|Born||30 December 1966, Strabane, Co Tyrone|
|Educated||Strabane High School|
|Debut||15 July 1992 v England ECB XI at Eglinton|
|Style||Left-hand bat, right arm off breaks|
Desmond Curry, variously known also as Des, Dessie or Dekker, is one of the most destructive batsmen in the long history of Irish cricket. Left handed and a sweet timer of the ball, he hit with devastating power, using all the strokes at his command. Preferring the No 1 spot the majority of his reputed over 30000 runs in NW Cricket and many hundreds, believed as the 2013 season looms to number 92, have been innings of tremendous power, with six hitting achievements to make the shades of Gilbert Jessop, George Bonnor and other legends of the game, applaud with vigour. |
It is greatly to his credit that, as he is now but a boundary hit away from yet another half century - in years this time - he proved to be in great demand, when Limavady had to withdraw from senior competitive cricket. Not only was his batting still sought after, but his off spin bowling was also highly valued as clubs with a geographical range from Tobermore to Terenure sought his signature.
A prominent schoolboy cricketer, Desmond followed his elder brother Billy into the Donemana side in his early teens - making 69 making 69 against Eglinton. He also shone for the North West Under 15 side in the Smurfitt Interprovincial Trophy. In 1980 at Kimmage he had a Man of the Match performance as North West beat the NCU by four wickets. He helped them to recover from 63-6 to 150 all out with an aggressive 24, than took 3-17 as NCU fell for 118. He also made 30 against Munster at Cabra, as the ICU Yearbook reported, "D Curry kept cropping up." He was outstanding again the following year, with another M-O-M all round performance against Munster and a fine 46 against NCU to help gain a 46 runs victory.
He had three seasons in the North West U19 side, again turning in several front rank performances, vying with Keith Finlay as the side's most successful batsman. His highest score 69 came against Munster at The Mardyke in 1982 when North West racked up 296-4, James McBrine and John Gillespie also being in the runs. Munster just held out for a draw despite the other McBrine twin taking 4-5. Desmond's best bowling in the three seasons was 4-12 against Ulster Country at Ballymena in 1984. The following day against South Leinster at Limavady, he made 55 then took 3-29 to seal a 44 runs victory.
He made his name, on a wider stage, with the successful Donemana team of the 1980s and early 90s, being in the side for eight of their nine successive League titles, accompanied by four Cup triumphs. Among his many memorable innings for the Club, we may look at three which give the essential flavour of his cricket. In 1984, when still several months short of his 18th birthday, he hit two centuries. Against Crindle in early June, Donemana raced to 339-7, with, according to Billy Platt, "a fine 138 from D Curry." The match was won by 176 runs. Then in mid-August another big win was achieved at Coleraine's expense, with Donemana posting 348-9, their master blaster this time reaching a belligerent 183 with 17 fours and 11 sixes. Such innings were to become almost commonplace.
His last season at The Holm, which brought the Club its eighth successive League success, saw an astonishing innings against Bready. In a 40 over match Donemana scored 366-2, with Desmond not out at the end on 230, having hit 25 fours and 17 sixes, 87.82% of his runs in boundaries. He was thus only 4 runs short of passing Donald Shearer's North West senior record 233 made for City of Derry against Killaloo in the second round of the Cup in 1933. Don, incidentally, was also in big hitting mood. Reaching three figures in 63 minutes he hit altogether 35 fours and 5 sixes. Dekker, who was unaware of the proximity of the record, did not have strike during the last over.
His somewhat controversial move to the John Hunter Field for the 1993 season, as the Limavady professional, began a series of remarkable all round performances in which 1000 runs and 50 wickets became almost the norm. Few others in Irish cricket have achieved such dominance. Comparisons with Bob Lambert of Leinster come to mind but Bob's greatest years, when he twice scored 2000 runs and took 200 wickets, were in the more leisurely days of pre 1914 cricket when most of the matches were two day affairs and Bob, whose animal patients seem to have been treated in much the same way as Dr Watson's fictitious human ones, often managed two or even three a week. Desmond's move was also to spell the end, after one further season, of Donemana's dominance of the North West circuit; Limavady soon showed which side was going to take over. Both as player and captain Dekker was to be a key figure at the John Hunter Field.
Desmond's most famous innings for Limavady was undoubtedly against CYM at Terenure in the 1998 Irish Senior Cup. Hitting 260* with 14 fours and 11 sixes he saw Limavady to a massive 373-5 declared. The innings was closed after 48 overs as CYM were running out of balls! Until surpassed by Dean McCarter's 274 for Killyclooney v Sion Mills in 2009, it was the highest score made in Irish competitive cricket. It remains the highest in the ISC surpassing Mark Harper's 194 (Sion Mills v Lurgan 1984) and his own 182 v Donemana in 1997. It also remains, if a reputed triple hundred by a nameless English sailor at Kinsale in the late 19th Century is accepted as genuine, the fifth highest score ever made in Ireland.
Other feats, which Gerard Siggins has described as "Bradmanesque", include three further double centuries, the most memorable, perhaps, also at the expense of his former team-mates when he hit a blistering 126 balls 205 out of 334-5 in a NW Cup semi-final in 2003, including 22 fours and 10 sixes. He was, of course, Man of the Match also taking three wickets and holding two slip catches, he has, incidentally, few superiors in that vital position. As Ritchie Kelly has pointed out, Desmond holds two further records which, one imagines are unlikely to be equalled. He is the only player to have scored a century in every round of the NW Senior Cup in the same season, achieving this feat in 1999, when his most spectacular effort was in the first round against Strabane when he hit 14 fours and 10 sixes from 138 balls. He averaged 117 in the Cup that season and totalled 1903 runs in all competitive matches besides taking over 50 wickets.
He is also the only man to have scored a century in each innings of a Cup Final, this being achieved in 2002 when he twice made 108 against Bready, despite hostile bowling by Boyd Rankin, who, like Dekker took 3 wickets in each innings. Despite Boyd's heroics one imagines that the adjudicator had little trouble in making his M-O-M decision. We might also note that no other cricketer in the North West has approached Desmond's number of Britannia Player of the Year awards. When he was joined by his son Dean, the Curry family provided two essential members of the team.
Unfortunately, Desmond's career has never been short of l incidents, the most notorious of which in domestic cricket occurred during a Bob Kerr Irish Cup match against Instonians at Limavady on 11 June 2011. Following his controversial dismissal early in the Limavady innings, he was alleged to have assaulted Instonians player Andrew White at the tea interval. He denied this but admitted dissent, abuse of cricket equipment and bad language. He was banned for a year but, though his subsequent appeal failed, the ban was later changed to run only until the start of the following (2012) season. Some felt that he would retire from the game after this but, though he had talked about such a move some years previously, he showed no signs of doing so. Instead, as we have seen, he is set to be a key member of the Strabane side in the years ahead.
On the representative front, Dekker was, of course, an essential part of the North West interprovincial side when available, though he, perhaps, did not always produce the form expected of him. He did, however, have a number of successful matches. His most spectacular innings was against Ulster Country at Strabane in 1994, a season in which he also made a half century against Ulster Town at Newforge. At Strabane the visitors were dismissed for 163. Then Dekker took charge. Opening with Bobby Rao he so dominated an opening stand that, when the Test man was dismissed without scoring, 33 runs were on the board. Dekker continued in this vein before being stumped off Garfield Harrison for the board to read 56 - 2 - last man 53! He had some impressive all round performances also. For example against Munster two years later he had 4-24, before storming to 49* as the North westerners won by 6 wickets.
He represented Ireland, briefly, at both U19 and U23 level and also played six non cap matches for Ireland, scoring two fifties for the national side. The higher was a robust 61 from 63 balls against a Northern Invitation XI in South Africa in 2001. Hitting 7 fours and 2 sixes at No 3, he was eventually stumped off future Test batsman Jacques Rudolph. Despite his efforts the match was narrowly lost. He was also a member of the Northern Ireland side in the Commonwealth Games of 1998, but, in company with most of his team-mates, found the opposition and conditions very testing.
In his prime Dekker was undoubtedly the best batsman in Ireland, yet his record is somewhat modest for such an outstanding player. He was not always available for selection or for training sessions. He played 50 matches, captaining the side once, totalling 1193 runs at 27.11 with one century and nine fifties. These figures stand up well against those of many of his contemporaries but are perhaps less than might have been expected of him. His hundred was made against the Earl of Arundel's XI at the picturesque Arundel ground in 2001. Ireland got off to a terrible start but had recovered marginally to 75-4 when Desmond came in. He was to face only 72 balls in a 111 minutes stay, hitting 5 sixes and 6 fours. His seventh wicket partnership with Connor Armstrong was worth 60 of which he made 49, though the Fingal man is hardly a slouch with the bat. Ireland totalled 234 but found their hosts in excellent batting form. The match was lost by 8 wickets. The following day Dekker was back home, making a run a ball hundred to bring his club to a one wicket win over Brigade in the first round of the Senior Cup!
He did well for Ireland in the European Championships of 1996 and again in the ICC trophy at Kuala Lumpur early in the following year when Ireland narrowly failed to qualify for the 1999 World Cup. He made 291 runs at 36.37 with 3 fifties and a strike rate of 87.96. The third highest run scorer in the tournament, he also took 7 wickets and was picked out by John Elder as one of Ireland's two stand out players of the tournament. The other was Neil Doak. His highest score was a remarkable 65* against Singapore which, in partnership with Andy Patterson (44*) brought Ireland a 10 wicket win. Destroying the opposition attack, he faced 32 balls, hitting 4 sixes and six fours. We should also note that his fifties in the first two matches of the competition brought him to four in succession following his last two innings in the European Championship.
However what was undoubtedly his best innings for Ireland came against Middlesex at Castle Avenue in a late April Benson and Hedges Cup match. Opening the batting after Ireland had been put in, he went for the bowling from the start Simon Cook, in his first match for the County, felt the full force of Dekker's bat while bowlers of the quality of Angus Fraser and Phil Tufnell also suffered. Fraser later said that seeing Desmond's build and being aware of his occupation, they decided not to sledge him! Facing 93 balls he hit 3 sixes and 5 fours before falling to off spinner Paul Weekes for a famous 75. Ireland's overseas player Hansie Cronje, not yet a tarnished figure, produced a fine all round performance to set up a first competitive victory over a county by 48 runs, but it was Dekker, deservedly, who took the Gold Award.
Unfortunately a dispute with coach Mike Hendrick later in the season saw him out of the side until 2001 when the former New Zealand captain Ken Rutherford regarded him as an essential part of Ireland's bid for World Cup qualification. His Arundel innings and a superb 95*, opening the innings, against Papua New Guinea at Toronto, seemed to justify his recall. He hit 3 sixes and 4 fours against PNG putting on 130 for the second wicket with Dom Joyce as Ireland cruised to victory. Unfortunately another player/coach dispute followed and a very public one at that. Rutherford, by no means Ireland's best coach or man manager, wanted him to bat at 5 in the next match. Desmond argued with him and evidently pushed him. Though he apologised for his actions both he and the ICU officials decided that he should return home immediately. He was later banned until the end of the season. He was later named in a 30 man training squad but was never to play for Ireland again.
When the controversies surrounding him have been forgotten, John Desmond Curry will long be remembered, particularly in his native North West, for his magnificently destructive batting, capable off spin, which brought him 33 wickets for Ireland, and high class slip fielding. The future remains, at the time of writing, an exciting prospect.
He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats" and in an article by Ritchie Kelly available on this site. I am indebted to both these studies.
Edward Liddle, April 2013
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