|Born||6 June 1938 Sion Mills, Co Tyrone|
|Educated||Sion Mills PES|
|Debut||1 July 1959 v Lancashire at College Park|
|Style||Right-hand bat, wicket keeper|
|Teams||Sion Mills, RUC, Brigade|
|History||Ossie Colhoun is ranked among the very best of Ireland's wicket keepers: many well respected judges would place him first of all. It was not always thus. His initial selection was heavily criticised. He was derided as, "a mere stopper" who "snatched at the ball."It was written that his tenure behind the stumps would not be a long one. Instead he became a brilliant gloveman, spoken of by some in the same breath as his hero Godfrey Evans, whose talent for reviving flagging spirits on a bad day he shared. He ha s been described as "the first of the moderns," geeing up his bowlers in a manner Adam Gilchrist would approve, and never being short of a word or two to say to the batsman. Particularly good on the leg side, he stood up to bowlers of the pace of Roy Torrens and to the difficult medium fast deliveries of Dougie Goodwin. At least one County expressed an interest in him during the 1960s, but, unfortunately, nothing came of it.|
He is often seen as having been a negligible batsman, one of nature's numbers 11's. This may have been a self fostered image, for, wrote Clarence Hiles, "He rated his batting far better than he wanted others to know."A successful opener at club level. He had a sound defence, and, though he made a McGrath like 17 ducks for Ireland, was often an obdurate night watchman.
He was "barely out of short trousers," when he made his debut for Sion Mills, for whom he played for 25 seasons, interspersed with a brief sojourn with RUC and a final, strange, decamp to Brigade. Lethal in combination with bowlers such as great left armer John Flood and quality off spinner Ray Moan, he had the ability of the really good keeper to make other, ordinary, bowlers look high class. From his earliest days he was a key part in any Sion Mills success. Thus at 16 in 1955 in the NWCU Cup Final v holders Eglinton, he held a vital catch and made a smart stumping off Flood as his opponents set only 69 to win crashed for 32. Later in 1972, he had 6 victims in the match, including 2 stumpings, as Flood and Moan spun Strabane to a 72 run defeat. He was tactically very astute, being an excellent captain both of his club, and of the North West in the Guinness Cup.
Only 1.76% of the runs conceded by Ireland when he was behind the stumps were byes: a remarkable statistic, particularly when it is remembered that he kept on some sub standard wickets to varied attacks. One of his lasting achievements was to be one of the few wicket keepers to stump Len Hutton in a first class match. The great Sir Leonard believed in playing slow bowlers from the crease. Only 20 of the 723 times he was dismissed were stumpings. The last of all, on a cold September day, in College Park, was by Ossie off the bowling of fellow North Westerner Scott Huey. It was the maestro's last first class innings, depriving him, as he had reached 89, of his 130th hundred.
Even in Ossie's last match v Fred Millet's XI at Ormeau in 1979, after which he went into self imposed retirement from International cricket, he was seen at his best. He made 5 dismissals, including, wrote the late Sean Pender, "A catch and a stumping which for sheer magic matched the best of the 185." His batting for Ireland also had its moments. He shared in a 9th wicket stand of 73 with Ivan Anderson (198*) at Toronto in 1973 and 79 at Lord's, with Simon Corlett in 1973, when he made 36*, his best for Ireland. Coming in as night watchman at 5 v MCC at Castle Avenue in 1970, he helped Gerry Duffy add 105 for the 4th wicket. It was no fault of his that the Leinster all rounder fell 8 short of a much coveted 100 for Ireland. MCC used 9 bowlers in the innings.
Off the cricket field Ossie was a competent footballer, keeping goal for RUC for several seasons. He was also in much demand as an entertainer, his double act with Roy Torrens being much admired. Clarence Hiles has summed him up better than this writer could hope to do, "He was a legend in his time, a wonderful character and an exceptional cricketer."
He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats" and is the subject of a special section in Clarence Hiles "A History of Senior Cricket in Ulster."
Edward Liddle, May 2007
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