moulding the team to one that dominated the age group across the county. Derek Hurren (former league secretary) would be beaming.

“On the individual player scene, all at the UAJCA were delighted at the progress made by the brilliant former Steeton junior Will Luxton, who starred in the Under-19 World Cup final and later made his senior debut for the White Rose County.

“In addition to the tremendous success for the under-13 UAJCA squad, our other representative teams had excellent results, with the under-11s particularly unfortunate not to reach the semi-finals.”

The advent of the girls’ league, which had teams from Crossflatts, Great Horton Church, Settle and Skipton, brought 60 players into the fold, while participation in the Softball Development Programme mushroomed from 12 teams in 2021 to 17.

There was also an increase in the under-18s league (formerly under-17s), and all this meant that there was an increase to 65 teams from a record low of 47.

The superb summer’s weather meant that over 90 per cent of matches were completed, and Great Horton Church not only won three championships (equalling Oxenhope’s record from 2005) but also retained both cups that they won in 2021.

The delayed under-18s’ Spencer Cup final, between winners Oakworth and Great Horton Church, provided a great end to the campaign, with many suggesting that it should have a regular place at the back end of the season.

Thompson finished his report by saying: “I sincerely believe that the UAJCA is now on the brink of an exciting sea-change within local society. The game is beginning to capture the imagination of new audiences, and participation levels are on the up.

“The challenge now is for our clubs to build stronger family-based clubs offering cricket to all sectors of society to men, women, boys, girls and the disabled. We have already shown what we can do, now is the time to step up yet again.”

The UAJCA’s annual meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Thursday, January 19, at Sutton CC.