17 July 2022
I attended the Irish Senior Cup quarter final at The Vineyard between The Hills and Lisburn. The “word on the street” was that Faiz Fazal, Lisburn’s overseas player, was a superb cricketer, but it was also emphasised that Lisburn’s cricket team was far from being a one-man band. The Hills welcomed back Murray Commins after a long absence through injury, and it was hoped that his return would provide an extra impetus after the disappointing defeat against Clontarf on the previous day. Lisburn won the toss, batted first, and accumulated 248 runs all out in 41 overs. In reply, The Hills ended on 215 runs which was a deficit of 33 runs. During the course of the afternoon, I renewed acquaintance with Robert Rankin who had featured on Ireland Youth teams, and I also had a long conversation with Dean Simpson, who has done such great work on the ground at Lisburn CC.
Figure 1 Dean Simpson
18 July 2022
With all the talk of breakfasts and what is perceived to be an advocacy of an unhealthy lifestyle, it is appropriate that we publish a photograph of Joe and Margaret Curtis after they had completed the Parkrun at Newbridge House. We salute Margaret and Joe who serve as a reproach to some of us.
Figure 2 Joe and Margaret Curtis
19 July 2022
Deryck Vincent has commenced work on the Clontarf Cricket Club’s Archives, and already he has collated a selection of fixture cards, minute books, registers of members, scrapbooks etc which will be a wonderful sports and social history resource when the cataloguing is completed.
I called into North County to deposit some material in the Archive, and I met with John Andrews and Eddie Richardson. The forthcoming local derby between North County and The Hills was the main topic of conversation, and John Andrews asked that I ensure there was a good supply of Heineken on tap at The Vineyard on Friday evening. In keeping with the spirit of détente, I’m attaching one of Joe Curtis’s photos which was taken at The Vineyard in July 2005.
20 July 2022
Three days of cricket in a row was a bit of a stretch in terms of planning permissions, so we gave the Ireland versus New Zealand a miss on Monday but travelled to Stormont on Wednesday for the second game in the T20 series. The highlight of my day was the Gourmet Burger which I enjoyed in Sage and Stone in the company of Michael Dwyer, Martin Russell, David O’Connor, before we set out for Belfast. In the interests of balance, it is appropriate to report that David O’Connor opted for the Chicken Caesar salad.
It is a struggle to stay positive regarding the cricket because in a very disappointing performance, Ireland lost to New Zealand by 88 runs. Every so often, all that can be said is that the better team won, and the aspiration had to be for an appreciable improvement from Ireland on Friday in the third T20.
22 July 2022
While cricket and politics were also discussed, the main topic of conversation during this morning’s Zoom meeting was the relative merits of different brands of gilets. Joe Curtis is the proud possessor of a gilet, complete with a power pack, and Michael Gavin has a Barbour gilet which he displayed on screen. Between cricket, music, food and high fashion, my store of knowledge is increasing on an incremental basis, and shortly, I may have to adopt the Matt Dwyer methodology and “declutter” the brain each evening for fear of an overload.
I went out to The Vineyard early because I knew that parking would be at a premium for the sold-out clash between those great rivals, The Hills, and North County in the semi-final of the Alan Murray Cup which is sponsored by LHK Insurance Group. Joe Curtis was one of early arrivals with a new copy of the 500, 000 images which my laptop had stopped reading, and I am deeply indebted to Joe for his patience and kindness. Paul Mooney who is home on vacation from New Zealand was another very welcome spectator, and he was joined by some of his former team-mates on North County and Ireland teams. Paschal Henchy had arrived home from Lanzarote and was wearing a burnt orange polo shirt which suggests that he is taking fashion advice from Michael Dwyer.
North County won the toss, elected to bat first, and lost a wicket in the first over when there were only 2 runs on the board. Worse was to follow when the talismanic Malcolm Nofal was run out when there were 6 runs on the board. John Mooney’s wicket was taken in the third over, and North County never recovered from those early setbacks. Eddie Richardson (32) was the only batsman to offer any resistance to a fired-up Hills’ bowling attack of Dylan Blignaut (3 for 13), Jonathan Tall, (3 for 14), Levon Shields, (2 for 21), Ashley Bain, (1 for 18), and Tomás Rooney- Murphy who bowled 2 overs for 5 runs. The Hills fielded superbly with two catches each for Mark Donegan and Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin while Dylan Blignaut effected the crucial run-out of Nofal with a direct hit on the stumps. North County’s total was 78 runs, but many games between Fingal teams are won with low scores so there was no room for complacency among The Hills’ players or supporters.
During the innings break, the equal opportunities policy of The Hills CC was again demonstrated to its fullest extent, with the President of Cricket Leinster and the President of The Hills CC rolling the wicket. This rare occurrence brought to mind the old Irish proverb, “an rud is annamh is iontach – what’s seldom is wonderful”.
In its reply, The Hills lost Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin’s wicket when there were 17 runs on the board, but that was the last success which North County enjoyed. Levon Shields (20*) and Murray Commins (46*) did all that was required to give The Hills a morale-boosting victory in 9.3 overs, and they could look forward to a meeting with Clontarf in the final at Sydney Parade on 1 August.
23 July 2022
The weather forecast for the day wasn’t too promising, but we set off for the Phoenix Park more in hope than in expectation of cricket being played. Ruaidhri Smith, the Glamorgan and Scotland player, made his debut for Phoenix and he was to have a significant impact on proceedings with his ability to cause the ball to swing off a length. The Hills won the toss, elected to bat first, and the proverbial “bit in the wicket” made batting a very problematic activity. Smith took 4 wickets for 11 runs in 7.1 overs, and the Hills ended on 131 runs, with Dylan Blignaut being the top scorer on 38 runs. In addition to Smith, Nicolaas Pretorius, the former Hills’ player, made a significant contribution for Phoenix by taking 5 catches behind the stumps.
During the innings break, the consensus among The Hills’ players was that 131 runs was a competitive total, but the key to the second innings was to take the wicket of Pretorius before he managed to make a significant score. The Hills’ bowling attack rose to the challenge magnificently, and Phoenix was bowled out for 103 runs. Tomás Rooney-Murphy took 5 wickets for 44 runs in 10 overs; Dylan Blignaut took 3 wickets for 12 runs in 6.1 overs, Ashley Bain’s figures were 1 for 24 and Jonathan Tall took 1 wicket for 22 runs in 10 overs, and The Hills had won what one of the umpires described as a “good old-fashioned game of cricket” by 28 runs.
Figure 3 Tomás Rooney-Murphy
After the innings break, a very pleasant lunch was sponsored by Stan Mitchell, Founder, and Robert Mitchell, Managing Director of Dublin Grass Machinery. The guests included representatives of The Hills CC (Michael Dwyer, Bobby Swarbrigg, Paschal Henchy), some members of the Executive of Phoenix CC and members of past Phoenix teams such as Alf Masood, Gerry Murphy, David Ensor, Gordon Black, Michael Brown, Michael Fanagan, John Mullins, John Ford, Aidan O’Byrne, Niall Black, Aidan Chester, Eamonn Mullan and Des McManamly. (Thanks to Michael Brown for providing the names, any omissions are due to an inability to read my own handwriting). We had salmon steak, a cornucopia of mixed vegetables (I’m using that collective noun because my culinary education does not extend to being able to name all the vegetables) and Duke of York potatoes. There was a slight miscommunication regarding Mr Mitchell’s instructions to have his prized Duke of York potatoes boiled, and they were roasted instead. In his opinion, this process deprived the potatoes of their rich floury texture, but by way of compensation, he led the assemblage in a rousing rendition of “The Grand Old Duke of York, he had 10 thousand men etc”. Thanks to Ms Jackie Cahill, we had a beautiful Strawberry Pavlova for dessert; Stan Mitchell thanked the guests for attending, Michael Dwyer replied on behalf of the Hills CC, and I add my personal thanks to Stan and Robert for the hospitality and the lovely lunch.
Figure 4 Stan Mitchell
24 July 2022
I went to The Vineyard for the YMCA Salver Section D game between The Hills 2 and Leinster 3. The bowling star for The Hills was Sam Smyth who took 4 wickets for 21 runs in 4 overs; Leinster scored 110 all out, and The Hills reached the target in 10.2 overs, with Mark Dwyer scoring 57* and Bhavesh Lakhotia scoring 30*.
The next game was scheduled for 5.00 p.m. and during the lengthy break between games, Miranda Andrews decided to untangle the fairy lights in preparation for Christmas with the assistance of Tomás Rooney-Murphy, and under the supervision of Martin Russell, President-Elect. I didn’t wait for the game between The Hills 3 and DLR County 1 because I was hoping to attend at least three days of cricket in the coming week, and I deemed it politically expedient to return home early in the pursuit of Brownie points.
25 July 2022
Three days of cricket in a row became four days in a row because I had a text message from Brian Walsh, President-elect of the NCU, to say that he would be attending an U13 inter-regional game in Ring Commons on Monday. After some high-level negotiations, and a slight adjustment to the timing of the shopping expedition schedule, I was able to head out for Ring Commons. Unfortunately, the game was very one-sided, but I had the privilege of witnessing 107 runs being scored by Lorcan Craik of Knockharley CC and Leinster. It was nice to speak with Brian, Anne, and Helen Walsh, Terry Bruton, Martin Russell, Mary and Joseph Clinton, Barbara Thornton, Albert Harper, Brían O'Rourke and Fintan McAllister.
Figure 5, Brian Walsh
27 July 2022
I met with my friends, Martin Russell, John, and Anna Morgan, for the first of the IP20 Festival games at Sydney Parade. We saw two wonderful games in which the batsmen were on top throughout. Murray Commins (102) and Tyrone Kane (66) starred for the Munster Reds while George Dockrell’s magnificent 68 from 18 balls enabled the Lightning to chase down 220 runs with 9 balls to spare. (In the evening, I had a note from Brian Stirling referring to the wonderful knock by Murray Commins, and he wondered if I might headline the blog, “The Second Commins?” Thanks, Brian).
In response to the many queries regarding what I had for breakfast, I decided against having a cooked breakfast this morning and I enjoyed instead the lovely chicken curry followed by a fruit salad which was provided by Bhawna Byrne. During the interval, I met with Wim Jansen, Pembroke’s overseas player for 1995-1996 seasons, and we talked about the 1996 Leinster Senior Cup Final between The Hills and Pembroke which was staged at The Vineyard and won by The Hills. Eddie Dwyer could not remember that game too well, but he had a much clearer recollection of the 1997 Senior Cup Final between The Hills and Pembroke which Pembroke won!
In the second game, there were solid contributions from Stephen Doheny (52), Nathan McGuire (71) and Andrew McBrine (39) to give the North-West Warriors a competitive total of 204 runs, but a brilliant 111 runs by Ross Adair enabled the Northern Knights to chase down the score in 17.4 runs. This was a most entertaining day’s cricket in which almost 850 runs were scored, and in addition to the players, it is appropriate to pay tribute to the groundsman for the preparation of a wicket that produced almost 850 runs.
28 July 2022
Back to Sydney Parade for the second series of games, and it was broadly similar to the previous day in terms of the lovely food provided by Bhawna Byrne and people present except that Joey Mooney joined us. However less balls were lost, and Paschal Henchy was wearing a salmon-coloured polo shirt. In the first game, the Munster Reds won the toss, and elected to field. There were significant contributions from John Matchett (83) and James McCollum (50), and the Northern Knights ended on 228 runs. The Munster Reds’ reply had a disastrous start with Murray Commins, yesterday’s centurion, being out first ball. Fionn Hand with 28 runs was the top scorer for Munster Reds; 8 batsmen were out to catches, and there were two run outs. The margin of victory was 99 runs, and that was to have an impact on the destination of the trophy in terms of net run rate.
During this game, a phone call which distracted John Morgan almost resulted in him being hit by a ball which struck the wall right beside him. Philip Smith, General Manager of Cricket Leinster, was on the phone to Matthew, his son, who was in London, and this near miss caused consternation in two capital cities.
In the second game between Leinster Lightning and North -West Warriors, Lightning batted first, and we had a repeat of yesterday’s fireworks with big scores from Lorcan Tucker (77), George Dockrell (69*), and Harry Tector (58*), and the Lightning finished with a total of 260 runs. Joey Mooney argued that a game of cricket was no longer a fair contest between bat and ball, and he suggested using a bowling machine instead of bowlers. Ironically, in the light of those comments, the Lightning bowlers produced the most disciplined performance that we had seen in the four games. Josh Little bowled superbly and took 3 wickets for 12 runs in 4 overs; Gavin Hoey took 3 wickets for 34 runs in 3 overs; George Dockrell took 2 wickets for 5 runs in 2 overs and Simi Singh took 1 wicket for 21 in 4 overs. Leinster Lightning won by 128 runs, and that set everything up very nicely for the last day of the tournament.
29 July 2022
Back to Sydney Parade for Day 3 of IP20 series in the company of John and Anna Morgan, David O’Connor, Martin Russell, Paschal Henchy, and Peter Searson. Paschal had a new shirt on because yesterday he had spilled blueberry yogurt on the salmon-coloured polo shirt. It was good to meet Brian Stirling, that great cricket enthusiast, who had taken the train from Belfast to Connolly Station, and then the DART to Sydney Parade.
In the first game, North-West Warriors won the toss and elected to bat. Stephen Doheny (58) and Andrew McBrine (32) were the only batsmen to make significant contributions in a final score of 165 runs. The bowling honours were shared by David Delany (3 for 17) and Curtis Campher (3 for 33). Munster Reds’ priority was to obtain a bonus point, and opening partnership of P J Moor (74) and Murray Commins (42) showed real intent. The first wicket did not fall until the score was 90 when Commins was out to a brilliant catch by Kennedy off his own bowling. Gareth Delany (25*) and Kevin O’Brien (18*) ensured that the target was reached in 14.1 overs when 16 overs were allowed.
In addition to the lovely chicken curry, fruit salad and yogurt which were provided by Bhwana Byrne, courtesy of Philip Smith and Michael Cotter of Cricket Leinster, we had tea from David O’Connor’s new flask which his wife had brought from Canada, sandwiches (courtesy of John and Anna Morgan), and doughnuts and lemon drizzle cake (courtesy of Martin Russell) later in the afternoon.
The interval between games gave us the opportunity to inspect the work which was being done on the house behind one of the sightscreens. Various theories were advanced regarding the nature of the extension – was it going to have solar panels? Was it going to be a dormer? Was the slope sufficient to allow rainwater to run off the roof? Joey Mooney wasn’t with us on this occasion so no definitive answers were forthcoming, but I hope to be back in Sydney Parade on Monday, and I will be in a better position to give an update. Just in passing I might add that the men working on the roof were in constant danger of being struck by one of the many six hits, and one shot almost knocked the blow torch out of a roofer’s hands.
Before the second game commenced, the statisticians were at work, and it was announced that Leinster Lightning needed to better the Reds’ score in 16 overs in order to gain the win and bonus point. The Knights won the toss and decided to bat, but its batsmen were confronted by the best bowling attack in the competition. Carmichael (26), Rock (22) and Mayes (20) were the only batsmen to make any kind of significant scores and the Knights were bowled out for 96 runs. Barry McCarthy (4 for 18), Dockrell (3 for 13), Singh (2 for 26), and Little (1 for 18) were the successful wicket-takers, and they were supported by fielders who had not dropped a catch throughout the week. Andrew Balbirnie (52) and Harry Tector (28*) ensured that the target was achieved with the minimum of fuss in 10.2 overs.
During the three days of the IP20 Festival, we saw very good cricket with some powerful ball-striking, good fielding and the Leinster bowling in the last two games was superb. The attendances continued to be low due to the fact that the games are being played midweek, but such is the pressure on grounds at weekends, it is very difficult to see any other time that the games could be played. It would be interesting however to ascertain the numbers which are following the games on the livestream and /or on the online commentaries because a composite figure would give a greater indication of the level of interest in the Interprovincial tournaments. Pembroke CC continues to do a wonderful job in hosting the games, and we are indebted to all involved for their efficiency and courtesy.
The weather forecast for the day was poor so in a very magnanimous gesture, I announced that I would not go to any cricket and that the household would have the benefit of my presence for the entire day. This announcement was greeted with a serious amount of scepticism because at that stage it was spilling rain, and accordingly, I did not receive any credit for my exercise in self-denial. The morning was not devoid of cricket-related activity because I did an interview with Fergus Carrol on NEAR FM, and later in day, I had a chat about a range of cricket matters with Albert Harper, that great Balbriggan CC stalwart.
It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that the next fortnight will be less busy, but all I can say is that it is a great pleasure to be able to go to cricket and to enjoy the company of like-minded people.