1984 saw a new star. He had been tipped from a long way off and those of us who had played with and against him in school, youth and adult cricket knew that at some stage Alan Lewis would explode onto the Leinster and Irish cricket scene.

Well 1984 was that year and in typical Lewis style, he didn't arrive quietly.  He became the first Irish born player to score 1000 runs in a Leinster cricket season.  Added to his total of 1004 runs he also took 40 wickets to round off a remarkable season. Four hundreds and four fifties.  One of those hundreds was in the Leinster Senior Cup final against Leinster.  

I took myself up to Carlisle to see that game in which my old PE teacher Mick Kirby was playing for the Rathmines side.  YM’s team was a mix of precocious youth epitomised by Lewis but with the club stalwarts of Stan McCready and Norman Kilroy still playing their part.  What a feeling it must have been for Stan, later an excellent umpire, to be part of his club’s first ever Senior Cup win.  

Lewis’s season was remarkable, not least as half of his games were played on his home patch of Claremont Road.  Dick Beamish worked hard on the wicket but no one enjoyed playing there.

I am pretty sure that many of the province's batters decided on their holiday plans based on the away game in YM.  So for Lewis to score so many runs there - and not just this season, he did it throughout his career - is nothing short of remarkable.  At best the wicket was difficult, at worst positively spiteful.  Of course that same wicket might well explain his haul of wickets, something I sense, that he may disagree with. 

His international call came in June but the week before that he had the big game of the season when Dublin Insurance Athletic Society (DIAS) took on their Belfast equivalent in Saintfield.   So before facing up to the likes of Courtney Walsh, Eldine Baptiste and Joel Garner, Lewis had the test of the best of the Belfast Insurance world.  There might not have been the pace of the West Indies stars to contend with but the banter of Jimmy Boyce behind the stumps and the dry wit of Michael Rea Senior were a test in itself albeit a slightly different one than the West Indies offered. 

Michael Rea Senior’s son Michael Rea Junior was the top batsman in the senior interpro competition and in all it was a good year for young players.  Peter O’Reilly who was with Warwickshire at the time also played in the West Indies game while 1983 under 19 international and Holywood CC slow bowler, Michael Shannon made his senior international debut against Wales.  

The first round of the Irish Senior Cup brought no joy to Clontarf, who had still to win a game in the three years of the competition. Personally however, I managed to make my first senior fifty (the statistical purists however wouldn't count it as the ISC did not count in “official” stats).  We lost to Lurgan who would later go on to win the competition with Rahul Mankad the star with 130 in the victory over Brigade.  

Looking at the newspaper summary scores for this competition triggers a torrent of memories. So many player's names jump out as contemporaries, tough opponents, friends.  Names like Matt Dwyer, Willie Wilson, the new CI President (who once completely fooled me at the toss or at least I think he did!!), Roy Torrens, Clarke Nicholl, Charlie McCrum, Garfield Harrison, Sid King, Jimmy Ireland, Alan Johnston, Gary McCollum, Stephen Molins, Kevin O'Herlihy in his Cork County years, Kamal Marchant, Jimmy Patterson, Jimmy Kirkwood, Charlie Kavanagh, Gilly, John Prior, Alec (no surname necessary), Ian Johnson, Richard Wills, Maurice Whelan, Raymond Moan. Each and every one of them with their own cricketing stories.

The season was the final one in Leinster cricket for Jack Short, the Leinster CC and Irish batsman, as he headed off to France.  He signed off by captaining South Leinster to the 84 interpro title.  A huge loss to the game here but Leinster had gained a new player in 1984 when Australian Greg Sceney arrived in Dublin from Melbourne via Holland for business reasons.  A wonderful left arm orthodox spinner, he began his time here taking 55 wickets and lots more followed too.  See, even then, high class overseas players came into the local game and enriched it greatly.


I got a phone call in late 1984. Brendan Bergin wanted to meet me for lunch.  Now Brennie was a financial controller of a huge company and I was a lowly clerk in an insurance brokerage. While I accepted the invite, I honestly couldn't work out the rationale for the lunch invite.  Turns out that Brennie was going to be proposed at the upcoming club AGM as First team captain and he wanted me to be his vice-captain. Usually quiet, I was utterly dumbstruck by this request, but out of respect I nodded that yes I would consider it. Saying no, of course, was not an option so VC was what I became. In truth I added nothing to the ticket, too shy and unsure of myself to offer opinions, if Brendan suggested something, I nodded and agreed. 

But Brendan is a shrewd man. He knew what he was doing. With all the benefit of hindsight, I can see that he was looking for a link to the young players who were appearing on the side, giving them a voice and a greater part in the running of the side. He, also, changed my cricket life in the process, purely by making me feel that I had something to offer the team. A powerful motivation. 

Everyone loves Brennie. The eldest son of the legendary Pembroke and Irish batsman, Stanley, Brennie understood from a young age all about leadership. The gang of younger siblings all looked up to Brennie (still do) and he never let them down. It was how he lived his personal life, his business life and his sporting life. If you played for Brennie, you didn't let him down, it really was as simple as that. 

He was a popular guy though. In composing pen pictures for the 1992 Cup Final programme, Peter Prendergast described him as "a model citizen with a beautiful wife and three beautiful children and they all live in a beautiful home with a beautiful garden in a beautiful suburb. If they ever buy a goldfish, it will no doubt be a beautiful goldfish. Frankly, it all makes me a bit sick."

Always a correct batsman, he developed a shot that we called the "flagpole shot" as when batting at the Killester end in Castle Avenue, the ball would inevitably hit the flagpole. A shot now known worldwide as the slog sweep.  It started with our man. 

We played good cricket all year though the Irish Senior Cup still caused us some problems. Drawn against Sion Mills, we lost on a bowl out. This was the new fangled way that the ICU had devised to get over the problems which had occurred in rain affected games. The problem with teams travelling midweek had meant that the refixes were both unpopular and unsustainable. The bowl out was the solution. It made the papers, one of the cricket correspondents with a UK broadsheet did a piece on it and in a very mocking tone. Of course, before long the idea had been robbed and was in use over the water. 

Turned out we weren't any better at winning bowl outs and our record at the end of this season was zero in four. 

The rest of the year we, Clontarf, that is, were competitive.  Any season end reviews suggest that the weather in the summer of 85 was pretty poor. I don't remember it like that but then I was having a decent season and probably happy enough. Perhaps an indicator of the weather can be found in the interpro competition. North Leinster shared the title with North West. We won 3 out of 3 and so had a 100% record. The North West played 1, won 1 and similarly had a 100% return. 

At the start of the year I had set myself some targets in keeping with the goal setting section of the sports psychology books. One of these was to score a 100, a feat that I hadn't, in all honesty, even got close to previously at any level, never mind Senior.  

I reached the target against The Hills in Castle Avenue but even that had its moment of extreme fortune. Willie Dwyer opened the bowling back then, a good sharp bowler he was too. Batting first, Brendan and myself opened and I took strike. Ball 1 was straight and short so I played a correct backward defence. Played nice and late, the ball dropped straight down and spun back towards the stumps. Struck to the spot I could only watch as the ball hit the stumps, a bail lifted out and straight back into its grove. A lucky break.  Maybe, I thought this was my lucky day. Well it wasn't Brendan's lucky day, he got the duck that had been earmarked for me and at the end of our innings of 226 for 1, the card read, 100 not out, 0, 103 not out. Noel Grier came in at 3 and batted like a dream. Noel was the most elegant player, with a cover drive that was a work of art. 

While our results were improving it wasn't quite enough to win the Belvedere Bond league where Phoenix came out top. We won £400 in prize money for second place which no doubt kept the Treasurer happy. 

The Cup Final in Merrion was an epic encounter. The home club against Leinster. Batting first, Merrion was in all sorts of bother at 8 for 5. But in Johnny O'Hagan and Kevin Allwight, Merrion had two men who loved a battle. They got themselves to a respectable 149 and had Leinster needing another 50 with only 3 wickets left.

But Leinster had their own heroes and Tom McDonnell and keeper Philip Narty saw the Rathmines side home. A brilliant, tense low scoring game. Philip Narty was an interesting cricketer, a very fine keeper, he stood up to all but the quickest, but he never wore batting gloves. Now these are the days before helmets but not wearing gloves, what were you thinking Philip? 

Big Al McClean made his debut that season for the WT league, coming into the team in place of his cousin Collie Daly.

In the second half of the season we continued our good form and made it to the final of the WT league. Always played in Malahide, the home ground of the MD of the sponsor, the home club would be our opponents. 

Led by Gerry O’Brien, Malahide were a very good side, a solid batting line up had been bolstered this season by the arrival of Michael Murphy, formerly of Man O War.  Man O War  were a junior club and Michael scored buckets of runs for them, but if he were to progress to higher levels then he had to make the jump to a Senior club.  

However the strength of the side was in the bowling attack, an attack that rarely went past their three top bowlers, Tom O’Neill, Alan Hughes and Brian Gilmore.  Tom was a left arm swing bowler who bowled a fantastic line and kept you honest all day long. Try take a chance with him and chances were that was your downfall.  Similarly Alan gave you nothing to hit.  

They bowled a lot of overs but during their rest breaks, Malahide had Brian Gilmore’s offies to call upon.  We got off to the worst possible start. Myself and Enda were victims of Alan.  Brendan and Noel had to start the rescue plan.  Along with Peter Prendergast, they all got 30s but 93 for 3 became 144 all out.  

We needed a good start with the ball but it never happened.  Brian and his brother Barry Gilmore added 47 for the first wicket and after a bit of a wobble, Barry and Michael Murphy got the score to within a few of the requirement.  Barry finished 60 not out and Malahide deservedly won the title.  A few more quid for the Treasurer but little consolation in falling just short once again.   

Brendan Bergin batting in the Wiggins Teape final 1985

By the second week of September we are disappointed, disappointed for ourselves, disappointed for our club but most of all disappointed for Brendan who had given so much during the season. A silent resolve to make sure next time we did just a bit better.

Next 1986 - we do a bit better