The Association of Sports Journalists in Ireland this week honoured the Ireland cricket team which, in 1969, beat the West Indies at Sion Mills, Co Tyrone.
Their annual ASJI Legends’ Lunch at the Croke Park Hotel was attended by a large number of distinguished guests who included 1956 Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Ronnie Delany and rugby legend Ollie Campbell.
Four members of the Ireland team that beat West Indies that famous day were honoured, captain Dougie Goodwin of Malahide, Old Belvedere all-rounder Alec O’Riordan, and the Waringstown batsmen Michael Reith and Ivan Anderson. David Pigot junior attended to represent his late father, the Phoenix opening batsman.
Also present were several of their contemporary international cricketers, including Michael Halliday, Chris Harte, Stan Mitchell and David Ensor. Cricket Ireland was represented by President David O’Connor, former president Robin Walsh, chief executive Warren Deutrom, media and communications manager Craig Easdown, office manager Brenda Hand, head of operations Mary O’Brien and marketing manager Niamh O’Shea.
Fifty years ago the Ireland attack of O’Riordan and Goodwin bowled the tourists out for just 25 runs in the first innings; Goodwin finishing with figures of 5-6 with O’Riordan taking 4-18. In reply, Ireland declared on 125-8. The Windies could only manage to notch 78-4 before the close of play and the most unlikely of victories was complete.
The players took part in a question and answer session with journalist Ger Siggins which also featured questions from the diners.
Speaking at the event, O’Riordan acknowledged the role the conditions played in helping defeat a West Indies side which included household names such as Basil Butcher and Clive Lloyd.
“The ground was just about playable; the outfield was very soft, it was a slow wicket and the wind also played a part”, he said. "In fact, the visitors found the Irish conditions virtually unplayable.
“We played well, but they couldn’t cope with the lack of pace in what was totally alien conditions for them”, O’Riordan said.
Perhaps surprisingly, O’Riordan does not regard that day as the highlight of his 20- year career with Ireland. That would come some years later, in his final match for his country.
“The highlight of my career was when I captained Ireland to victory over Sussex in a full three-day game in Pagham in 1977”, he explained. “Sussex, who were full-time professionals, played a full county side including Imran Khan, who scored a century”, he said, adding: “It was a seriously contested match and Sussex were very disappointed at the result, but they took it well”.
Commenting on the decision to honour the heroes of Sion Mills, ASJI President, Paul Lennon, said it was a team he had wanted to recognise for some time.
“For a long time I have thought that this team deserved to have their achievement celebrated by ASJI and I am delighted that, during my first year as president, they have joined the long list of legends we have chosen to honour”, he said.