Jim Bennett, October 2020
The Fingal League has always had a strong corporate identity, and this was nurtured over the years by the involvement of the Fingal League selections in representative games. It was important for Fingal League cricketers to test their prowess against cricketers from outside Fingal because for much of the period under review, players in the Fingal League were deemed to be "junior cricketers". In 1934, a Fingal League selection played a Meath selection for a trophy sponsored by GL Mc Gowan, solicitor. A return game was played in Somerville Cricket Club in 1936 between Deanhill and a Fingal League selection. Deanhill was dismissed for 40 runs with Hoare and Murphy taking the bowling honours, but the Fingal League team was dismissed for 31, with Morgan 13* and Mooney 12 being the chief contributors to the score. As a postscript to this report, the correspondent expressed the hope that there would be more of these games in the coming season "as it would do much to revive the declining interest in Meath cricket."
In 1939, a Fingal League Selection played Pembroke First X1 in aid of the Skerries New Church was advertised as "The Event of the Season". There were two separate reports on this game in the Drogheda Independent, with one headline reading "County Cricket at Skerries", the other headline was more emphatic - "Fingal win well - Pembroke 1st X1 Outclassed." The Fingal team was drawn principally from Skerries, Balrothery, Portrane and Knockbrack while the Pembroke team contained two internationals. Fingal batted first, and scored 90 runs, with P. Neville contributing 20 of this score. Pembroke "never mastered the bowling of A. Quinn and C. Mooney and were all out for 29". The game was sponsored by Mr GL Mc Gowan, and the report ended with a plea to have regular games of cricket in Skerries because of "the immense popularity of this pastime in the district."
On 15 August 1943, a Fingal League Selection played a Phoenix Selection at the Clonard Grounds, Balbriggan. The Phoenix team contained such illustrious cricketers as JC Boucher, FM Quinn, PJ Quinn, KJ Quinn, GJ Quinn and JN Brophy (Irish Internationals), and the game which was described as one of the best games seen in North County Dublin for many years was witnessed by a very large crowd. The fielding of the Fingal side was "admirable", and" the bowlers (Mooney, Russell, Murphy and Hoare) were in their best form." Hoare took 5 wickets for 0 runs, and Phoenix ended on a score of 59. The Fingal Selection made 62 for the loss of 7 wickets, with Jim Coleman scoring 10 and Joe Caprani scored 19*.
In 1944, The Fingal League played Phoenix CC on 18 June 1944. Unfortunately, the result of that game was not published in either the local or national newspapers. The Fingal League team was again in action on 5 August when it played against a Meath Selection. The result was a win for Fingal League on a score of 106 runs to 73, and one of the main contributors to the Fingal League's score was Tom Murphy (15) who was to have a long and distinguished cricket career. In the return game against Phoenix 1944, the Fingal League emerged victorious by 10 runs. The top scorers for Fingal were E. Moore, J. Neville and T. Murphy, with C. Russell and J. Neville being the outstanding bowlers.
In 1946, the Leinster Cricket Club sponsored a Festival week at Rathmines, and a Fingal Selection was invited to play against Leinster 111. The report on this game mentioned that the Fingal selection "looked very clean and neat in their whites which was very necessary for this big occasion." Fingal scored 171 for 6 declared, the opening pair of Pa O' Brien and T. Murphy contributed 46 to the total. Leinster scored 66 in reply because the Fingal attack and fielding was "too good." There were two representative games in 1947. In the first of them, the Fingal League played the Meath League, and the result was a win for Fingal on a score of 77 to 43. In the second game, the Fingal League played a Leinster selection at the Market Green, Balbriggan on 24 August. The home side scored 79, with K. Murphy, C. Russell and J. McGrane being the main contributors to the total. Leinster was all out for 43 due to the "splendid attack of C. Mooney, C. Russell, S. Hoare and J. Murphy supported by very keen fielding."
The tradition of Fingal League selections playing games was revived during the 1963 and 1964 seasons with fixtures being arranged against Carlow CC and Bray CC. In 1963, a Fingal League selection travelled to Carlow, and had a convincing win over the home side on a score of 157 to 44 runs. The report in the Nationalist and Leinster Times referred to the team being accompanied by a "host of friends and well-wishers to give moral and active support". In an era before the internet, the people back in Fingal were kept informed by the supporters releasing "innumerable carrier pigeons to take home the news of their safe arrival to villages all over North County Dublin." The opening partnership of V. Casey and T. Murphy put on 79 for the first wicket, and B. Casey contributed 37 to the Fingal score. The main bowlers were Mooney (4 for 11), Murphy (5 for 15) and Fanning (1 for 18). Unfortunately, for reasons unspecified, Carlow did not travel to Fingal for the game in 1964, and the first instinct of some members of the Fingal League Committee was not to fulfil the away fixture, but wiser counsel prevailed, and it was decided to play the game. In terms of priorities, it was agreed to order 6 dozen stout, 5 dozen ale and 5 dozen minerals, and to ask the clubs to make an all-out effort to sell tickets for the bus to Carlow.
Until 1974, the Fingal League's games were classified as exhibitions, and not necessarily taken too seriously by the senior players in the opposition, but in 1974 the Fingal League players were provided with the opportunity to test their cricketing skills against senior players when the Leinster Cricket Union invited a Fingal League selection to play in the Alan Murray (T20 Competition). This development was on an experimental basis in 1974 and a combined CYMS/ Civil Service team was also invited to play in the competition. In its first game, it played YMCA and scored 70 runs in its innings with John Morgan having the top score of 24 runs. YMCA reached its target for the loss of 7 wickets, and Sean Moore took 3 wickets for 15 runs. In the second game, the Fingal League played Pembroke, and it appears that the game was decided on wickets lost because according to the Irish Times, both teams scored 70 runs, but the Fingal League was 70, all out, whereas Pembroke's score was 70 for 9. Anthony Rooney was top scorer with 17 runs, and Tom Murphy took 3 wickets for 11 runs.
Although the Fingal League did not win either of its games, it acquitted itself well enough to justify the continuation of the experiment for the following season. In 1974, cricketers from the Man-O-War had played for the Fingal League, but in 1975, Man-O-War played in the Alan Murray Competition in its own right, and the players on the Fingal League Selection were from The Hills, Balrothery, Rush and Knockbrack. The Fingal League was again in the same section as YMCA, and on this occasion, the report in the Irish Times read, "YMCA suffered a shock 21 runs defeat in the Leinster 20 overs mid-week competition". Liam Archer was the star performer on the night, with a top score of 34 runs, and he also took 4 wickets for 13 runs. The final scores were Fingal League, 99 for 8; YMCA, 78 all out. In the final, the Fingal League played Pembroke who had won this trophy 5 times, and in its innings, the Fingal League scored 74 runs, with the top scorers being Liam Archer (16), John Archer (13) and Tommy Mooney (12). In quintessential Fingal fashion, the bowlers came to the rescue, and Pembroke's final score was 63 runs for 7 wickets. The bowling heroes on the night were Martin Byrne (3 for 14), Paddy Byrne (2 for 13) and Tommy Mooney (2 for 21).
The Fingal League reached the final again in 1976 and played against Malahide. Malahide batted first and had scored 32 runs for 2 wickets in 9 overs, then it collapsed to 43 for 9 after 14 overs and ended up on 57 runs. Sean Moore took 4 wickets for 17, Paddy Byrne took 3 for 23 and the bowling was backed up by "keen work in the field". There were some anxious moments during the reply, but Matt Sheridan (26*) and S. Neville (11*) steadied the Fingal nerves, and the margin of victory was 5 wickets. The Fingal League was scheduled to play Donemana on 25 September 1976 in the final of the All-Ireland Beckett Cup, but it appears that this game fell foul of the weather and was never played.
The drive for three in a row was ended by Clontarf when it won a tense game at Rush. In previous years when Fingal won a game, it was described as a surprise, but the development of the team over the three years was such that Clontarf's win was described as "the biggest upset". Clontarf scored 98 runs, and the Fingal League's final tally was 94 for 7. Sean Moore was again the most successful bowler, with 3 wickets for 14 runs, and the top scorers were N. Harper (15), J. Neville (13*) and L. Archer (13).
The Fingal League Selection had one further outing in this season when it played a Senior 2 League X1 at Rush in September 1977. The visitors batted first and scored 135 for 9 wickets after 45 overs. The best bowlers for Fingal were Paddy Byrne (4 for 39 runs, off 15 overs), Tommy Mooney (3 for 34 off 14 overs) and Martin Byrne (2 for 33 off 13 overs). In reply, Fingal had a steady start, but then lost 4 wickets for 7 runs. Liam Archer (22) and John Neville (20) ensured that a collapse was averted, and Matt Sheridan (29*) whose innings included 2 sixes, finished off the game with his customary aplomb. The Drogheda Independent's comment on this victory was that "the strength of Final Cricket was demonstrated again."
From 1978 onwards, the ambitions of individual clubs began to change, and there were less clubs available from which to select the Fingal League teams. The Hills played in the competition in 1978, Man-War continued as an individual entity and the Fingal League Selection was no longer as strong at the teams which had represented the League in previous years. Having said that, the Fingal League selection reached the semi-final of the Alan Murray Cup in 1979, but lost to Leinster, the eventual winners of the trophy. In 1980, The Hills, Man-0-War and Rush played in the competition so the number of players available for selection by the League was reduced even further. There are reports of a Fingal League selection playing in the Alan Murray competition until 1988 at least when a Fingal League team lost to Clontarf at Knockbrack, but after that date, there are no further references to a Fingal League Selection playing in the Alan Murray Cup.
The involvement of a Fingal League Selection over a fifteen-year period in the Alan Murray Cup brought benefits to both the Fingal League and to the Leinster Cricket Union. For the individual players, there was an opportunity to play against senior cricketers, and to assess whether their own ambitions to play senior cricket were realistic or unrealistic. Given that games between Fingal clubs were often ultra-competitive, it was of value for players from the different clubs to play with as distinct from against each other. For the clubs, there was an opportunity to compare and contrast the facilities which they encountered at the senior clubs, and to decide on the improvements which were necessary at their own clubs if they were to attain senior status. For cricket in Leinster, it invigorated the competition because of the passion and commitment with which the Fingal team played, and it showed that it was possible to defend small scores with superb bowling and fielding. For the Fingal Cricket League as a body corporate, it was an important vehicle for maintaining the concept of Fingal identity within the wider cricket community.