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Roy Sweeney, a lifelong supporter of cricket, died in Florida yesterday. He was 78.
For over 30 years, Mr. Sweeney suffered from diabetes and also had two toes on his right foot and a left toe removed. “Diabetes. It is a terrible, terrible thing,” he told DreamCricket.com in 2010. He also lost the use of his kidneys and needed dialysis three times a week. None of that stopped Mr. Sweeney from enjoying the sport. Even after he turned 74, he would often be seen at cricket grounds, sometimes with the help of a cane.
Mr. Sweeney, who worked with fans and politicians alike in promoting the sport in the New York area, was awarded the 2010 ICC Centenary Medal for his services to the game in the US.
Speaking to DreamCricket.com after receiving the award, he said: “It is very gratifying and satisfying after you work hard. Right now cricket in New York is very good.”
During the same interview, Mr. Sweeney recalled the speech he made when he was inducted into the US Cricket Hall of Fame in Hartford, Connecticut. “I said: ‘If I had served my Lord and my God as well as I’ve served cricket with the same love and dedication then I would not miss heaven,’” he said.
Mr. Sweeney played at the first class level in Jamaica where he had built a solid reputation as a fast bowler. After moving to the US to study engineering, he continued to be involved with cricket over five decades.
Mr. Sweeney worked with mayors Ed Koch, David Dinkins and Michael Bloomberg to improve cricket fields fields and was instrumental in the construction of purpose-built cricket fields at Canarsie and Erskine Fields in Brooklyn.
Mr. Sweeney was close to West Indian Test greats like Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Gordon Greenidge, Curtly Ambrose, Keith Atherton, Desmond Haynes and Jeffrey Dujon. In fact, as the founder of the United States Cricket Promoters Association, he brought the West Indies team to New York four times in all, in 1986, 1987, 1989 and 2006, to help promote cricket. The visiting team in 2006 included Brian Lara, Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Ronnie Sarwan among others. Mr. Sweeney told DreamCricket.com that he founded the US Cricket Promoters Association in 1985 because USACA was not doing enough for the fans.
In the 2010 interview with DreamCricket.com, Mr. Sweeney spoke about his long list of achievements in cricket, including the founding of the Mayor’s Cup for teams in the New York region, the role he played in founding the Eastern American Cricket League and the Connecticut Cricket League. Along the way, he was the president of Westbury Cricket Club for 26 years he served on the board of the New York Region.
More recently, he was the President of the Floyd Bennett Cricket Club, and he hoped that the ground could become New York's first cricket stadium and he expected that the club would have full rights to expand the facility. Ten years ago the Metropolitan League honored him by naming a 50-over tournament after him, the Roy Sweeney Challenge Cup. Besides the ICC award and the Hall of Fame recognition, he earned a number of medals and honors including the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award.
Mr. Sweeney always stepped forward to help cricketers in need. In 2002, when former West Indies Test player Winston Davis was left paralyzed from the waist down, Mr. Sweeney not only visited Davis in hospital, he raised money for him.
Mr. Sweeney was passionate about non-cricketing causes as well. He was Chairman of the Little People Child Development Center in his neighborhood and spent a lot of time with children.
Roy Sweeney is survived by his wife Ola, sons Rasheen and Tony, and daughter Audrey.