It's back to 1985 when Downpatrick beat North Down in an all-NCU contest to continue the Northern domination of the Irish Senior Cup.

Cricket though wasn't to the forefront of the Linehans as Paul, one of three of the famous Downpatrick cricketing family recalled of the time.

"1985 was a terribly wet summer. Crops lay flat in the fields from the constant pounding of the rain. As a family of farmers it was an extremely difficult time.

"In between the deluges we managed to scramble our way to the first Irish Senior Cup final and emerged victorious – a rare moment of sunshine that year."

The competition was dogged by the elements, as North Down skipper Robin Haire also recalled.

"We faced our semi-final at home to St Johnston, but there was a problem. We always hosted the Junior Cup final which was a two days contest, with two innings of 50 overs each. The decider was Ards v Dunmurry.

"Once you bowled a ball you continued to a finish, and that final lasted three weeks because of bad weather. Only one pitch was covered and playable on square for that time so after consulting with both the NCU and ICU we were allowed to play our semi-final against St Johnston while the Junior Cup game was still only half completed."

For Paul Linehan, then a teenager still at school, the memories of 35 years ago are still vivid.

"It was my first year in the 1st XI, playing alongside my father, Hugh, and uncle Alfie.

"They were 47 and 46 years young at that time and still playing well. In fact, the following year, in the same competition, I sat in amazement watching Alfie blast a ton against a Bangor with John Elder leading the attack, having opened the bowling for Ireland versus Australia earlier that summer in front of 5000 people at Downpatrick.

"Anyway, Alfie smashed 9 huge sixes, all clearing the Strangford Road end. This was at a spritely age of 47. All of a sudden I realised the legendary tales of Alfie’s big hitting were true. Dad always said he hit the ball much further than anyone else. That innings remains the most memorable I have seen from a Downpatrick player."

1985 saw the ICU as it was then bring in bowl-outs to decide washed-out contests, with all 22 players trying to hit the stumps in a shoot-out.

In the first round Downpatrick faced Leinster and of the 22 players who aimed, only one was successful - the aforementioned Alfie Linehan.

"So back to 1985. It’s worth mentioning that that year saw the introduction of the infamous bowl-out. We scraped through the first round v Leinster, 1-0, with all 22 players bowling. Who hit the stumps? Alfie...

Downpatrick had reached the final after a famous win in the lions den of Donemana, with Brian Ferris and Jim Patterson smashing unbeaten 50’s in an emphatic victory.

"There was a lot of publicity surrounding the Irish Senior Cup which at that time was sponsored by Schweppes," said Paul. "In the years that followed, just like the inter-pros played for the Guinness Cup, everyone simply called the competition ‘the Schweppes’. In more recent times, the Ulster Cup was known as ‘the Clubturf’.

"Before the final, BBC TV sent a crew down to interview some of us, and ironically record us bowling at the stumps. It was still raining. It took us ages to hit the stumps. I got abuse at school...

"Needless to say, the original final was washed out without a bowl bowled and the miserable summer continued. It was desperately disappointing after a week of huge anticipation."

There was a toss, for the venue of the replay, conducted over the phone between the two captains Ian Shields and Derek McCann, which was won by Downpatrick, with the final scheduled for midweek - Wednesday September 11th, when Haire (pictured below) recalled the conditions weren't really fit for cricket.

"Downpatrick had actual puddles of water on parts of outfield.

"My abiding memory of that final was the spray of the water when you hit it along the ground. It was totally unplayable, but the authorities wanted it played and out of the way, nowadays umpires would have said try tomorrow."

The decider itself proved to be a turgid, low-key affair, with little atmosphere and a contest which matched the gloomy conditions.

"We replayed the following Wednesday and then it just felt like a midweek league game," said Linehan.

"People were at work, there was no crowd to speak of, it was cold and it wasn’t much of a game. North Down batted first, we bowled and fielded brilliantly and they scraped to just 79. Karl Quinn (pictured below) and Philip Lennon each took three wickets, Jim Patterson two, while Brian Hodges and Brian Ferris got one apiece.

"We opened with Keith Malone and Derek McCann and I was due to come in three. I was a very nervous 16 year-old when I arrived at the wicket after they had put on 38. Keith was going well and I just needed to stay in.

"Anyway, desperate to get off the mark, I predicted Robin Haire was going to bowl me a long hop. I was right back on the stumps, ready to smash it, when he fired in a quicker ball which crashed into my ankles in front of middle. Out for a duck in the All-Ireland Cup Final. I was beyond devastated as cricket was everything to me.

"We eventually won by six wickets as our experienced side adopted a safety-first attitude taking no risks. Derek McCann (pictured below batting in the final) lifted the famous trophy and Downpatrick were All-Ireland champions."

There were to be no champagne celebrations for the teenager though.

"Unfortunately, I was too young to down a couple of beers, so it was straight back home after the final for Dad and I, two All-Ireland champions."

Six years later, Downpatrick would secure the trophy for the second time in one of the most thrilling encounters ever, overcoming North by three runs. There was to be no personal glory though for Paul Linehan as he missed out on the chance of redemption.

 "The disappointment of making a duck remains as I was never to play in another All-Ireland final, having been injured for the 1991 victory.

"However, all these years later, my 1985 medal is still very much a prized possession."

North Down Vs Downpatrick
1-Innings Match Played At The Meadow, Downpatrick, 11-Sep-1985, Irish Senior Cup
Downpatrick Win by 6 wkts

Round Final
Toss won by North Down
Home Side (neutral)
Player of Match P Lennon
Comment

North Down 1st Innings 79/10 All Out (Overs 46.4)

Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
I Shields   b P Lennon 9 0 0 0
I Carser   b TJT Patterson 0 0 0 0
J Gilliland   b B Ferris 16 0 0 0
Robin Haire c Derek McCann (Snr) b P Lennon 12 0 0 0
K Copeland c K Quinn b P Lennon 0 0 0 0
G Mowat c A Linehan b K Quinn 14 0 0 0
D Shields c B Ferris b TJT Patterson 0 0 0 0
M Quinn   b K Quinn 3 0 0 0
I Connolly c H Linehan b B Hodges 8 0 0 0
J Galway not out   4 0 0 0
K Boucher   b K Quinn 6 0 0 0
extras   (b0 lb4 w3 nb0) 7      
TOTAL   10 wickets for 79      
FOW
1-3 2-21 3-41 4-41 5-46 6-52 7-59 8-67 9-71 10-79
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
TJT Patterson 10 4 9 2 - -
P Lennon 10 0 22 3 - -
K Quinn 8.4 4 12 3 - -
B Hodges 8 1 24 1 - -
B Ferris 10 5 8 1 - -

Downpatrick 1st Innings 85/4 Closed (Overs 41.3)

Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
Derek McCann (Snr)+   b Robin Haire 22 0 0 0
K Malone   b J Galway 23 0 0 0
P Linehan   b Robin Haire 0 0 0 0
TJT Patterson   c&b J Gilliland 7 0 0 0
A Linehan not out   17 0 0 0
B Ferris not out   7 0 0 0
B Hodges dnb          
P Lennon dnb          
K Quinn dnb          
H Linehan dnb          
extras   (b4 lb3 w2 nb0) 9      
TOTAL   4 wickets for 85      
FOW
1-38 2-38 3-53 4-61
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
K Copeland 6 2 11 0 - -
Robin Haire 10 5 8 2 - -
J Galway 10 7 9 1 - -
K Boucher 4.3 2 18 0 - -
J Gilliland 10 0 26 1 - -
I Carser 1 0 6 0 - -