1999 and 2000

While the local season kicked off a few weeks beforehand, the real highlight of the early part of the year was when on 21st May 1999 the 12th match of the Cricket World Cup between The West Indies and Bangladesh took place at our local cricket club on Castle Avenue.  

The first and to date only World Cup game to take place on this island. Well used to hosting international matches, this game set the stakes just a bit higher. Other big games might have taken a couple of months planning but this one took a whopping 18 months preparation.

Endless meetings with ECB, ICU, Sky, the Gardai, the list went on. Of course, the ground had to be prepared, a new scoreboard installed and seating for 3500 spectators set up. There were rumours that the game may have to be cancelled due to a scaffolders strike which was ongoing however this proved groundless, merely adding to the tension in Dublin 3. Karl McDermott put in endless hours and despite the pressure and pressure there certainly was, the work was done, problems solved. 

Karl McDermott putting in the hours in preparation

On the day, Castle Avenue was in magnificent condition, looking a picture.

Scene of Clontarf CC on the day of the West Indies and Bangladesh game taken from the Gardai helicopter

What the organising committee could not control was the weather. Not that it rained, it was a dry enough day but to be honest it was baltic. The temperature at Dublin Airport was reported to be 12C but that is slightly inland and a sea breeze can reduce the temperature in Castle Avenue by half.  The visiting players, more used to warmer temperatures, certainly agreed that it was cold. 

Clive Lloyd tries to keep warm

The game itself was not a classic, Bangladesh playing in their first World Cup scored 182 with Courtney Walsh taking 4 wickets. West Indies knocked off the runs fairly comfortably for the loss of just 3 wickets.  Brian Lara failed to warm up the spectators but the man at the other end of his greatest test innings Jimmy Adams ensured that the job got done with an unbeaten 53.

Brian Lara

There was great positive publicity as a result of the game, something Irish cricket found difficult to obtain a lot of the time.

The big news in Leinster cricket was the end of the Carlisle Cricket Club which ceased to exist as a senior club after they lost their ground. The Club operated in Senior 3 (the third division for 1999) playing out of Railway Union, where many played and joined when the club closed in 2000.

In more mundane matters, Johnny Daly continued to captain the Clontarf side who started the season like a train in winning their opening 6 games.  By the way, Senior League cricket had become winner takes all back in 1997 when the draw was dispensed with.   Such a fast start gave a little comfort when the wobbles came but winning 8 out of 10 was a very solid performance from a still young side and one that had been promoted from Senior B remember.  

So the renamed Whitney Moore Keller Senior league became the 5th league title in the nineties despite the transformation of the side following the loss of influential players like Michael Rea, Johnny Fitzpatrick, Alan McClean and Peter Prendergast.  Peter made a bit of a comeback when he played in the Semi final of the Lewis Traub League against Pembroke, a game which we unfortunately lost.  It wasnt a great weekend as we lost the Senior Cup semi final against The Hills the following day. 

The records show that I played only about half the games in 1999.  That probably explains why I remember little or nothing of this season.  Perhaps I was playing the old pro card and picking and choosing the games I played in, however if I was doing that I might have chosen not to bowl, yet I bowled more overs than in the previous 2 seasons.  That certainly is a mystery.

I do know that this was the third and final year of my involvement as a coach with Leinster under 13s as well as being a selector for the Irish under 13s.  It had been a great thrill to have been involved with this age group which had started with a whimper in 1997, out in Malahide when we lost to Munster, but a solid effort in Belfast the following year peaked when the side were unbeaten in Cork.  

There had been some great young players but I know that Henry Tighe, who acted as manager the period, and myself thoroughly enjoyed the lads as individuals, getting to know them  and enjoy their enthusiasm. Hopefully they enjoyed it as much as we did. It was a nice way to finish our time, seeing co-captains Matthew Tighe and Eoin Morgan collect the trophy in the Mardyke.  

A good run in the Irish Senior Cup would have been nice after the 1998 jaunt but that didn't happen. We were hammered by Downpatrick in Strangford Road.  

It was our first visit to the iconic Co. Down ground since its pavilion was burned down in June 1998.  A temporary facility was set up in the car park area but the ground felt completely different.  

Downpatrick lost in the next round to Brigade who went on to win the trophy beating Limavady in a North West derby played in Brigade’s home ground Beechgrove.  

In Leinster competitions, the 1998 league winners Leinster were relegated and Merrion came up. Merrion doubled up in winning the Lewis Traub league while Pembroke beat The Hills in the Senior Cup.  

If I played less games than usual in 1999, the quota went right down in 2000.  

There was a good reason for this, as our first born arrived in May. Andrew had nearly arrived in April after Fiona received a phone call from Cologne informing her that her hockey team, Hermes, had won a bronze medal at the European A club competition, only the second Irish club side to do so at that stage. They had qualified for the competition by winning the Irish Senior Cup with Fiona the captain, however being 8 months pregnant meant that she could not be part of the team that went to Europe, but it was a wonderful thrill to hear of a brilliant performance.  

With Andrew’s arrival our lives changed very much for the better.  With the agreement of the captain it was agreed that I would make myself available only for the Leinster Cup as we got used to the changes which a  child brought to a household.  

In the Clontarf ranks, there were a lot of changes.  Following the well trodden path, the outgoing captain opted to emigrate when he gave up the post so Ronan O’Reilly was the new man in charge.  A load of new arrivals appeared also.  After relocating from Scotland, opener Ali McIntosh came to Castle Avenue.  South African Thinus Fourie dipped his toe in Irish Cricket for the first time a journey that would see his capped for the Irish team in due course.  

Another traveller was the eccentric Marc Jones, described once by Peter Prendergast as the ultimate oxymoron, a nice Aussie. He was great fun. One of the main reasons Marc came to Ireland was to walk in the footsteps of his literary heroes, specifically James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.  

We did not know this when he originally enquired about spending the summer here. However, his landlord Keith Lewis soon found out when, after collecting him from Dublin Airport at 6am, Marc pleaded to be brought to the Joyce Tower, clearly unaware that the said tower was located in Sandycove, quite a distance from Keith’s residence in Clontarf. In fairness, he made Marc’s day by relenting. He was a great addition to the club, intelligent and witty, he christened Paul Ryan with the wholly appropriate moniker General Mayhem. Decent bowler too.

General Mayhem at his best
Back L-R Angus Hancock, Marc Jones, Andy Cullen, Paul Ryan,Brian MacNeice, Toby Cohen, Thinus Fourie
Front L-R Ali McIntosh, Deryck Vincent, Keith Spelman, Ronan O'Reilly, Andre Botha, Dessie McCann 

Trinity were playing in the Senior League and Cup and when Paddy Lee and Iain Synnott came back, they brought Toby Cohen along with them, it was quite a transformation in the team.  

Having signed up for the cup, it could all have ended very quickly but we beat Malahide in the opening round. The quarter final saw us away to YMCA. It was a high scoring game and when Lewi scored a big 100 it usually meant we came off second best. This time he clocked up 137 in chasing our 248 for 7 however YM’s 248 for 8 meant we won by the barest of magins, wickets lost and only one at that.  

The semi final saw us up against CYM who we beat with another good batting performance.  On the other side of the draw North County qualified for the final by beating Railway Union with Conor Armstrong and Paddy Martin doing the damage with the ball.

So to the final and a day out in Milverton, the home of The Hills.  It meant that the local support would be all heading towards North County.

It was a very good game played in front of a big, loud and passionate crowd.  An extra element to the day was that it fell on the anniversary of the death of the Fingal Legend, John Mooney, better known as The Ranger and father of two of the North County players Paul and John.

One of our players Brian MacNeice was late to the game, thanks to the birth of his and Miriam’s first child, Charlie.  We batted first and started ok, batters were getting starts but getting out. Personally, my batting ended when young Andy Cullen and myself got ourselves in a twist mid wicket and I was unable to get back in time.  

Andy was distraught but later that day he made it up to me by taking a stunner of a catch on the boundary to see the end of Conor Armstrong who was beginning to take the game away from us. Our innings got a boost from the lower order with Paul Ryan and Keith Spelman adding 95 for the seventh wicket allowing us to reach a total of 228.  

North County’s innings followed a very similar pattern, Conor, his brother Dara, John Mooney and Sean O’Connor threatened but the experience of our bowlers closed off the game with North County 41 runs short.  

Jim Bennett awarded the man of the match to Paul Ryan (to his absolute delight).  All that remained was the team photo, a team photo that is missing Brian Mac who hopped back into the car and headed to see Miriam and Charlie.  I forwent the celebrations to go home and see my own crew. 

Brian gets his trophy and goes!

That in fact was the end of my season but Clontarf only went and did the double, starting the millennium in the best possible way. 

Cup winning team minus Brian Mac
Andy Cullen, Thinus Fourie, Keith Spelman, Ali McIntosh, Paul Ryan, Sean Will Barlow, Stella Downes. 
Front Andre Botha, Ronan O'Reilly, Marc Jones, Angus Hancock, Deryck Vincent.