This series of articles was first published in early 2001.
It is invidious to make lists of great players from any era but some others should be mentioned. Stanley Bergin from Pembroke, Scott Huey from Eglinton, Alec O'Riordan from Old Belvedere, Jack Short from Leinster Cricket Club and Cork County, Simon Corlett from North, Dougie Goodwin from Malahide, Alan Lewis from YMCA, Paul Jackson from North, Stephen Warke from Woodvale and Angus Dunlop from YMCA, who made consecutive first class centuries v Scotland in 1999 and 2000, would get into anyone's list.
In looking for the highlights of these last fifty years in international cricket the dismissal of the West Indies for 25 and the subsequent 9 wickets victory has to be the most talked about. When the teams went on to play a two day match at Ormeau, in Belfast, Ireland held out for a draw. Thus it could be claimed that Ireland won the series! The game was a triumph for two of Ireland's long serving opening bowlers, Alec O'Riordan and Dougie Goodwin (right). It was claimed by some that the opposition had succumbed to Irish hospitality prior to the game. However the truth is that a soft green wicket, excellent bowling and a few careless shots were the cause of this astonishing scorecard. A film of this remarkable day for Irish cricket has survived, with a commentary by a young Neil Durden Smith. The second most memorable match in this period was Ireland's first victory over professional opposition in a competitive game. This was the win over Middlesex in the Benson and Hedges Cup at Clontarf in 1997. Assisted by the bookies friend, Hanse Cronje, Ireland made 281 for 4, with Cronje making 94 not out, but with notable contributions from other home bred players, especially Decker Curry who hit a rapid 75. Middlesex replied with 235 all out. This victory was preceded up by an Irish triumph in the first ever European Cup in Copenhagen in 1996. However there has been little of note to happen since.
I would pick the win over Sussex in a three day match at Pagham in 1977 as another significant milestone. It was Imran Khan's first game for Sussex and at that stage was vieing with Ian Botham for the title of best all rounder in the world. In 1977 he was also being described as the fastest bowler in the world. Ireland bowled Sussex out twice and won chasing 200 in the last innings. Jack Short (right) made 99, Chris Harte 49 and the great memory of the game was a duel between Imran and Podge Hughes, the Irish seam bowler, who came in to bat at number 9. In bad light, wearing spectacles but no helmet, Podge backed away and slashed Imran over cover, over the slips, over the wicket keeper. Instead of trying to bowl him, which would not have been difficult as Podge was standing in the vicinity of the Square Leg Umpire, Imran tried to hit him. He succeeded but the ball went for 4 leg byes off the middle of the Clontarf man's back. Eventually Imran was warned and taken off by the Sussex captain, Peter Graves. These unorthodox runs kept us in the game with a chance of winning.
A ground breaking tour to the USA and Canada was undertaken in 1973, visiting places as diverse as Louisville, Kentucky; Washington Park, Chicago and Palo Alto, San Francisco. Zimbabwe has been visited three times. The first tour was in 1986, when a 19 year old called Graeme Hick (left) made 309 in the three day game. He was famously dropped by John Prior when on 16, not a particulary difficult chance. John himself made 0 and 1 in the match so he reckons he came out of the game with a deficit of 294! It was during one of his spells bowling at Hick in this match that the author of this piece had his first experience of homesickness. John Prior may not have had his best game in Harare but it would be wrong to gloss over his career. The most memorable sight I ever had in an Irish cricket ground was when John hit a century in 51 balls against Warwickshire at Rathmines in 1982. Gladstone Small, attempting to break into the English Test XI, was brought back to quieten things down and remove John from the crease when he had reached 93. He then hit Gladstone for five successive fours to go to 113.
One great advantage of having the honour to play cricket for Ireland was that you got the chance to play against the best players in the world. Despite being an amateur team from a minority sport in a small country, all the Test playing countries had Ireland included in their itinerary from time to time, and generally they were delighted to come as a welcome break in the middle of a test series in England. Of the thousands of talented club cricketers throughout the world I got the chance to meet and play against household names like Colin Cowdrey, Sunil Gavaskar, Allan Border, Joel Garner, Viv Richards, Courtney Walsh, Mike Brearley, Geoffrey Boycott, and just because I was lucky enough to be an Irish cricketer. It is also important to acknowledge the role of a succession of excellent cricket administrators in the Irish game who helped make these fixtures happen. Foremost in this role was Derek Scott, secretary from 1974 to 1998, who, apart from his untiring work for Irish cricket, became a respected committee man at the TCCB and President of the ICU in 2001.