AS the controversial Moscow Olympics were drawing to a close in August 1980, another international drama of epic proportions began to unfold in the north-west of Ireland as club side Limavady pulled off one of cricket’s greatest coups.

Outsiders to win the NW cup final against highly-favoured Sion Mills, the Roesiders persuaded 21-year-old Kapil Dev, already one of the finest players in the world, to join their team for the showpiece decider.

The Indian legend was at the time one of a quartet of breathtaking all-rounders, alongside Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan, who could lay claim to being the best player on the planet.

Limavady’s skipper was Noel 'Coke' McMichael and he recalls how a cricketing god found himself in a County Derry market town for the 1980 final.

"Two of our rising stars were going to be missing,” McMichael said. “Ivan McMichael was playing for Irish Schools in their first ever match with English Schools, and Geoffrey Martin was on a rugby tour in England.

"We lacked depth and the next in line from our Second XI would have been Victor Semple who was old and not particularly mobile. We needed to bring somebody in and the 'Think Tank' got together to come up with a solution.

“Feelers were sent out to Irish international Ivan Anderson but nothing came of that. Then, through John Hunter's contacts, we heard that Kapil Dev was over in England to agree a deal to play for Nelson in the Lancashire League the following season.”

A Limavady delegation secretly flew to England and were successful in negotiating what was, for the times, a lucrative deal.

This isn't perhaps as surprising as it sounds given that Hunter had previously persuaded the West Indies touring side to play exhibition matches at Limavady.

"Two days before the final I heard that we had signed somebody and on Friday Kapil was introduced to the team. It was all very much cloak and dagger until the final agreement was in place," McMichael said.

"At that time registrations were very much looser than today and you could basically play anyone. There was no need to play a league match for the club either before playing in the cup.

"We had a net session the day before the final and John Hunter had parked his new black Mercedes half way up the hill. Kapil proceeded to smash the ball to all parts and the Merc was certainly within his range which caused a frantic scramble to put the car out of harm’s way.

"For someone so young to have so much power left us in awe - sheer timing, Kapil was simply majestic."

The young Indian had been recuperating from knee surgery but there was little sympathy from skipper McMichael, who made sure he bowled his full quota of 30 overs in the final.

"His arm action was so fast and he mixed up his pace very well, but he obviously came off a much shorter run but bowled superbly,” the Limavady skipper remembers.

There was a huge crowd at the game - word had got around that Kapil was playing so there were a lot of neutrals there to witness history. The pitch at Beechgrove was a batting paradise - the best in the region at the time.

Sion Mills also had an Indian in the line-up. Venkat Sunduram had a long first-class career with Delhi and was an experienced batsman. He scored 85 as Sion posted 192 for 8 - Kapil taking three wickets.

On the Monday Kapil and Norman McMichael shared a partnership of 168 as Limavady took a first-innings lead of 35. Sion battled after the early loss of Sundaram and were 143 for 8, leading by 108, when bad light stopped play.

What was shaping up to be a potentially tricky chase, ended in a fiasco as Sion didn't appear on time for the Tuesday restart.

"After play there was debate over the restart time for the Tuesday," said McMichael. “Sion indicated they weren't able to play at 2pm but we felt it was them playing mind games.

“There was a compromise time of 4pm reached by a NW emergency committee and we were informed of this when we were leaving Beechgrove.

"It wouldn't have been easy chasing anything around 150 on a fourth-innings wicket especially as they had bowlers of the calibre of John Beattie and Raymond Moan.

"It was such an anti-climax when we discovered Sion hadn't turned up. We still had to get changed and go out. Umpires Joe Peoples and Gerry McGahey put in the stumps and called play. I took the ball and ran in with no batsmen there. It was a charade and all their players were subsequently timed out.”

Despite the controversial ending, McMichael (pictured below with NW President Connie McAllister) has fond memories of Kapil and his Limavady team-mates enjoying the celebrations that followed.

"Kapil was a pleasure to captain. He was so affable and really laid back. I suppose he could relax as he had two of the best all-round cricketers in the world playing alongside him, my brother Norman and Billy Moore - well at least according to them. Three greats if you count me!

"We were starved of success at that time as Donemana, Brigade and Sion were winning everything. We had a lot of great characters in that team and the craic was 90 when we got back to our clubhouse with the cup.

"Kapil wasn't really a drinker - he had a few miniature bottles of white wine - but I can assure you the rest of the team made up for him!

"At one point in the evening Billy and Norman were telling Kapil where he was going wrong as a player and how he should watch them for pointers. Quite surreal thinking back.

"Norman wasn't short on confidence and announced that Kapil was the second-best all-rounder in world cricket behind himself, Norman, with Ian Botham a close third.

“Kapil signed Norman's bat: "To the best all-rounder in world cricket from number two, Kapil Dev."

In a glittering 131 Test career, he took 434 wickets, which saw him also make eight hundreds and 27 half centuries.

Three years later Kapil would be celebrating lifting another trophy, as he skippered underdogs India to World Cup glory at Lord’s against the previously dominant West Indies.

1980 NW Senior Cup Final

Sion Mills 192-8 (60 overs; V Sundaram 85, N Harpur 35, R Moan 22; B Martin 4-45, K Dev 3-63) and 143-8 (54.1 overs; T Hamilton 78; B Millar 2-41)

Limavady 227-6 (60 overs; Norman McMichael 86, K Dev 85; R Moan 3-63, J Beattie 2-53).