Jim Bennett, March 2021
Early Days, 1825-1925
The earliest references to cricket in the Fingal area are contained in the diaries of Mrs Taylor of Ardgillan when she mentions cricket in Hampton and in Rush in 1825. In 1831, the diaries contain references to cricket and tea on two occasions at Kenure and cricket and tea on two occasions at Hampton.
Hampton was again the venue when cricket was revived in Balbriggan in 1844. “Several gentlemen amateurs of that manly sport have applied to Mr George A. Hamilton for the use of the old ground in his demesne. Mr Hamilton being desirous to promote an amusement of which he is an ardent admirer, kindly granted their request.”
The availability of a train service was a crucial factor in forming a cricket team because players came from Drogheda and Dublin to play for Balbriggan, and transport was not a problem for visiting teams. The train timetable also tended to dictate the starting and finishing times of games. For example, the members of the Civil Service 2nd X1 were advised to meet at Amiens Street Station at 1.30 p.m. for a game against Balbriggan which was scheduled to commence at 3.00.
In 1844, Balbriggan issued a challenge to the Rathmines team, and a game between Balbriggan and Rathmines was played on Monday, 15 July. Balbriggan accumulated 120 runs, with James Ennis scoring 32 runs, Nicholas Ennis got 19 runs and there were 35 extras. Rathmines batted twice but only managed to score 91 runs and was beaten by an innings and 36 runs. There are no further references to cricket in Balbriggan between that date and the 1860s.
By the early 1860s, the focus had shifted from the Big Houses to the formation of cricket clubs although members of the gentry were centrally involved in these enterprises, and continued to provide the playing facilities, the equipment and the players. Balbriggan Cricket Club was re-established on 12 May 1863 with George A. Hamilton, Esq as President of the club. At the inaugural meeting, it was reported that “nearly the whole of the gentry of the neighbourhood and surrounding country have become members, and everything looks as if the Balbriggan Club, will ere long, become one of the best in Ireland.”
Balbriggan played Malahide on Saturday, 25 July 1863 on its “nicely situated ground.” Batting first, Balbriggan placed what the newspaper report referred to as a “very respectable number of 75 to their account.” The main scorer for Balbriggan was L. Filgate with 34 runs, and his brother, W. Filgate scored 14 runs. The top scorer for Malahide was T. Casey who had the honour of being the first player to score a century for Dublin University and Malahide. After a game of two innings per side, the result was a win for Malahide, but this was deemed “highly creditable” for a young club to have played with “such success against such good players as the Malahide.”
The report of the game between Balbriggan and Westown which was played on 31 August 1863 encapsulated the stratified nature of the society which existed in that era. It commenced with a reference to the “match coming off at the beautiful seat of Malachi S. Hussey, Esq. before “a great concourse of spectators, including the ladies and gentlemen, and all the peasantry of the neighbourhood.” Balbriggan batted first, lost early wickets, and the last wicket in the first innings fell for 44 with “Mr Whyte making the largest score, “by good play, all singles.”
Westown only scored 28 in the first innings but came into their own in the second innings. In his innings, “Mr Hussey played in his usual fine style and his young son and heir, Master Anthony, who is home for vacation, played and bowled beautifully.” Balbriggan really had no chance against such talented cricketers, and Westown got the required score in the second innings for the loss of eight wickets. H. G. Cary was praised for his “spirt and energy in getting up the Balbriggan Club, and the report on the Freeman’s Journal ended with a wonderful account of the after-match hospitality: Mr and Mrs Hussey displayed their usual hospitality by entertaining the players and visitors to a sumptuous dejeuner. Mr Hussey presiding and after drinking the usual loyal and complimentary toasts, the company parted at a late hour pleased, after indulging in the feast of reason and the flow of soul.
The return game between Balbriggan and Weston was played in Balbriggan on 7 September 1863 “in the presence of a large and fashionable attendance of spectators.” Balbriggan scored 46 in the first innings, and Weston scored 52 in reply. Young Mr Strong Hussey, again got favourable mention and it was reported that “although, (he was) a juvenile in years, promises fair to be a significant player, and he at present forms a very worthy example for many older players.” He did not play as well in the second innings because he only got one run, Westown was bowled out for 18 runs, and Balbriggan won by 42 runs. Balbriggan CC was praised for the quality of hospitality, and the report ended with an expression of good wishes for the future development of the club: The want of a cricket club at Balbriggan has long been felt and the present club so admirably managed and the subscription so small, we have little doubt of its meeting with the success we wish it.
For the 1864 season, Balbriggan expanded its playing programme considerably. There are reports available on 4 games, with the first game being against Malahide on 29 June. The top scorer for Balbriggan on this occasion was Mr Creagh, but the reporter was not impressed with his running between the wickets: Mr Creagh in the first innings played well, obtaining 23 not out, but had he exerted himself and run out every hit properly, we are inclined to think that he might have doubled his score; for where he got only singles, he might easily have obtained doubles. In a two innings per side game, both teams scored 49 in the second innings, but Balbriggan was deemed to have won because it was ahead at the end of the first innings.
Other games played during this season were against Eagle CC which Balbriggan won, helped to some extent by the fact that the Eagle CC had only 8 players. The return game against Malahide was also played at Balbriggan, and on this occasion, Malahide won by 9 runs. The final game of the season was played against Fingal on 23 September 1864, and strangely, the Balbriggan team was referred to as an “Eleven of Balbriggan”, with none of the usual names appearing on the team sheet. The result was a one-run win for Balbriggan.
By 1866, Balbriggan CC was thriving, and this was recognised by John Lawrence’s very influential, Handbook of Cricket in Ireland. Lawrence reported that Balbriggan CC had 40 members who paid an annual subscription of 10s. He praised the club for “greatly” promoting cricket in the district by playing regular matches and for taking part “in a good deal of practice”. The only games on which there are accounts for the 1866 season are a home game against Dundalk which Balbriggan won and a game against Leinster 11 which Leinster won by one innings and seven runs. The overall playing record for the season was played 8, won 4 and lost 4.
With everything going so well, it came as a surprise to read that the club folded in the 1867 season. No reason was given by H. G. Carey in his note to Lawrence, and Lawrence expressed his disappointment at this development: It must be a source of regret that a club so near the metropolis, possessing all the advantages of easy transit, to contend with first-class clubs, should be allowed to pass away. Possibly, our esteemed correspondent could, if he took this matter in hand, resuscitate this club, and once more give our noble game a habitation in his neighbourhood”. From 1867 onwards, Balbriggan CC had no entry in Lawrence’s Handbook. An exhaustive search of national and local papers failed to elicit details of games played, and it seems reasonable to conclude that cricket ceased in Balbriggan for a very considerable period.
In the meantime, Balbriggan had developed as a major manufacturing centre with the result that there was a constant influx of migrant workers from England to the town. By the early 1880s, there was evidence of the democratisation of the sport in Fingal. In 1881, a team called Balbriggan Wanderers played Onaskella CC in Navan on Tuesday, 6 September. The best bowlers for Balbriggan were J McDermott and J. Landy, but the home side won comfortably on a score of 51 runs to 20 runs. There was a comment that the fielding of both sides was “capital”, but “particularly so on the part of the home team. They did not let one chance escape them. In fact, they owe their victory to their excellent fielding.”
The following year, the cricket team was called Balbriggan Rangers, and it played Garristown, home and away. In the away game, Garristown won by an innings and 4 runs. Balbriggan scored 16 in the first innings and 16 in the second innings. In 1887, the team was called Balbriggan Rovers, and in its game with City of Dublin Workingmen’s CC, Balbriggan won on a score of 69 to 62. It was still called Balbriggan Rovers in 1888 and played a game against the Irish Times. There was a lull in cricketing activity in Balbriggan between 1888 and the late 1890s, partly because of lack of access to a field.
Balbriggan CC held its annual meeting on 23 May 1900, and it was explained that there was no point in meeting any earlier because the club had no ground but Terence O’Neill, businessman and landowner, came to the rescue and “placed one of his fields at their disposal”. The captain for the season was G. Hayes, the hon. secretary was R. Spenser, and the treasurer was R. Harford. It appears to have been an eventful season. Briarland CC had been unbeaten until it played Balbriggan, but Balbriggan was declared the winners at 6 o’clock, thanks to its first innings’ lead. The victory was ascribed to the bowling of Mr J. Reynolds who took 7 wickets, including 3 in one over.
The following week, Iveagh CC, “the Dublin crack” visited Balbriggan, but in “erratic weather conditions” and in front of a “large concourse of people”, Balbriggan won again on a score of 54 to 24. On 29 June, Balbriggan played the return game against Briarland, although one paper did not use the name, Briarland, it called the visitors, Ring CC. The report in the Drogheda Independent is matter of fact. Ring CC won an exciting game by 8 runs, due in “great measure to the excellent bowling of C. Hagan,” who took 7 wickets. Others to receive honourable were T. O’Neill of Balbriggan whose batting “was the feature of the match and Jem Browne who trundled the leather to best advantage”. The Drogheda Argus and Leinster League provided more detail on this game. Mr O’Neill scored 18 not out, and Mr Reynolds who was not mentioned in the other report took 6 wickets, while J. Browne took 4.
A large concourse had attended the previous game against Iveagh, and the crowd again received mention in this report: The rough element of some of the local supporters which made itself apparent during the progress of the match on last Friday, reflects a serious stain on the reputation of the club. The club means to deal seriously with persons causing a disturbance on their grounds, for if such a state of things were allowed to continue, the club would soon cease to exist.
Gormanstown CC was the next visitors to Balbriggan, and the name adopted by the club provides an insight into a strange dichotomy. This team’s home ground was at Gormanston Castle, but the cricket team insisted on calling itself Gormanstown, presumably because it did not wish to be associated too closely with Lord Gormanston, a leading member of the gentry. Gormanstown CC won on a score of 48 to 33 runs, but the crowd was in the news again and featured in P. J. Curtis’s report to the Drogheda Independent: We would suggest to Mr Terence O’Neill who kindly lent the ground for the occasion, to keep the roughs away from going to the ground who came for no other purpose than to cause a row between the two elevens.
The final game of the 1900 season for which there is a report available was played on the grounds of Iveagh CC. Balbriggan won on a score of 36 to 20, and the season ended on a positive note: The hospitality accorded to the Balbriggan men was more than friendly. After the match, an open-air concert was held, and members of both teams contributed largely to the programme.
The AGM for the 1901 season was held in the Town Hall on Wednesday, 12 June; Mr T. O’Neill was elected President, and the other officers were re-elected. Cash in hand was 7s 4d (about 36c) and the club also had a stock of “cricketing utensils”. The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the O’Neill family for the “generous manner in which they befriended the club during the season.” Among the games played during this season were away to Oldtown CC which Oldtown won on a score of 33 runs to 35, and home to Naul CC. Naul beat Balbriggan by 4 runs, and the main contributors for Naul were J. McDermott (15), W. Sherwin (5) and J. Whyte (5); for Balbriggan, J. Reynolds scored 11 not out and J. Hamlet scored 6.
Balbriggan CC did not confine its activities to cricket, and on 2 November 1901, it organised a “grand concert and theatrical entertainment” in the Town Hall. According to the report, the concert “was thronged in every part and the club must have realised a substantial sum.” The arrangements for the concert were deemed to be “perfect in every detail”, and every performer was mentioned by the name in the review. The report ended with “special praise” for the person who painted the “beautiful scenery”.
In the 1902 season, games were played against Civil Service, Drogheda, The Irish Times, and Co. Meath. The team was 4 players short for the game against Drogheda and lost on a score of 80 runs to 66. The Irish Times provided the opposition on 5 July, and Balbriggan won by 24 runs on the first innings. The main contributors with the bat for Balbriggan were O’Neill (16), P. Cumisky (12) and J. Reynolds (17), while Reynolds and Bannon shared the “bowling honours”. Balbriggan’s game against Co. Meath was played on a bitterly cold day, and Balbriggan started badly, losing the first four wickets without scoring. Hamlet (18), Mundell (17) and Cumisky (13) “put a better face on things”, and Balbriggan’s score eventually reached 65. Co. Meath accumulated 136 runs, with one player, CF Bomford getting 84 “by grand cricket and carrying his bat.” The final game of the season was against Corduff, a team dubbed the Social Invincibles. On the day, the Invincibles met their match with O’Neill (30) and Hamlet (14) being the main contributors to Balbriggan’s total of 108. In the words of the reporter, Purfield (19) was the “only one of the Corduff side who could do anything against the good bowling of Reynolds and Bannon.” The season ended with a “grand concert” which was “largely attended by all the elite of Balbriggan and district”. The personnel who organised last year’s concert were involved again, and the list of artists who contributed to its success were Miss Agnes Treacy (Gold Medalist Feis Cheoil), Miss Corry (Drogheda), Mr J. C. Doyle (Gold Medalist Feis Cheoil), Mr T. J. Graham (Balbriggan), Mr A. C. Watson and Mr L. Farrington.
In 1903, games were played against Civil Service 2, Drumcondra, Ulidia, Holmpatrick, Drogheda, Corduff and the Irish Times. Balbriggan won the game against the Irish Times on a score of 64 to 51 runs. The main contributors were W. Bannon (13), J. Love (15) and R, Spencer (10). Reynolds and Bannon were in their usual miserly form with the ball, and they both took 4 wickets. Changes were occurring in the junior cricket scene in Dublin as the junior clubs brought pressure to bear for league and cup competitions to be organised. These initiatives meant the clubs no longer had any desire or need to arrange friendly games because there were league structures in place. The exception to this comment was Civil Service 2 which played league cricket and friendlies.
In 1904, the Balbriggan correspondent for the Drogheda Argus took the cricket club to task for its tardiness in preparing for the new season: What is the matter with Balbriggan CC? On all sides one reads and hears of preparations being made for the coming season, but the committee of the BCC seems to be still in that comatose condition attributed to the bear in winter! Surely, it is not possible that the Club will be allowed to lapse in the same way as was the ever to be regretted Balbriggan Sports. The following week, he again urged to committee of Balbriggan to prepare for the season: Today will see the close of the football season in Balbriggan…. We hope that as the season is now over that the committee of the cricket club will now take steps as to promoting cricket here, before the season ends.
Balbriggan’s season started eventually with a game against Civil Service on 28 May 1904. Games were also played that season against Castlebellingham, Incogniti, Drogheda and Knockbrack. There is a puzzling reference to the serious loss which the club had suffered “in the person of Mr T. J. O’Neill who defended the wickets so splendidly for the last few years.” No further details are given because it is assumed that the reader knew what had happened to Mr O’Neill but based on information from the obituary of his brother, Edward, it appears that Mr O’Neill had emigrated to the USA.
In addition to inter-club games, business houses and factories also played cricket. In a game between Balbriggan and Belfast Banking Co., a player called A. Slogger got runs (18) and took 5 wickets. An exhaustive search of the 1901 Census has failed to reveal anyone in Ireland with the surname of Slogger so even in that era, it is obvious that “hired guns” were being used. The club secretary, Mr Spenser, also organised a game against a team from Smyth and Co which ended in a victory for Mr Spenser’s team.
From 1905 to 1912, there are 322 references to cricket in the local newspapers, but Balbriggan is only mentioned once and that is a game against Corbalton in 1912. Whether or not there was cricket in Balbriggan during this period, it is not possible to come to any definite conclusion. There may have been difficulties in getting teams out because in 1904, a game against Castlebellingham did not take place, due to Balbriggan not turning up, but in the absence of evidence, one way or another, it is futile to engage in conjecture. However, in 1911 in a related story, there was a reference to lands at Coney Hill being bought from Mr T. W. Hamlet so that a golf course could be developed. In 1961, this information was re-produced in an evening paper and Mr G. L. McGowan was asked if he knew anything about the proposed golf club at Coney Hill. He stated that lands were obtained at Bremore, a pavilion was purchased, and the necessary funds were obtained to bring this project to fruition, but a problem arose regarding the lease, and the project was abandoned. The pavilion was sold to Balbriggan Cricket Club which “was very progressive at the time”. (1911). Subsequently, this structure was dismantled and relocated to a site on Dublin Street and used for Irish dancing classes. 1.2 Balbriggan CC, 1926-1970
In 1926, there were cricket teams in Balbriggan, Ring Commons, Knightstown, Skerries and Knockbrack, but fixtures for the most part were still being arranged as challenges as distinct from there being any official structures in place.
By 1929, the number of teams in the Fingal League had increased to 15, and the new teams were Balbriggan, Naul Hill, Skerries B, Balcunnin and Curkeen. Again, the league was divided into two sections, and by the end of the season, most of the teams in Division A had played 12 games, and the teams in Division B had played 14 games. One of the Balbriggan’s first games in the league was against Knockbrack, and while Balbriggan lost by 15 runs in a game which was attended by a large crowd, there were complimentary comments regarding the “beautifully laid out grounds”.
Shortly after, there was an incident-packed game when Balbriggan visited the Black Hills. The game was terminated unsatisfactorily and there were scenes and “ebulllitions of temper not usually associated with cricket”. Two Balbriggan players were adjudged to be LBW by the local umpire, and there were ironical cheers and laughter from all sides of the ground because the decisions were palpably incorrect. One decision was reversed, and the batsman was allowed to continue. Balbriggan was dismissed for 24 runs. The Black Hills lost 6 wickets, and when P. Pollis was clean bowled by Vernon, there was a pitch invasion with the local players saying that the bails had been dislodged by the keeper.
The umpire, Mr John Reynolds, “one of the oldest and best-known cricketers in the Co. Dublin, whose knowledge of the game and integrity as an umpire are widely recognised,” was abused and the stumps were pulled by the home side. Such a report was never going to be left unchallenged, and a fortnight later, there was a reply which criticised the intemperate language of the previous article, and alleged bias and prejudice on the part of the Drogheda Independent’s Correspondent. When the league tables for the season are analysed, Balbriggan and the Black Hills have 1 point each for a draw, so it appears that the officers of the Fingal League deemed both sides to be equally culpable or equally innocent.
On Sunday, 7 July, Balbriggan visited Knockbrack, and the reporter excelled himself in his description of the vista at this most picturesquely situated ground, and only devoted half a sentence to a report on the game. For Mr P. Daly, captain of Balbriggan, there was another function to perform on 11 July when a large crowd attended a reception at which Mr Willie Ryan, one the “most popular” Balbriggan players, was presented with an inscribed cigarette case on the eve of his departure for America.
The semi-finals and finals of the 1929 Fingal League competition were held in Balbriggan, and Skerries’ reign as champions was ended when they lost the semi-final to Knockbrack in Balbriggan. The crease which was laid 24 years ago by the late Terence O’Neill and Patrick Cumiskey was reckoned to be “one of the finest in Ireland and “still in perfect order.” The correspondent then waxes eloquently on the quality of the cricket. He deemed the game to have been “the finest exhibition of cricket ever witnessed in Fingal, with the game being “up to test standard, with the fielders and bowlers winning the day.” At the end of this first season in Fingal League cricket, Balbriggan finished third in Division B, with a record of 7 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw. While Balbriggan CC may not have won the Fingal League, the club and the town were pivotal elements in its development because it provided visionary administrators, superb venues for finals and the annual dances and meetings which it hosted for many years.
In the 1930s, there was an upsurge of interest in cricket in Fingal, and Balbriggan reflected this general trend. The club had 22 playing members and a big number of honorary members. The accounts were in a healthy state and the custom-built wicket on Market Green had been sponsored by Mr G. L. Mc Gowan. The captain for the season was Mr J. Purfield, Mr C. McCombe was vice-captain and Mr P. Daly was one of the officers on the committee. One of the first games in 1930 was against Knockbrack, and it commenced late because there was a procession at the church. Ayres took 5 wickets for Knockbrack, and the best batsman for Balbriggan was Kearns who scored 20 runs. Daly took 4 wickets for Balbriggan and Crilly took 1 wicket. Knockbrack won on a score of 42 to 41 and fielded very well. Unfortunately, the same could not be same for Balbriggan: Their fielding was very bad, particularly the younger members of the team. The older players were the better fielders; they were able to run much faster which is surprising. As an example of creative thinking at Balbriggan CC, there was a raffle for a pound at the end of the game, and it was won by C. McCombe, the vice-captain of Balbriggan.
During this era, Balbriggan was a hive of cricketing activity, and in addition to Balbriggan CC, the British Legion also fielded a team There were also games on 4 successive evenings between visitors to the town and Balbriggan, and the honours ended up even. A friendly was played on the Sunday between Balbriggan and the Pioneers (Dublin), and Balbriggan won easily chiefly due to the “excellent bowling of Duignan, who is a visitor to the town.” There was a street league for children which drew big crowds to the games every evening. The reporter saw some “promising left-hand bowlers and for batsmen some of them could make their elders blush”. In the semi-final of the street league, Mill Street beat Quay Street, 27 runs to 26. Jackie Dunne took 5 wickets for Quay Street, and Peter McAleer took 5 wickets for Mill Street, with J. Bissett taking 3 and Jack Bissett taking 2 wickets.
The final was played at the Market Green between Clonard Street and Mill Street. There was a large crowd at the game, and “the cheering when a wicket fell could be heard all over the town”. The best batsman was J. Bissett who scored 15 runs out of his side’s total of 25, and the best bowler was Peter McAleer. The fielding of the Mill Street side was superior as “they swarmed around the wicket like a swarm of bees”. Mill Street won the game, and in an aside, the team was praised for winning in adverse circumstances due to two of their members deserting them to play for another team, but the two players who initially were thought to be too small, came in and fielded well. The umpires were Messrs G. A. Cashell, and A. H. White, and Mr Lewis Whyte was the score marker. The winning team was presented with a cricket set.
For the 1931 season, G. L. McGowan was captain, the secretary was Mr J. A. Purfield and the treasurer was Mr T. Reynolds. The season commenced on 3 May and Balbriggan was in Division B along with Balrothery, Ring Commons, Barnageera, Knightstown and Ballymadun. Balbriggan beat Knightstown very easily in one of the first games of the season. Knightstown only scored 17 runs, “being unable to stand up against the bowling of Daly and Howard, and Mc Combe behind the wicket made some beautiful one-handed catches”. Dignan and Mc Gowan made 18 runs between them, “thus making victory sure”. The rest of the team took things easy, and all were dismissed for 25”.
The most noteworthy element of the season was a cricket match on 29 June in aid of Balbriggan Parochial Funds which was played between the Married and Single men, with players selected from Balbriggan, Balrothery, Man-O-War and Ring Commons. There was also a football match on the Inch Lawn between Rush Mars and Balrothery Rangers for which the Parish Priest, Rev. J. Hickey had agreed to throw in the ball. This fund-raising activity illustrates the extent to which cricket clubs were centrally involved in Fingal as distinct from being a minority sport on the periphery of the community. The season ended with the Fingal League’s first annual dance which was held in the Town Hall, Balbriggan, and attended by 150 couples.
For the 1932 season, P. J. Daly replaced Mr J. T. Ennis as President of the Fingal League, and Balbriggan CC proposed the formation of an Umpires’ Association. There was general approval for this proposal and the issue was to be addressed more fully at a special delegate meeting on 24 April. This meeting was held, and the sixteen teams for the new season were arranged in Divisions A, B and C, but there was no reference to the formation of an Umpires’ Association. For this season, Balbriggan played in Division B along with Ring Commons, Rush, Knockbrack 11, Balcunnin and Man-O-War. The results to hand for this season are a win for Balbriggan against Balcunnin on a score of 43 to 27, and a loss by 4 runs in a friendly against Drogheda YMCA. Balbriggan also appeared to have been involved in one of the highlights of the season. The Drogheda Independent of 23 July 1932 referred to “one of the most marvellous bowling feats ever accomplished in the history of Fingal Cricket League”. Balcunnin batted first and scored a total of 13 runs. There is then a typographical error because the report states that it looked as if Balcunnin would have an easy victory. Even by Fingal standards, a score of 13 in the first innings should not have made any team favourites to win. By a process of elimination and by checking the teams which played in that division, the report should have stated Balbriggan. The Balbriggan reply foundered very quickly because “Murphy and Hoare found form, and it was amazing to see wicket after wicket fall in quick succession and final to see the visitors dismissed with the incredibly low score of three runs.”
A street league was again organised, and the final between Balrothery and Mill Street was played over two innings per side. In an exciting game, Balrothery won by 1 run, and some of the legendary figures of Fingal cricket are mentioned in the report. Mooney, Russell, and Cannon were outstanding for the winners, and J. Cannon who carried his bat; Rex Canning, and J. Bissett starred for the losers. The winners received a cricket set which was presented by Mr Lewis Whyte.
For the 1933 season, there were 17 teams affiliated, with Garristown entering a team for the first time. The final between Balcunnin and Ring Commons was played at Balbriggan, and Balcunnin won by an innings. Balbriggan had high hopes for the 1934 season and in the words of the Drogheda Independent, it had “got a very useful side together which should go well … in the Fingal League. The season started with a convincing win over Balrothery on a score of 91 runs to 43. Brogan, Grimes, and Howard were the outstanding batsmen and Coyle bowled well for the losers. However, it was not to be. Oldtown and Portrane contested the final, with Portrane winning by two wickets. Balbriggan members continued to play a pivotal role in the affairs of the league and in promoting the Fingal League’s corporate identity. On 9 September 1934, the Fingal League played the Meath League at Balbriggan for a “handsome set of medals presented by Mr G. L. McGowan”. In a low-scoring game, Fingal won by 5 runs (31 runs to 26); Griffin took 5 wickets for 14 runs and Hoare took 3 wickets for 11.
Over the next number of years, the initial enthusiasm for cricket seems to have diminished to a certain extent, and by 1935, the number of teams had fallen to 10. In 1936, there were still 10 teams affiliated, but there were significant changes in the membership of the Fingal League. Garristown, Man-O-War, Balrothery and Balbriggan did not affiliate, but Portrane and Naul Hill had re-entered, and the new teams were Blanchardstown and Clonsilla. Information on the 1937 season is in scarce supply. Skerries made a return to Fingal League cricket and G. L. Mc Gowan, Secretary of the Fingal League, was elected as a TD in the 1937 General Election. The Fingal League Championship was won by Balrothery. Mr John Reynolds, the umpire in the controversial game, died in 1938, and his obituary highlighted the fact that in his young days, he was one of the best bowlers in the area, and turned out regularly for Balbriggan CC even when advanced in years, he continued to be a threat to batsmen. Mr McGowan did not contest the 1938 election, citing pressure of business, but he continued to act as Secretary of the Fingal League.
Mr McGowan was again in the news in 1940. He became engaged in August 1940 to Miss Kathleen Barrett, and he was described as “dapper, debonair and endowed with tremendous energy”. There was also a brief outline of his sporting achievements – a member of the Dublin GAA minors and he also played with Pioneers, Balbriggan; played for Balbriggan Rugby team which won Provincial Towns Cup and helped Rush CC to win a Junior Cup. Prior to his wedding, the Fingal Cricket League made “a handsome and valuable presentation” to him at a supper in the Grand Hotel.
Although Balbriggan continued to be the venue for finals and dances, the club was dormant in 1940. The club re-formed in 1941, had a practice game on 11 May, entered the Fingal League and decided to elect a Committee at a later date. On 1 June, Balbriggan beat Ring Commons on a score of 36 to 35, the game was deemed to have been an “interesting struggle with some displays of cricket on both sides.”
Normally, references to the dances sponsored by the Fingal League and the various cricket clubs are positive, but Eddie Dunne of the Black Hills CC had cause to complain to the Town Commissioners about the state of the dance floor. The substance which had been sprayed on the floor, had caused the dancers to sneeze and had destroyed their clothes. The Shamrock Ceili Band reiterated this criticism of the dance floor, and it appeared that the Badminton club was at fault because it was trying to make the floor less slippery.
The big event of the 1943 season was the game between a Fingal League Selection and a Phoenix Selection which was played at the Clonard Grounds, Balbriggan on 15 August. The Phoenix team contained such illustrious cricketers as J. C. Boucher, F. M. Quinn, P. J. Quinn, K. J. Quinn, G. J. Quinn, J. N. 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*. As part of a great occasion, the Balbriggan LSF Band played the teams on to the field, rendered a delightful programme and concluded with the National Anthem. After the match, the teams were entertained by the Fingal League Committee.
Balbriggan CC was back in cricket in 1945, and there is an account of a friendly game played in Balbriggan when the visitors were Navan CC. The best bowler for Balbriggan on the day was T. Hagan who took 3 wickets for 11 runs. In 1946, the club entered a team in the Leinster League, was placed in Section B of the Minor League and drawn against Monkstown 111 in the Cup. There are no results available for Balbriggan’s season, but the Minor League was won by Phoenix 111 and the Minor Cup was won by St James Gate, the conquerors of Malahide in the first round.
There is no further reference to cricket in Balbriggan until the 1961 season, and for a number of years, cricket in Fingal was at a very low ebb due to rampant unemployment, soaring emigration and the generally depressed state of the country. In 1961, there were only 4 teams affiliated to the Fingal League, but the encouraging development was the re-forming of Ring Commons CC and Balbriggan.
The newly formed Balbriggan Cricket Club held its first general meeting in the Library, Balbriggan. There was a satisfactory attendance, and “prospects of the game coming back to its former high position in the North County Dublin town are, at present, very encouraging.” The officers elected were President: Mr P. J. Daly, Chairman: Mr F. X. McGowan, Secretary: Mr F. Seery and Treasurer: Mr T. O’Connor. In its first year back in Fingal Cricket, Balbriggan lost to Balrothery in the semi-final of the Fingal League, but the positive element of the season was being back in cricket.
Mr PJ Daly died in October 1962 at the age of 88. He had come to Balbriggan in 1916 and had taken an active part in many community activities. In addition to the Fingal Cricket League and Balbriggan Cricket Club, he had a strong interest in local history and was for many years the local correspondent of the Drogheda Independent. One of his daughters was Eily Daly who was Town Clerk in Balbriggan from 1953 and had succeeded Mr William Bannon, a cricket man, who had served as Town Clerk for over 40 years.
During its early years back in cricket, the club had a nomadic existence, and played at various fields around Balbriggan including Glebe North FC, Bulls’ Lane, and the Pump Lane field. Initially, the team only played in the Fingal League, but it entered Leinster League cricket in 1966.
Success followed in 1967 when Balbriggan won the Leinster Junior Cup. In the semi-final, Balbriggan defeated Phoenix by 4 runs on a score of 112 to 108 and met CYM in the final. Batting first, Balbriggan scored 90 runs, with opener, J. Quinlan, contributing 31 runs to this total. CYM was bowled out for 54 runs, with Tom Colgan taking 5 wickets for 21 runs and Ray Kelly 5 for 27.
In 1968, Balbriggan re-located to Mosney, and won the Leinster Junior League having been undefeated for the season. Even more success followed on 15 September when Balbriggan beat Balrothery at the Man-O-War ground to win the Fingal League for the first time. Balbriggan scored 62 runs, with the main contributions coming from Tom Colgan (13), Jack Harper (11), Martin Russell (11), Brendan Guildea (11) and Terry Quinlan (8), Balrothery was dismissed for 51 runs, with Tom Colgan and Ray Kelly sharing the wickets. The other members of the successful team were Sean Donnelly, Joe Kelly, Gerard Harper, John Quinlan, and Hugh Reilly. During this season, the Leinster Junior Cricket Committee formed a Ground Inspection group with the avowed aim of ensuring that all junior grounds were up to the required playing standard.
The initial emphasis was on the grounds outside Dublin city, and members of the committee visited the grounds of Balbriggan, Balrothery, Knockbrack, and the Man-O-War. The committee’s verdict was positive, and the hope was expressed that the Leinster Cricket Union “might be able to assist these clubs and keep the game alive in the country.”
During the period of consolidation, there was an important development which was crucial in ensuring the continuity of cricket in Balbriggan. Balbriggan Juvenile Cricket Club was founded in 1965, and its officers and committee included people such as Richard Hammond, F. X. McGowan, Patrick Gavin, Eddie Guildea and Martin Russell. This club was a separate entity from Balbriggan Cricket Club but received assistance from Jack Harper, Pat McMahon, and Joe Kelly leading members of Balbriggan Cricket Club. The juvenile club’s membership included players whose families had ties with other clubs in Fingal, so this may provide a partial explanation for the existence of two separate clubs.
During 1966, Balbriggan Juvenile Cricket Club had 20 members, it entered the Leinster League at U15 level, and it also made itself available for friendly games with teams from Dublin, Meath, and Kildare. There were some difficulties experienced in getting teams from Dublin City to travel to Balbriggan, and in a prescient comment, the Evening Herald’s Correspondent anticipated the establishment of a Fingal League Juvenile section which occurred in the early 1970s.
The Juvenile Cricket Club went from strength to strength, and in 1968, it began a series of coaching sessions in the Boxing Club Hall. Martin Russell had attended a course in Dublin which was facilitated by two top English coaches, Messrs Canning, and Holt, and along with Mr R. Hammond, put his knowledge at the disposal of the juveniles. There was another boost for juvenile cricket in Balbriggan when Mr J. N. Brophy, the Manager of the Munster and Leinster Bank and a former Irish International, agreed to assist with coaching. With coaching progressing well, the next item on the agenda for the club was to obtain security of tenure so that a ground could be developed and in 1970, Fr O’Beirne gave the club access to its present ground.
Unfortunately, some of the people who had been involved in the club from its early days did not get the opportunity to see it develop. Mr F. X. Mc Gowan died in 1969 and his brother, Mr G. L. Mc Gowan died in 1971.
The game of cricket has been played in Balbriggan for nearly 200 years. In 2020, Balbriggan CC celebrated 50 years at its present ground, and in 2021, the club will have been in existence for 60 years.
This is by far the longest continuous period of cricket being played in Balbriggan, and the members, past and present, deserve the highest commendation for the manner which they have developed their facilities, their teams, and provided a wonderful leisure-time activity.
Cricket is part of the cultural and sporting heritage of Fingal, and people in Balbriggan have been pivotal in ensuring that cricket has been preserved and developed for this generation and for future generations.
We commend Balbriggan CC and wish them well in their continuing endeavours.
Note: I acknowledge the assistance of Joe Curtis in providing photographs and some important references. Martin Russell continues to be a wonderful source of information.