1987 - A horror show at the cup final

This is going to be difficult. At some stage in the next 1000 words I am going to have to relive possibly the worst weekend of my sporting life. Before I even started the writing details of the year, I got a message from Neil Bailey telling me how much he was looking forward to 1987. He knew why and so did I. So bear with me Neil, it will be along in due course, maybe it will be cathartic, but somehow I doubt it. 

The real story of 1987 was Dublin University Cricket Club, but I’m going to call them Trinity.  It was a case of so near and yet so far away.  Now people have differing views on Trinity cricket, I am unashamedly a supporter and this season proved just how positive a university side can be.  Their season stats are impressive, played 17 won 10 drew 3 lost 3.  

However, when the trophies were handed out there were none heading to College Park.  In the league, the title was within touching distance but Phoenix pipped them at the post.  Noel O’Mahony had come in as coach and was a huge influence but this was a seriously good team.  

The stand out players were internationals Michael Rea and Mark Nulty but there was a hugely talented supporting cast.  Dave O’Neill came in from Holland and was a fine batsman, Lennie Sheahan an excellent opening bowler, the great Johnny McGrath, Paul Meehan, Richard Davies, Hugh Prior, Alaistair Blair, Ian Morgan.  That is a high class team. And they were great individuals too.  

But as I mentioned, it did not quite work out for them.  Clontarf drew them in the Senior Cup semi final and on a baking hot day, the two teams slugged out one of the best cup matches played in Castle Avenue.  Batting first Trinity made an impressive 246 for 6 with Michael Rea scoring 114, his first hundred for the university with Mark Nulty adding 75 and Dave O’Neill 33.

Before the reply got underway, the Clontarf Alickadoos tried to assist us by putting the opposition opening bowler off his game.  Johnny McGrath occasionally had no ball issues so he developed a very specific way of marking out his run up, which was a good length.  

He would measure the distance by placing one foot precisely in front of the other, arms out to the side (as a tightrope walker might work their way across a rope) and counting out the required number of steps, he took his time doing this. Well Bunny Fitzsimons and his mates decided that Johnny was fair game, and they started shouting out random numbers to confuse him. It didn't take much to rile Johnny and before long he was fuming while Bunny and his sidekicks giggled away. 

Bunny Fitzsimons and his son Michael

Trinity also had their own travelling alickadoo, Peter Ashe who would make his support known loud and clear every week from the boundary.  The hero of the chase was Alan McClean whose flamboyant 84 set up a 4 wicket win for the home side.  It was Alan’s first major innningson the first team and the start of a fine career, full of these carefree knocks

Alan McClean batting v YMCA, Keith Bailey keeping and Ian Keartland in background

Aside from the brilliant cricket being played, up at the top of the ground the scorers had to leave the hothouse scorebox and players gathered around them chatting. Ger Siggins was doing the honours for Trinity that day and came to my rescue when my music choices of Billy Bragg and The Blades came in for some abuse from my teammates, it turned out that we shared some musical favourites.  Later that week a cassette (younger ones may have to google that) dropped through my letterbox.  Ger had very kindly dug into his albums and taped some early stuff from the Blades and a new band to try, Stars of Heaven.  I reckon that cassette is still somewhere in my house, nothing to play it on mind you.

This really is the cassette

And so to the Cup Final where we were up against the habitual finalists YMCA.  Surely it was to our advantage that the game was to be played on our home patch.  Maybe the stars were aligning and the drought of cup final wins dating back to 1969 would come to an end.  Well that's what we thought.  It never happened.  Google cup final disasters and 1987 will pop up I have no doubt.  

Not that YMCA would necessarily see it that way. They were fantastic, we were awful.  Batting first they scored a formidable 294 for 6 and yes you have guessed right Alan Lewis was their top scorer. Just for a change he did not quite make a 100 this time, limiting himself to a mere 86 before being stumped off the bowling of David Fleming.  

Suitably frazzled we went out to bat and it all fell apart as Johnathan Garth blew us away with the ball. Five wickets for just 25 runs meant that our reply never got going and we managed only 72, Enda McDermott top scoring with 17.  Defeat - on our home ground - by a record 222 runs. The stuff of nightmares.

Is there any solace to be found?  Actually yes there was.  Always keen to put on a good show, the club had organised for a band to play in the bar.  A member, Pat Byrne, whose daughter Celine, herself an international cricketer who would marry Alex Cusack, was a professional drummer and he and a few of his mates occasionally put on a show in the bar.  

That was one of the nights and a jammed bar and I mean jammed, enjoyed a fantastic night. Another side show was the chin up competition which played out on the beams which run across the bar.  Big Al McClean beat Eamon Masterson in their showdown while Angus Dunlop was less than pleased to be bested by Grainne O’Brien. Little did he know that Grainne was getting a little assistance in her efforts. It made for a great night after a truly demoralising day.  

Brian MacNeice had come into the first team for the first time the previous season but in 1987 had established himself.  Now primarily a bowler, he had in a previous existence been a wicket keeper/batsman, this was the year he captained Irish Schools which included 2 other club mates Feargal O’Mahony and Paul McCready.    It was a very good Schools side, Stephen Smyth and Eddie Moore went on to Full caps but there were a host of high class cricketers in the team and a badminton international in Bruce Topping.

Speaking of badminton, the Irish Senior Cup this year was won by St Johnston in an all North west final against Brigade.  The Donegal club were captained by the cricket and badminton dual international Paul Wallace, a fine cricketer and extremely nice person. 

Our Irish Senior Cup journey started with a bowl out victory against Downpatrick with hits from Brian MacNiece and Peter Prendergast (before he took himself off to Spain for the summer). A win over Merrion before a quarter final loss to Railway meant a run in the competition for the first time. 

We got to the final of the Wiggins Teape again, we were always good in that tournament. The opposition in the final, you've guessed it, those Samdymount YMers again. However it all ended in a damp squib as the final was rained off. Honestly, I have no recollection of it at all. 

Perusing a club programme however i came across a nice little story which I do remember and is something which is not something you are likely to see now. There was a mid week game in Merrion and mid weekers always caused issues around availability. Anyone checking the scorecard in the next day's Irish Times will have noted a 50 on what seemed to be a debut for the opening bat B.J. Murphy. Well done young man and best of luck in your cricket career.

The truth however was that B.J. Murphy was none other than Brian Bunworth. If a player didn't want their employer to know that they were not with that new client they had dropped into conversation the previous day and were actually wasting time playing cricket in the midst of a recession, then they opted for the pseudonym. Then again getting runs and having your name appear in the paper wasn't ideal and no one would know of tour heroics.  Not sure what Cricket Leinster would make of it now with the formal registration of players, never mind the statistics. Paul Reynolds may have to credit Brian with another fifty to his official record.

Lots of familiar names in the cricket reports and just one unfamiliar one, BJ Murphy.