Jim Bennett (CricketEurope)
Balrothery Cricket Club
Cricket was introduced to Fingal in the 1820s by some of the owners of the Big Houses, and as the game grew in popularity during the 1860s and 1870s, cricket clubs were formed. Some of these clubs such as Malahide, Balbriggan and Rush continued to be heavily dependent on the patronage of the gentry for the use of a ground and playing equipment, but other clubs were formed in townlands where tenant farmers and farm workers were given access to a field by a supportive landowner for a few games of cricket during the season.
It was a source of considerable pride for the members of Balrothery CC that over the years they remained close to their rural roots and when the club was involved in the Irish Junior Cup competitions during the 1950s, the reports in the local press drew attention to the fact that the “club and players are mostly composed of farmers and farm workers as well as one schoolboy.”
This claim was reiterated in 1954 when Balrothery defeated Ballyclare in the semi-final of the Irish Junior Cup: It is of interest to note that the personnel of the Balrothery side are all farmers and farm workers and they all learned their cricket in their leisure hours on the village green.
Prior to the establishment of the Fingal League, it has only been possible to locate one reference to cricket being played in Balrothery when Knock CC defeated Balrothery CC on 23 June 1912 on a score of 115 to 35 runs. However, it cannot be assumed that there was no cricket in the area because teams tended to take the name of the townland in which the field was located, and there were at least 20 teams in the greater Balbriggan and Skerries area during this period.
Balrothery CC entered the Fingal League in 1928, and in its first year in league cricket, did reasonably well by finishing second in its section. In 1929, Balrothery opened its season with 2 friendly games. It played against Skerries on 14 April and lost on a score of 28 runs to 22. Its second friendly game was against Balbriggan, and Balrothery won an exciting game by 5 runs, but according to a local critic, the auguries for the season were not good. In a typically trenchant assessment of the overall standard, “the father of cricket in Balbriggan said that it would take five years for any of the players to be a perfect cricketer.”
While the quest for perfection in any aspect of human activity is a laudable if somewhat chimerical enterprise, the sentiments expressed were an accurate assessment of Balrothery’s season, because it finished second last in its section with an overall record of 12 games played, won 4 and lost 8. It may be deduced from the league table that batting was a problem because only 310 runs were scored for the season, and this works out at an average of slightly less than 26 runs per game.
At the AGM of the Fingal League in 1930, there was a wave of optimism with representatives of 25 clubs present which if it had translated into entrants to the Fingal League would have constituted an increase of 10 teams by comparison with the 1929 season, but by the commencement of the season, only 19 teams had entered the League. The new teams were Portrane Psychiatric Hospital, the British Legion, Man-O-War and Oldtown. On 3 May 1930, Balrothery played the British Legion, and won on a score of 15 runs to 11. This result suggested that the batting woes of the previous season were still an issue, but on this occasion, the Drogheda Independent’s Correspondent contented himself with the comment that “judging by the display on Sunday last, we are assured of some very interesting games when the League commences.”
Balrothery finished joint second in its section of the League with a much-improved record. It played 10 games, won 6 and lost 4, but it increased the number of runs scored from 310 to 513, and the average per game was 51.3 which was almost double the average of the previous season.
While the main emphasis of this paper is on cricket, it would be negligent to ignore the Balrothery District Council and Board of Guardians which held its last meeting on 13 October 1930. This august body, which was established by the British Government in 1898 as an experiment in giving Irish people the opportunity to manage some element of its own business, was responsible for many initiatives which improved the lives of the people of Fingal during the thirty odd years of its existence. The District Council oversaw the building of houses, dispensaries, and libraries, and it had responsibility for the development of water supply and drainage schemes in Balbriggan, Skerries, Swords and Malahide. New burial grounds were laid out in Balbriggan, Rush and Malahide, and the Council was also entrusted with the very onerous task of the management of the Public Health and Charities Acts.
While cricket is a summer sport, the cricket clubs in Fingal maintained their profiles on an all-year round basis by organising Whist Drives, Concerts, and Dances. In 1931, the Annual Dance of the Balrothery Cricket Club was held in the Naul on Sunday, 8 February and it was deemed to have been “the most successful event of the season”. There was a huge crowd present, and the dancing which consisted mostly of old-time waltzes and Irish dances went on from 8.00 p.m. until the “small hours of the morning”. There was a raffle for a watch; there were singers, and step dancers, and Tolan Bros Band provided the music.
Unlike many other parts of Ireland where cricket and cricketers were on the periphery of their communities, the cricket club was a focal point in the social and cultural life of Balrothery; thus, one of the events on Patron Day on 29 June 1931 at a fund-raiser for parochial funds was a cricket match between the married and single men from Balrothery, Balbriggan, Man-O-War and Ring Commons. There were also general sports, and a football match between Rush and Balrothery for which V. Rev. J. Hickey, PP, threw in the ball. In addition to this sporting activity, the day ended with a dance, and Mrs Pim who had “kindly lent her ground for the occasion”, was going to “supervise all”.
In terms of playing cricket, Balrothery CC had a poor season. It was drawn in Division B, with Ballymadun, Ring Commons, Knightstown, Balbriggan, and Barnageera. Its record for the season was 10 games played, won 4, lost 6, and only 317 runs were accumulated which worked out at an average of nearly 32 runs per game. The most significant item of news regarding Balrothery CC during the 1932 season was its involvement in the Balbriggan CC Street League. In the final, Balrothery scored 20 runs in its first innings, and Mill Street scored 23 runs. Balrothery only scored 16 runs in the second innings, and Mill Street required 4 runs to win with 4 wickets in hand. Mooney and Russell, took the last 4 wickets for the loss of 2 runs, leaving Balrothery the winners by 1 run. It is unfortunate that the newspaper report did not give the players’ forenames with the result that it is not possible to conclude whether this league was for children or adults. More than likely it was a competition for children because Balbriggan CC had organised such a league previously and it is difficult to imagine that a team which was competing at adult level in the Fingal League would have been permitted to enter a street league.
Balrothery maintained its membership of the Fingal League during this period unlike many other teams which opted in and out on a season- by- season basis. In 1933, the other teams in its section were Oldtown, Baldwinstown, Knockbrack, Man-O-War. Of its 8 games, Balrothery won 3 and lost 5. In the 1934 season, the number of affiliated teams in the Fingal League had fallen to 13, and it was decided to regionalise the League into two sections, East and West Fingal, with the winner of each section playing a deciding game for the Fingal Challenge Cup.
In 1935, there were 10 teams affiliated, and the Naul won the Fingal Challenge Cup for the first time by beating the Black Hills in the final. A difficulty involved in the regionalisation of a competition is that the strong teams may be in the same section, and this may account for the challenge game which was played on the following Sunday between the Naul and Balrothery. The opening sentence of the report on the Drogheda Independent asserted that any doubts that existed regarding the superiority of Naul in Fingal cricket were “set at rest” when Naul defeated Balrothery on a score of 81 to 51 runs. The chief contributors to the Naul’s total were Ennis 39*, Mangan 15 and Corbally 13 while Mooney scored 19 runs for Balrothery.
After some years of moderate results in Fingal cricket, Balrothery CC improved year by year, and in 1936, it reached the Fingal League final for the first time when it played its near neighbours, the Black Hills, in front of a large crowd. The Black Hills batted first and scored 38 runs, with J. Murphy 17, J. Shanley 7 and J. Russell 5 being the main batsmen. Balrothery encountered the magnificent bowling of Simon Hoare who took 6 wickets for 9 runs and Jem Murphy who took the remaining 4 wickets for 3 runs.
The same two teams contested the 1937 final, and Balrothery won the Fingal Challenge Cup for the first time. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information regarding that season, so it is not possible to give any further details regarding the scores in that game. For the next twenty years, Balrothery CC was the strongest club in Fingal. During this time, individual clubs may have beaten Balrothery in finals, but none of them had Balrothery’s consistency over the longer period.
For example, in 1938, Balrothery played Portrane CC in the final, and the three matches which ensued are enshrined in the annals of Fingal Cricket history. There were over 200 people present at the first game in Balbriggan which ended with both teams scoring 60 runs. The replay was staged at the same venue, and it also ended in a tie, with both teams scoring 57 runs. The second replay was hosted by Skerries CC because the Balbriggan ground was unavailable. Portrane won the toss and batted first. At the close of its innings, Portrane had scored 47 runs, with P. Breen 11* and P. Neville 10 being the main contributors to the total, and the Balrothery bowlers who were adjudged to “have made good use of the ball” were C. Mooney, C. Russell and P. Farrell. In reply, Balrothery could only score 34 runs and on this occasion, fortune did not favour J. Mooney 3, C. Russell 1 and C. Mooney 0, the batsmen who regularly were the top scorers for Balrothery, and only two Balrothery batsmen, V. Farrell 14 and H. Russell 10 managed to reach double figures.
The test of the resilience of a team is the manner in which it addresses a setback, and Balrothery reached the final again in 1939, and again Portrane CC provided the opposition. It is of value to quote at length from the report on this game because it provides an insight into some of the key characteristics of Fingal cricket, and it also features starring roles for two men, CJ Russell, and C. Mooney who are legendary figures in the history of cricket in Fingal. The highlight of the Balrothery batting was C. J. Mooney’s 16 “excellent runs”. He received valuable support from V. Farrell who scored 11 runs, and Balrothery’s final total was 58 runs. In reply, Portrane, who ended up on a score of 54 runs, encountered the brilliant “length” bowling of the 19 years old Russell, who took 8 wickets for 19 runs, and his partner, C. Mooney, who while not as successful with the ball, took the “all-important” first wicket. The fielding was also of a high standard and some superb catches were taken with Russell also receiving special mention for his performance in the field: This boy’s fielding was a treat to watch and the manner in which he stopped and gathered fast travelling balls had an inspiring effect on all the members of his side and it was only fitting that he should take the final wicket by bringing off an excellent slip catch.
In 1940, Balrothery reached the final for the fifth consecutive year, played Black Hills, and the Russell brothers, Henry and Christy, who combined for a stand of 50 for the fourth wicket, enabled Balrothery to compile a score of 76 runs. It appeared that there was going to be an early finish to this game because Black Hills lost 5 wickets for 6 runs, but the later batsmen, more “by good luck than by good resolute batting” brought the score to 66 thus, giving Balrothery a victory margin of 10 runs. Balrothery owed its victory in no small manner to its captain, CJ Mooney who bowled unchanged, took 7 wickets for 22 runs, and got special mention for taking the last three wickets when the batsmen were on top. As usual, the Balrothery fielding was very good with Dillon’s slip catch to dismiss the last batsman being described as “miraculous”.
Balrothery’s run of successes was ended in 1941 when the same two teams contested the final which was described as the “most interesting Fingal Cricket League final witnessed in Fingal for some years”. M. P. Gosson was described as an “outstanding captain for the Black Hills and he inspired confidence among the members of his team.” As was expected of all Fingal teams, the Black Hills’ victory was attributed to “excellent fielding and bowling”, where “no opportunity was lost by the fielders in making a catch, even at times when it seemed impossible.” Dick Byrne was singled out for special mention due to his brilliance with “bat and ball”. The Black Hills scored 38 runs, and Balrothery was restricted to 28 runs in its reply, with Mr J. Mooney being “easily the outstanding light on his team”. No Fingal event is complete without a “high class tea” and on this occasion it was provided by Balbriggan CC.
Between 1931 and 1961, a knock-out competition was played intermittently until it was put on a formal footing in 1962 and a cup was presented. In 1941, Balrothery played Rush in the final of the knock-out competition, and its tale of woe for the season was made complete when it was comprehensively beaten a Rush team on a score of 79 to 43 runs. For Rush, TP Walsh 37 was outstanding with the bat, and AG Quinn took 7 wickets for 19 runs. The only Balrothery batsmen to offer any resistance to the Rush bowling were Henry Russell 30 and JK Mooney 9.
For the first time since 1935, Balrothery did not reach the final of the Fingal League Challenge Cup in 1942. Tubbergregan for whom PP O’Brien hit a “faultless” 53 beat Walshestown on a score of 69 runs to 29 runs. However, Balrothery reached the cup final and was opposed by the Black Hills in a game which was due to be hosted by Clonard CC on 11 October 1942. Unfortunately, an exhaustive search of the local newspapers has failed to elicit the name of the team which won this game, or even if it was played at all.
Balrothery was back in the Fingal Challenge Cup Final again in 1943 but was well-beaten by Portrane. Just as there was an expectation that Balrothery’s bowling and fielding would be first class, there was a certain inevitability about the batting woes. Balrothery batted first and was dismissed for 15 runs. In reply, Portrane made 73 for 5, with Neville scoring more than 50*. Portrane appeared to have completed a League and Cup double by beating Tubbergregan on a score of 48 to 11 runs; however, according to the Drogheda Independent of 9 October 1943, Balrothery won the Championship by beating Rush on a score of 35 runs to 10. It is definite that Portrane won the Perpetual Challenge Cup - The League, but it is not possible to be definitive regarding the winners of the Cup, given that there were two contradictory reports in the Drogheda Independent.
In 1944, Balrothery reached the Cup Final again, and played Knockbrack at Clonard, Balbriggan. Balrothery scored 43, with G. McNally taking 7 wickets for 22 runs. Knockbrack was dismissed for 14 runs, with the “deadly duo of C, Mooney 6 for 3 and C. Russell 3 for 10 taking most of the wickets. Balrothery did not have the best of starts to the 1945 season and it was beaten at home by Tubbergregan on a score of 66 to 53 runs. This result was deemed to have been a major surprise because Balrothery had only been beaten at home three times in eleven years, and Tubbergregan was the first team from West Fingal to lower Balrothery’s colours. M. Kiernan took 3 wickets for 8 runs, Pat O’Brien took 4 wickets for 8 runs, and this included a hat-trick.
Balrothery recovered from this early season reverse and retained the league title when it overcame Walshestown in the final. The 1946 Fingal League Final was not played until 1947 because Tubbergregan indicated that it would not fulfil a fixture that was scheduled for so late in the season, 27 October. The game should have been played a month ago, but “harvesting operations had delayed the holding of the game.” The 1946 final was eventually played on 29 June 1947 and resulted in a facile win for Balrothery who scored 53 runs against Tubbergregan’s 15 runs having “collapsed before the splendid bowling of Russell and Mooney.”
Balrothery CC beat Knockbrack handsomely in 1948 in the final on a score of 133 runs to 21 with Simon Hoare 40 being the main contributor to the Balrothery score. A cup competition was also organised in 1948 but due to a variety of circumstances, the final between Balrothery and Walshestown was not played until May 1949. Walshestown batted first but struggled against the bowling of Mooney and Russell and was dismissed for 23 runs. The only batsmen to make scores of any consequence were W. Tolan 7 and C. Lindsay 7. In reply, Balrothery accumulated 80 runs for 5 wickets when the stumps were drawn with the most significant contributions coming from V. Farrell 27, S. Hoare 17, H. Russell 16 and C. Russell 14.
At different stages during the preceding years, players from Balrothery such as Simon Hoare, Christy Russell, John and Kit Mooney had played Leinster League cricket for Rush and/or Skerries, and in 1949, Balrothery decided to affiliate to the Leinster Cricket League in addition to playing Fingal League cricket. This initiative brought variety in terms of games against different teams, and with games being played in Dublin on cricket grounds as distinct from fields which were given over for a few games, the Fingal clubs came under pressure to improve their pitches and ancillary facilities. Balrothery encountered immediate success in Leinster League cricket and it won the Minor League Division 5 in 1949. Walshestown won the Fingal Challenge Cup in 1949 and it was won by Balrothery the following year.
With Rush, Portrane, and Balrothery playing in Leinster League cricket in addition to the Fingal League, there was now pressure regarding fixtures with Leinster League fixtures invariably being given precedence over Fingal League games. In his report on the 1951 season, the Secretary of the Fingal League, Eddie Dunne, stated that the season had been a very bad one for the League with only 4 teams competing for the Fingal Cup, and the final between Portrane and Knockbrack not being played due to unforeseen difficulties.
However, 1951 was not a bad year for Fingal teams in Leinster because two Fingal League teams, Rush and Balrothery, contested the Intermediate Cup. Balrothery batted first and scored 141 runs. According to the Drogheda Independent, S and P. Carty and T. Murphy “trundled in good style” for Rush. The game was continued on Monday evening, and Rush lost wickets early on and were always “uncomfortable” against the bowling of Mooney and Russell. The top scorer for Rush was Con Martin 25, and Rush’s total was 71 runs. By winning the Intermediate Cup, Balrothery qualified to represent the Leinster Cricket Union in the recently established Irish Junior Cup and played Galway County in the semi-final. According to The Irish Times, the Galway batting “was all at sea on a wicket at Terenure CYM which was much faster than they are accustomed in the West,” and against the bowling of Mooney 5 for 11 and Russell 4 for 11, they were all out for 32. In the final, Balrothery met Bohemians, Cork, the holders of the trophy, and 5 wickets fell for 11 runs, but Simon Hoare 26 and Hugh Russell 13 retrieved the situation with Balrothery’s innings closing on 63 runs. Excellent bowling by Kit Mooney 4 for 11 and C. Russell 6 for 8 was mainly responsible for the victory, and according to the Irish Times, neither of them “sent down any loose stuff at all, and Bohemians were struggling from the start.” Bohemians were bowled out for 20, with 6 batsmen not scoring a run.
Balrothery celebrated this wonderful year in style by hosting a “Grand Presentation Dance” in the Town Hall, Balbriggan on 9 November 1951. Music was provided by the Savoy Orpheans, Dancing was from 9.00 to 3.00, Admission was 5s, catering was by Mrs McKeown and Supper was extra. That was not the end of the dancing for 1951 because a “Grand Festival Dance” was hosted by the club on 21 December 1951. On this occasion, dancing was from 9.00 to 4.00, music was provided by Stephen Garvey’s Orchestra, Admission was 5s, Catering was again by Mrs McKeown and the Supper was extra.
The level of enthusiasm for cricket in Balrothery during this period was such that the club was able to field two teams in the Leinster Cricket League. The First X1 won the Intermediate League for the first time in 1952 by beating Leinster in the final game of the season, and the Second X1 under the astute leadership of GL McGowan won the Minor Cup. The victory for the Seconds was particularly meritorious because the team was mostly composed of young players. In the final, Balrothery played Merrion and bowled them out for 42 runs. The wickets were shared between Frank Casey 7 for 18 and George McNally 3 for 16, and inevitably, there was a reference to “excellent fielding”. Balrothery’s opening pair of McNally and Hickey put on 23 runs before the first wicket fell. G. O’Mahony and his brother, Dermot, a future bishop of Dublin, saw Balrothery home without any further alarms.
At its AGM, Mr Moore, Secretary of Balrothery CC, ascribed the progress of the club since its foundation 17 years ago to the “loyalty of the members and good sportsmanship in defeat as well as victory.” This reference is somewhat anomalous because a team from Balrothery was playing in the Fingal League from 1928 onwards so this comment may relate to the club being put on a more formal footing or to a change of ground. Balrothery retained the Intermediate Shield in 1953 by beating CYMS in the final on a “rain-soaked wicket”. CYMS batted first and scored 59 runs, with C. Mooney 6 wickets for 29 runs and C. Russell 4 for 27 sharing the wickets. The main contributors to the Balrothery score of 61 for 5 wickets were J. Mooney 17, R. Byrne 16 and S. Hoare 16*.
Having had some of its players on Fingal League teams which had beaten senior league teams, it was an obvious progression for Balrothery to play a Senior League side and it received a gracious invitation from the recently promoted Malahide to play a friendly game. The Malahide Selection batted first and scored 86 runs, but Balrothery managed to surpass this score for the loss of 9 wickets.
Fund-raising is an essential element in the activities of most clubs, and in addition to the revenue raised and its social function, it is valuable in maintaining a public profile for the club. Balrothery CC was particularly pro-active in this regard, and time was allocated at the AGM to arrange for social functions and for the Christmas raffle. Before the start of the 1954 season, the club organised a Three Fifteens and Final Card Night at the Town Hall, Balbriggan, with the price of admission set at 6s. The first prize was £20, second prize was £10, third prize was £5, and the other finalists received £1.
Fingal League clubs had a reputation for insisting on strict adherence to the letter of the law by their opponents, and this was evident from the first year of the League when the Executive was kept busy in dealing with objections and queries. At a meeting of Skerries Cricket Club on 26 September 1927, a motion was adopted thanking Adam Ward, League Secretary “for his very efficient and satisfactory services… and the able manner in which he had handled many difficult problems.” This legalistic characteristic manifested itself again in 1954 when Rush and Balrothery became embroiled in a dispute regarding the use of substitutes during the semi-final of the Leinster Senior Intermediate Cup. Rush claimed victory by 2 runs in the first game when a Balrothery player was not allowed to bat because he was deemed to be a substitute. Balrothery lodged an objection, and the LCU ordered that the game be replayed on the basis that the player should have been allowed to bat. Balrothery batted first in the replay and amassed a score of 160 all out. The leading scorers for Balrothery were M. Gasson 36*, S. Hoare 17, J. Bissett 17 and P. Dillon 10. With the exception of Tom Murphy, who scored 24, the other Rush batsmen provided very little opposition for Russell 5 wickets, Hoare 3 wickets and Bissett 2 wickets and were dismissed for 75 runs.
Balrothery played Cremore in the final of the Intermediate Cup and won by 4 wickets. Cremore batted first and was dismissed for 86 runs. Russell took 6 wickets for 50 runs and Bissett took 3 wickets for 8 runs. C. Mooney 11 and J. Bissett 21 were together when Bissett hit the winning runs. By winning the Intermediate Cup, Balrothery CC qualified again to represent Leinster in the Irish Junior Cup. It defeated Ballyclare, Co. Antrim in the semi-final, and in the final was opposed by Cahir Park, Tipperary. Unfortunately, the old batting malaise struck and Balrothery scored 48 runs with only Simon Hoare 11 and R. Moore 12 getting into double figures. Cahir Park scored the runs for the loss of 6 wickets, with Mooney 3 for 31 and Russell 3 for 25 being the successful bowlers.
1955 was another successful year for Balrothery. The Third X1 won the Leinster Minor Cup by beating Jacobs by 7 wickets. J. Murphy took 6 wickets for 23 runs, R. Byrne took 4 wickets for 16 runs, and the Dublin side was dismissed for 45 runs in 102 minutes. Balrothery reached the required total in 35 minutes for the loss of only 3 wickets. The best batsman for Balrothery on this occasion was J. Sheridan who scored 29 not out. Meanwhile the First X1 retained the Intermediate Cup by beating Cremore by 27 runs. Balrothery batted first and scored 133 runs, with the main contributions from S. Hoare 33, T. Murphy 27. This was Balrothery’s 5th year in the Intermediate Grade, and it had won the Cup on three occasions and the league once. Balrothery had qualified again to play in the Irish Junior Cup. In the preliminary round, Balrothery beat Arklow on a score of 162 to 73 runs. In the semi-final, it played Shortt and Harlands, and won by 8 wickets and 17 runs. The top scorers for Balrothery were Val Farrell 28*, C. Russell 15*and G. Bissett 15. Christy Russell took 5 wickets for 32 runs and Kit Mooney took 4 wickets for 22 runs. In the final, Balrothery met Cahir Park for the second season in succession, and the result was the same. Cahir Park batted first and scored 79 runs. The successful bowlers were Russell 3 for 32, Mooney 3 for 13 and Hoare 4 for 33. Unfortunately, there was another batting collapse with only C. Mooney 13 getting into double figures, and Balrothery lost by 23 runs. Cahir Park created a record because it was the first club to retain the Irish Junior Cup.
Balrothery had not won a Fingal championship since 1950, but this deficiency was rectified in 1955 when it defeated Cottrellstown by 8 wickets. Cottrellstown batted first and was dismissed for 22 runs with Christy Russell taking 8 wickets for 7 runs. Balrothery reached the required target for the loss of 2 wickets. Since winning the cup for the first time in 1937, Balrothery had at that stage won the Fingal League Perpetual Challenge Cup on 9 occasions. At the AGM in January 1956, Mr Pat Hickey, the Secretary, described 1955 as the most successful year in the history of the club. In 1956, the flag bearers for Balrothery CC were the Second and Third teams. The Second X1 won the Junior League, and the Thirds retained the Minor Cup by beating North Kildare at Anglesea Road. At the top of the order, J. Mooney scored 23, and there was a strong showing from the middle and lower order batsmen, with R. Byrne 31, S. Moore 23*, G. Byrne 20, and B. Tolan 15 all contributing to a very respectable total of 136 runs. In reply, North Kildare scored 89, with 4 bowlers, S. Moore, 2 for 13, J. Mooney 2 for 19, K. Murphy, 3 for 28, R. Byrne, 2 for 25 sharing the wickets.
While the period from 1957 to 1961 was a fallow period for Balrothery in terms of winning trophies, nevertheless, the club was involved in the final stages of the cups or in contention for league honours during most of those years. In 1959, Balrothery 11 played Leinster IV in the Junior Cup final, and Leinster scored 119 runs when batting first. The main contributor to the Leinster total was WLW Goulding 52 who later played for Phoenix and was Headmaster of Headfort School in Meath. In reply, Balrothery scored 81 runs, with only three batsmen, T. Murphy 37, S. Moore 17 and C. Hickey 13 getting into double figures. Balrothery reached the final of the Intermediate Cup in 1961, and again, a Leinster team was its nemesis. Leinster 3 scored 131 and Balrothery was dismissed for 44 runs, with no batsman getting into double figures, and Sheridan 9 and Fanning 9 being its top scorers.
In 1962, the Fingal League decided to put the second competition on a more formal footing and to purchase a cup. Balrothery CC was the first winners of this cup, and earlier in the season, had also won the Fingal Championship.
The minutes and annual reports for the 1962 to 1964 seasons were made available in 2019 by the Byrne Family, and they make fascinating reading because they provide an in-depth perspective on the work of the Fingal League Committee. Meetings were held monthly during this period, and some of the clubs kept the officers at full stretch in dealing with objections and counter-objections.
At the meeting on 20 May 1963, Balrothery objected to Knockbrack because two Knockbrack members had “deliberately marked down wrong scores”. The Knockbrack response was that the scores were right, and Balrothery should have brought their own scorer. It was only through “goodness” that the Knockbrack member marked the book at all. The score books were checked and did not tally so the Committee declared the game a tie. Knockbrack was very unhappy with this outcome, and one of its members contended “that everyone was against them, especially the Chairman who wanted Knockbrack out of cricket altogether. The meeting became so heated that it had to be adjourned. The Committee re-convened on the following week and decided to reprimand the Knockbrack members for their conduct at the previous meeting. The Knockbrack delegate objected on the basis that his club had not been given a fair hearing. Some committee members wanted Knockbrack suspended, others wanted them reprimanded, but the very minimum requirement was that Knockbrack should apologise to the League for the conduct of its two delegates.
The officers of the Fingal League were back in action on 12 August 1963. A game between Knockbrack and Balrothery was not played, and Knockbrack claimed a walk-over. Games were due to start at 3.00 p.m. but definitely not later than 3.30 p.m. Knockbrack’s openers were instructed by their captain to leave the field at 3.35 p.m. because the game had not started. One of the neutral umpires was very annoyed that no game was played because there was a big crowd present, and this kind of behaviour was giving Fingal cricket a bad name. The Committee decided not to award a walk-over to Knockbrack but insisted that the game be played. Eventually, cricket was played, and Knockbrack won the Perpetual Challenge Cup by beating Balrothery on a score of 38 to 36 runs.
Another problem arose in late September when Knockbrack was due to play Balrothery and the winners to play the Black Hills in the final, but the games were not played due to 2 funerals Mr P. Murphy and Mrs Farrell. Eventually, the final was fixed for 20 October, but the Black Hills could not field a team due to illness and the time of the year. It was decided to allow each club to hold the cup for 4 months each, and to play the game in June 1964. Minutes of Fingal Cricket League. Balrothery was back to its winning ways in Fingal League competitions in 1965. It went unbeaten for the season and won both the Perpetual Challenge Cup League and the Championship Cup. The members of that successful team were N. Carpenter, C. Russell, L. Mooney, H. Russell, C. Hickey, J. Callaghan, A. Pollis, O. Nolan, P. Mooney, J. Mooney, P. Hickey, P. Hand, and M. Connell.
It is always important to celebrate victories and the club held a Reunion Dance on 24 November 1965 in the Grand Hotel, Balbriggan with dancing from 9 to 2, and tickets were 25s. Man-O-War and Knockbrack joined the Leinster League in 1963 and 1964 respectively, and Fingal League sides were very successful in Leinster cricket during this decade but irrespective of successes in Leinster, it was vitally important for Fingal League clubs to win their own competitions. Balrothery won the League in 1967, and it also received great praise for its generous gesture in allowing Rush to play its home games at The Matt for several seasons due to Rush losing its ground at Kenure.
Balrothery, captained by John Mooney Senior, won the Minor Cup in 1968 by beating local rivals, Man-O-War in a low scoring game. In 1969, Balrothery organised its 5th Annual Dinner Dance, and the occasion was enhanced by the Balrothery Inn’s presentation of a trophy to Charlie Hickey as captain of a veterans’ team which had “smashed their way to victory” in a challenge match against the present team. With wounded pride being involved, it was anticipated that there would be a return game at the earliest possible opportunity.
Balrothery’s next victory in the Fingal Challenge Cup was in 1971 when it defeated the Hills at the Man-O-War’s ground. It was 30 years since these two clubs had contested a Fingal final, and the rivalry between them was exemplified by the group of children who marched around the ground with banners, chanting “two, four, six, eight, we will beat you out the gate”. This game was Fingal cricket at its best. Balrothery bowled 78 overs while The Hills made its way cautiously to 114. The top scorers for The Hills were Hugh Cowling 26, Jimmy Byrne 19 and John Archer 17 while the best bowlers for Balrothery were Bunny Casey 4 for 36, Kit Mooney 3 for 11 and Tommy Mooney 3 for 33. Balrothery conceded 26 extras in the field. There was a successful appeal against the light after one ball, and play resumed on the Sunday. The opening partnership of Neil Carpenter 43 and John Mooney 60* put on 100 exactly, and John Mooney was joined at the crease by his uncle, Kit who had also been a member of the Balrothery team which beat The Black Hills in the final of 1944.The winning shot was a 6 by John Mooney. There was a very sad postscript to this game when Frank Hand, a founder member of the club, was killed while crossing the road in Swords to come back out to the celebrations at the Balrothery Inn.
Before the start of the 1972 season, Balrothery CC lost another one of its leading members, Charlie Hickey who had provided a cricket ground at The Matt for many years and died after a long illness. In memory of these two former members, a game was played at Balrothery between a Balrothery Selection and a Fingal Selection for the Hickey-Hand Memorial Shield. Balrothery scored 86 runs, of which John Mooney scored 25 and looked like scoring a lot more, until he was run out. The Fingal Selection which ended up on 31 runs never got going, and three run outs did not help its cause. As usual in a Fingal game, there was a brilliant display of bowling and fielding. John Neville of Rush took 4 wickets for 38 runs off his 17 overs and he was supported by a superb display from the Hills’ wicketkeeper, John Archer. For the home side, Sean Moore took 5 wickets for 19 runs and Tommy Mooney took 2 wickets for 8 runs.
In 1972, Balrothery won the Middle League by beating Malahide in the final match of the league season. Balrothery also ended Man-O-War’s run of successes in the Fingal Championship in 1972 when it won the cup by a margin of 8 wickets. Man-O-War lost its first four wickets for 7 runs, and John Murphy 43* and Dermot Sheridan 10 were the only batsmen to reach double figures. Kit Mooney took 7 wickets for 18 runs off 16 overs, with the first 8 overs being maidens. In reply, John Mooney 43* and Joe Russell 21 brought the score to 60, and then Kit Mooney 13* with his nephew, John, achieved the target score. Balrothery’s season was made complete with its victory in the Leinster Junior Cup when it beat Knockbrack in the final. Kit Mooney bowled brilliantly, taking 5 for 34 in 22 overs, while Tom Fanning took 5 for 50 in 18 overs. The top scorers for Balrothery were Kit Russell 22, Dick Byrne 27, Martin Moore 18 and Tom Fanning 18. Kit Russell received the “Man of the Match” award, and Thomas Bertram at 12 years of age was one of the youngest players ever to receive a Leinster Cup Medal.
In 1973, The Man-O-War won the Fingal Championship Cup for the 7th time, shared the Senior 2 League with Clontarf, and Balrothery won the Senior 3 League. By the 1980s, the pressure to grant senior status to one of the Fingal League clubs was gathering, and the Senior 2 Cup Final which was played on 7 August 1982 between The Hills and Balrothery was in the nature of a qualifier for admission to the Senior League. On the day, the Hills won comfortably, thanks to a superb knock by Gerry Harper 111 and brilliant bowling by Paddy Byrne 4 for 45 and Matt Dwyer 5 for 10. The Hills was granted senior status in October 1982, and this had implications for the other Fingal League clubs in terms of player retention.
Noel Harper who had captained Balrothery in the Senior 2 Final joined the Hills shortly after and Michael Murphy of Man-O-War joined Malahide in 1985. The two clubs bowed to the inevitable and in October 1985, Balrothery and Man-o-War amalgamated to form North County CC, but both clubs indicated that it was their intention to maintain their separate identities for Fingal League competitions.
Although the clubs are listed separately in the Fingal Cricket League Archives until 1995, and then the names are combined as Balrothery-Man-O-War until 2005, it seems appropriate to end this article with an account of the Fingal League Final in 1985 before the two clubs amalgamated. Balrothery batted first and lost the first three wickets for only 10 runs. Tommy Mooney who was fifth batsman in brought the score up to 30, and his brother, James, added a few more, but with Extras at 14 being the second highest score, it was never going to be enough to trouble the Man-O-War unless there was an early collapse or breakthrough, depending on one’s allegiance. The main bowler for the Man-O-War was Liam Rooney who ended up with the figures of 7 wickets for 24 runs off fourteen overs. Brian Southam and Anthony Rooney, the Man-O-War’s opening pair, put on 49 runs before a wicket fell. It appeared that the game might be over before tea, and given the importance ascribed to the quality of teas in Fingal, “the final that ended before tea” would have been a source of conversation for years. The Evening Press Reporter, Karl Johnston, provided a report on this game, and he adjudged the tea as being excellent. He also commended Rush Cricket Club for the work done on the “superbly renovated old schoolhouse.” Man-O-War lost two wickets immediately after tea, but with 5 needed for a win, Jody Morgan hit a four, and moments later, Liam Rooney hit the winning run.
In October 1970, Tom Corr, a journalist with the Drogheda Independent, described Balrothery as a “nondescript little village on the outskirts of Balbriggan, which… until relatively recently the place could boast only one organisation, a cricket club. DI, 16 October 1970. While a native of Balrothery would quibble with the adjective, “nondescript”, there is a modicum of truth in the sentiments expressed.
The importance of the cricket club in Balrothery cannot be over-emphasised because it provided a sporting and social outlet for the community over a lengthy period and it was instrumental in giving Balrothery a unique identity. On its website, the Balrothery Inn describes itself as the “unofficial home of Irish Cricket”, and players and officials of the club have represented their community and their country with pride.
In 1884, the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel, Dr T W Croke, wrote the following to the Freeman’s Journal on 24 December 1884: We have got such foreign and fantastic field sports as lawn-tennis, polo, croquet, cricket, and the like—very excellent, I believe, and health-giving exercises in their way, still not racy of the soil, but rather alien, on the contrary, to it, as are, indeed, for the most part the men and women who first imported and still continue to patronise them.
When John Mooney, a proud son of Balrothery, took the crucial catch in the World Cup in 2007, he soloed the ball in recognition of his friends back home at the local GAA club, and his pride and passion for his country were self-evident. It can be argued that in Balrothery, the game of cricket “has always been racy of the soil”, and the administrators, players and supporters who have nurtured, developed, and played the game are worthy of the highest commendation.
My thanks to Joe Curtis and Martin Russell who have both been an unending source of information and support.