1986 World Cup, Hurricane Charley and a WT win

Two topics dominated the summer of 86. 

Firstly was the Hand of God. The World Cup took place in Mexico that year and Northern Ireland represented this part of the world. They didn't make it out of their group but in fairness a group including Brazil and Spain made it a tall order. The talking point of the summer came in the Argentina v England quarter final when Diego Maradona scored the winners two goals, one the most sublime piece of football, the other, well, I suppose it depends on your point of view. 

Hurricane Charley arrived later in the summer,  August 24th to be precise. In a 24 hour period, 200mm of rain fell, causing widespread floods. However for some, things were even worse. The swollen Dodder river found a gap along its route and the result was that Merrion Cricket club's ground disappeared under water. Similarly the low lying Railway Union became a substantial lake. Both clubs have photos in their club houses of the devastation, it's still hard to imagine. 

On the cricketing front, Clontarf won their first ever Irish Senior Cup game beating Limavady but met an Alf Masood inspired Phoenix in the next round and went out.  Phoenix went on to win the competition beating Donemana in the final and became the first Leinster team to win the trophy.  

Included in the Phoenix side was the former Clontarf player Collie Daly who just that season had moved to the Park looking for more first team opportunities. What a wonderful way to begin life with his new club.

We went out in the Leinster cup to Railway Union in a very close game.  Ginger O’Brien, as ever set up the Railway total with 78 but the chase faltered as ever at the hands of Archie Noone.  

Archie Noone was a name to set fear in the hearts of opening batsmen.  Not you understand because of pace but the polar opposite.  The ball never seemed to arrive when Archie bowled and with Ginger waiting expectantly behind the stumps, there was trepidation in taking off to meet the ball.  It was a nightmare.  Even the very best struggled.  

Jack Short arrived in Park Avenue every year vowing that he would not let Archie bowl to him this time, cue the charge of the light brigade and another victim for Archie.  And when Archie finally retired, the ordeal didn't end there, oh no, Alan Corcoran followed him, a left arm version of the nightmare.

A trip to Carlisle provided one of the best stories of the year.  Robert Ellis was a great clubman. Better known as Hoppy thanks to a juddering moped that he owned in his youth, he was the go to man in Clontarf if anything needed to be done, literally anything. He might grumble a bit but it would be done.  Primarily he was a junior cricketer operating his slow swingers at 2nd and 3rd team level.  So a senior debut was a big thing for Hoppy and the game in Carlisle provided that opportunity for him.  And what a day he had.  Not only did he take three wickets, he took all of those wickets in one startling over.  And the dream didn't end there, he also took the prize wicket of Marc Cohen who had scored a magnificent 117.  

It is fair to say that a number of his teammates, while delighted, were also flabbergasted at this feat but Hoppy was acting as though this was just a normal Saturday afternoon.  When a teammate asked about the ball which got Cohen - arguably the best technical batsman in the country - Hoppy told him that he had given him the “slower, flatter, wider” one.  

Well the Gruesome Twosome couldn't control themselves, McClean collapsed to the ground while Prendergast queried why he hadn't given him that one 3 hours earlier.  I can see all this taking place but the reality is that I wasn't even there. It genuinely shocked me when I dug up the scorecard of this game and discovered that I wasn't playing. Some stories are told so often by others that they become part of your own memory.  The “slower flatter wider one” became part of the Clontarf vocabulary from that day.

Hoppy Ellis

In the Leinster Senior Cup, YMCA beat Phoenix in a tight game in Park Avenue. The hero for YM this time was not Alan Lewis but Eamon Masterson whose 44 not out steered the Claremont Road side home after a middle order collapse.  

Universally known as Maso - sporting nicknames are original - was a big man and a very fine striker of the ball.  As a schoolboy his talent had been marked out early, with both bat and ball, when he was named as the MCC Young Cricketer of the Year, a remarkable achievement for the Sandford Park Schoolboy. Despite his performance he was not presented with the Man of the Match award in this final, something that caused outrage to the Irish Times cricket correspondent Sean Pender, but I doubt Maso cares that much for such things anyway.

Eamon Masterson

Phoenix had a great season, finalist in Leinster Senior Cup, Irish Senior Cup winners, runners up in the Belvedere Bond League and finalist in the Wiggins Teape League.  Clontarf, too, made it to the final of the WT league albeit after a semi-final against YMCA when YM’s overseas player Tim Sullivan began depositing balls into the gardens and wastelands around Castle Avenue until Gerry Kirwan got one to swing, with YM one hit away from an extraordinary win.  

So suitably chastened we headed out to Malahide for another go at the WT league against a team still buzzing after their Irish Cup win the previous week.  

Malahide in the second week of September and an early start usually meant a slightly damp and dewy ground, so the toss was crucial.  Enda McDermott had come back in for 1986 as captain and when he won the toss, there was no hesitation in asking Phoenix to bat. There was no doubt that this carried its own risk as the imperious Alf Masood could take a game away from you irrespective of conditions.  

Cue one of the greatest bowling spells I have ever witnessed. Rossa Bunworth often played a subordinate role in the Clontarf bowling line up. The great Podge Hudges and Gerry Kirwan would have been ahead of him in the pecking order most Saturdays but don't get me wrong Rossa could bowl.  

Primarily an outswing bowler, he bowled at a very decent pace.  He produced a fantastic spell that Saturday morning and afternoon when he sent down 25 consecutive overs in a remarkable feat of fitness and effort. His figures of 25 overs, 6 maidens 2 for 65 are commendable in themselves but even they fail to tell the crucial story.  

Clearly, Alf was the prize wicket and he set himself early to bat for a long period, a little more circumspect than normal perhaps, the wicket and the occasion foremost in his mind. When Rossa induced a thick edge when he had got 20, it flew to gully. I was at cover point, thankfully that the chance was not coming my way but never mind, Brennie Bergin pouched the chance.  

I can still see him holding that ball, afraid that to let it go might mean that Alf would get a second chance. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if he still had that ball in his mitt, he certainly was not letting it go. A huge moment.  

Phoenix ended up with 174, not a big score in modern day cricket but these weren't modern days.  Nonetheless, the chase was relatively comfortable and he 7 wicket win came without too much discomfort when captain Enda McDermott hit the winning run and brought up his 50 at the same time. Cue celebrations.

Next up, 1987 - a horror Cup Final.