Alan Waite, March 2005
In the absence of overseas touring opportunities, a group of local cricketers got together in 1981 and organised a six match trip to South Africa. The make up of that initial touring party became the essence of Grasshopper cricket, Irish players Dermott Monteith, Simon Corlett & Stephen Warke playing alongside good club and interprovincal cricketers such as Brian Ferris, David Napier & Philip Billingsley. The Grasshoppers have also tried to ensure that a number of good young cricketers travel on each of its trips, in the hope that these individuals will benefit socially as well as broadening their cricketing knowledge – Who will forget Kyle McCallan’s performances (on & off the field) as an 18 year old in Zimbabwe in 1995!
Of the 113 players who have at some time turned out for the Grasshoppers, 21 have been capped for Ireland. Players have been drawn from all over Ireland not just the NCU area, Peter Dineen & John McDevitt from Munster, John Prior, Joe Byrne, Michael Halliday and Dick Forrest from Leinster, Ian Rankin & Paul Wallace from the North West. During a short tour to England in 1986 we even had the actor James Eillis make an appearance.
On 9 overseas tours the Grasshoppers have now played 78 matches winning 49, losing 28 with 1 match tied at the Hurlingham Club in Buenos Aires in 2001.
The Grasshoppers have no clubhouse or ground, a small committee meet on a Sunday morning, come up with ideas for future tours and then get on with the organisation required. John Elder, our current President, was the main driving force in the 1980’s & early 1990’s. His enthusiasm and attention to detail left a strong legacy for those involved today. During his period of chairmanship the club visited Zimbabwe three times, how sad it is for all those who have been to that country to witness its current problems & know that we probably will not have the opportunity to go back, as many of the farms on which we were billeted are no longer operational. The first Zimbabwe trip in 1987 seen the Grasshoppers come up against a superbly talented 15 year old in Andy Flower and also the likes of Davy Houghton & now international umpire Russell Tiffin. Trips to the magnificent Victoria Falls & four days cruising on a houseboat in Lake Kariba hold special memories.
One of the great characters of Grasshoppers cricket was the late Tom McCullough. Stories involving Tom are plentiful, anyone coming in contact with Tom will have their own favourite. Those who were there will remember him being carried from the scorebox in Wankie (Zimbabwe) after a long hard day scoring in 35 degree heat, stumble as he was left to carry on under his own steam, reaching out he grabbed the first thing that came to hand which happened to be the blouse of a very attractive young lady. The blouse came off in Tom’s hand as he fell to the ground exposing the young lady to all except Tom as he lay prostrate on the ground. Tom’s inability to control his legs even when not a little tipsy got him into a lot of trouble, like the morning he went for a stroll and fell into Graeme Hick’s fathers swimming pool & had to be rescued.
John Elder was also responsible for the organisation of the round the world trip in 1989. This took in Los Angeles, Fiji, New Zealand, Singapore & Malaysia. We played in Eden Park and on the test ground in Hamilton against the likes of John Reid, John Bracewell, Willie Watson and Geoff Howarth. At Eden Park Dick Forrest was heard to say when the opposition were 38 for 4 that we would be back in the hotel for lunchtime – John Reid & John Bracewell then both proceeded to score centuries and smash us to all parts of Eden Park – Needless to say we were not back in time for lunch!
Off the field the eight souls who made up a water rafting party in New Zealand will forever remember what real fear was like, and only for the bravery & shear brute strength of Adrian Semple & Clifford Forsythe avoided a situation that could have had a much more serious outcome.
There was a short trip to Cyprus in 1996 followed by a major 8 match tour to South Africa in 1998. The sight of Simon Thompson on national television throwing for a million rand to hit a stump 60 yards away during a Pakistan v South Africa one day international was great, unfortunately Simon broke his ankle in the next match, so we had to carry him & his consolation prize of a large Hi Fi set round the rest of South Africa! The Grasshoppers association with water continued when Peter Bates went for a swim off a pier in Durban and had to be rescued by the life guard.
Three years later in 2001 saw the Grasshoppers break new ground with a trip to Argentina & Brazil. This was an incredible opportunity to play cricket and sample vastly different cultures to our own. We played at the ground in Sao Paulo were Charles Miller introduced cricket & soccer to Brazil – The soccer took off and the cricket didn’t! We also played at the magnificent Hurlingham club, the home of polo in Argentina. Off the field there were visits to the grave of Eva Peron and the fabulous Igazu Falls.
There was also the opportunity to watch River Plate play in local soccer derby. Quite an atmosphere! We were a little perturbed when our local guide told us to remain in the ground until after the visiting supporters has left the ground. After about 10 minutes we could understand why as seats rained down from the stand above!
Our hotel in Brazil was on Copacabana beach, never mind the bronzed beauties, the site of 20 milky white cricketers strolling along the white sand certainly turned a few heads. We also got to watch a soccer match in the Maracanda, which could do with a lick of paint, & took the a cable car ride up Sugar Loaf Mountain.
The Grasshoppers returned to South Africa in 2003 to coincide with the World Cup, playing 4 matches, attending 2 world cup games & also a super 12 rugby match all cramed into 10 days. It was the second occasion we have had to visit the magnificent City of Cape Town and hopefully not the last. It was also the second time we have had the opportunity to play at Groot Drakenstein. The name probably won’t mean anything to most people, the ground 50 kms from Cape Town is reputedly the oldest in South Africa, surrounded by Mountains on three sides, when the sun is beginning to set the reflection off the mountains is quite unforgettable.