Jim Bennett , 22 April 2021
Two Fingal clubs, Balrothery and Rush were playing in the Intermediate League in 1951, and they awaited with great interest the draw for the Intermediate Cup.
Rush had won the trophy in 1950 while this was Balrothery’s first year playing in that division, and the big incentive for all clubs at that grade was the opportunity for the winners of the cup to play in the Irish Junior Cup.
Rush was drawn against 3rd OBU and Balrothery drew Clontarf 111. Both Fingal teams had away games and they were to be played on 26 May 1951.
Details of Rush’s campaign were obtained quite readily, but there is less information on Balrothery’s route to the final. Rush beat 3rd OBU, Pembroke 111 and Merrion 111. However, a report is available for the league game which was played between Rush and Balrothery on 24 June 1951.
Rush won the toss, and elected to bat, but lost 2 early wickets when the score was only 5. Con Martin (26) and Stephen Carty (11) steadied matters for Rush, and then Jim Coleman (16) and Heraty (12*) added some valuable runs to leave Rush with a total of 85 runs. C. Russell and C. Mooney bowled very steadily, and there was some superb fielding by C. Russell. The Balrothery reply started very badly, and C. Russell, J, Bissett, S. Hoare and V. Farrell were dismissed for 11 runs. C. Mooney with a “very bright” 34 and M. Gosson batted “with every confidence”, but when Mooney was out, the remaining wickets fell quickly and Balrothery was all out for 60 runs.
No game between Fingal teams would be complete without a reference to the quality of the fielding, and in addition to Russell, Con Martin was also commended for his brilliant catches. Rush and Balrothery were destined to meet again, this time in the final of the Intermediate Cup, which was played at Civil Service’s ground on Sunday, 22 July 1951.
It was seen as a reflection of the “high standard of the game in Fingal “that North County Dublin teams were able “to overcome all opposition” to reach the final. In the final, Balrothery batted first, and made what was deemed to be the “respectable total of 141” with solid contributions from C. Russell (36), V. Farrell (32), J. Mooney (23) and M. Gosson (20). Tom Murphy and P. Carty were commending for trundling in “good style” for Rush. At the close of play on Sunday, Rush had lost 4 wickets for 63 runs.
When play resumed on Monday, it was obvious that the Rush batsmen were “uncomfortable against the really fine bowling of Mooney and Russell”. In the end, Rush only added 8 runs to the total from the previous day and was dismissed for 70 runs. The only batsmen to reach double figures were Con Martin (25), T. Murphy (15) and J. Heraty (10*).
As winners of the Intermediate Cup, Balrothery was drawn against Wexford in the preliminary round of the Irish Junior Cup, but before travelling to Wexford, Balrothery beat Merrion 111 in a league match on Saturday on a score of 102 to 36 runs. The game in Wexford was not really a contest as Balrothery scored 128 runs, and Wexford was restricted to 36 runs. On the day, the main batsmen for Balrothery were John Mooney (56), Jem Bissett (26*), Mick Gosson (19) and Tom Sheridan (10).
In the final of the Leinster Zone, Balrothery played Longford in Longford. The Longford Leader reporter in building up the atmosphere for the game contended (inaccurately) that the Balrothery team as a rule nearly always exceeded 200 “in practically every match they play”. He had his doubts about the Longford batsmen because they often “go to pieces and are completely overcome by nerves”. In his opinion, “a little practice before the match” would give the players more confidence and “those who can do so would be well advised to avail of it”. This preview hardly constituted an overwhelming vote of confidence in the Longford team, but he wished them well, and “if given a share of good luck, the visitors will not have everything their own way.
In a sign of different times and attitudes to pre-match preparation, the players were requested to be “on the grounds at least half an hour before the match commences.” In the report on the game the following week, the anonymous correspondent excelled himself. His opening salvo set the tone for the rest of the article: Longford Cricket Club make a present to Balrothery of the match to decide who would represent Leinster in the Irish Junior cup. It is painful to think, and hard to imagine how Longford could have lost, when one considers that three of the visitors’ wickets were down for 5 runs and Longford with a total of 56 runs for 1 wicket. He lavished praise on the opening pair of Ian Cox and Des Magahy – “in fact one could not find better in the two teams combined”, but he was appalled that the remaining 8 wickets fell for a “mere 23 runs”.
Having castigated the batsmen, he turned his attention to the “deplorable state of the outfield” and asserted that had it been “any way reasonably good, would have doubled their score. Beautiful strokes were completely lost owing to the outfield”. Again, never letting the facts get in the way of a good argument, he praised the bowlers for bowling “the visitors out for their lowest total ever”.
In his final paragraph, he oscillates between harsh criticism and optimism: Longford X1 are out of the Irish Cup Competition and have no one to thank but themselves. They had the game in their hands, but just gave it away. The Dublin X1 were dumbfounded and could not realise how they could have won, Longford having 8 wickets on (sic) hand and only 44 runs to make. Some day Longford will get out of the bad luck rut- and we hope it will be soon. The material is good, but nothing seems to break right for them. For the record, the final score was Balrothery 99, Longford, 79.
Galway County Cricket Club who had been unopposed in the Connacht Zone played Balrothery at CYMS, Terenure in the semi-final. The Galway team was captained by Derrick Kennedy, a former Irish cricket international, and included prominent rugby players such as Liam O’Brien (a rugby international), Oliver Goodbody (Old Wesley and Connacht), Martin O’Rourke and Basil Wood. Galway batted first, but in the words of the Irish Times, “was all at sea on a much faster wicket than those to which they are accustomed in the West”.
Only one player, Young (10) got into double figures; Mooney (5 for 11) and Russell (4 for 11) were the main destroyers for Balrothery and Galway was dismissed for 32 runs. The required target was achieved for the loss of 2 wickets, and Balrothery marched on to the final.
In the final, Balrothery played Cork Bohemians, the holders of the Irish Junior Cup who had beaten Rush the previous year in winning the inaugural trophy and had been unbeaten for 2 seasons. The game was played at the Phoenix Park, and Balrothery batted first. As tended to happen Fingal teams on big occasions, there was a partial batting collapse, and the first 5 wickets fell for 11 runs, due to the bowling of Barnwall and Cronin. Hoare (26) and H. Russell (13) put on 24 runs for the seventh wicket and Balrothery’s innings closed for 63 runs.
As had happened on many previous occasions, Kit Mooney (4 for 11) and Christy Russell (6 for 8) bowled brilliantly, and Bohemians were dismissed for 20 runs. Balrothery CC had always been proud of its rural roots, and the report on the Drogheda Independent on the following week drew attention to this key characteristic of the club: This was a great achievement on the part of Balrothery and upholds the reputation of the area for producing champions in any line of sport. The club and the players are mostly composed of farmers and farm workers as well as one schoolboy. This year saw the continued evolution of Balrothery’s reputation as a cricketing centre.
For years, its feats were only recognised in Fingal, then after it affiliated to the Leinster Cricket Union in 1949, it began to gain a reputation at provincial level. Now by winning the Irish Junior Cup, Balrothery had arrived on the national stage, and its players also began to achieve representative selection. Christy Russell and Kit Mooney were selected for the Leinster Cricket Union Intermediate team which played the South-East League at Waterford on 15 August 1951.
The social involvement of the club was of crucial importance because the cricket club was the only organisation in the village. This situation obtained until the early 1970s when the cricket club was still the only organisation in the area. The season commenced with a dance at the Town Hall, Balbriggan on 22 April, music by the Serenaders, admission was 2s 6d and dancing was from 9 to 1. The invitation to the dance read “Come and enjoy the dance of the season”. After such a successful season, it was important to mark the various victories, and this is something that Fingal clubs have always done with great enthusiasm. They never became blasé about winning trophies, and they always celebrated when they won.
In this instance, a “Grand Presentation Dance” for the winners of the Intermediate and Irish Junior Cups was held in the Town Hall, Balbriggan on 9 November 1951. Music was by the Savoy Orpheans, admission was 5s, dancing was from 9 to 3, and Supper which was provided by Mrs McKeown was extra.
To finish off the year, another dance was organised in the Town Hall, Balbriggan on 21 December and it featured Stephen Garvey and his Orchestra with Hammond electric organ. On this occasion, dancing was from 10 to 4; there were spots and novelties, and admission was 5s. Catering was again provided by Mrs McKeown, and it was extra to the entrance price. This review of 1951 showed a club that was thriving. It had consolidated its position in the Intermediate League, and it had won the Intermediate Cup and the Irish Junior Cup.
As the only organisation in the village, it was also acutely aware of its social responsibilities, and this was reflected in the functions which it organised throughout the year. It could look forward to the new season with confidence, and the level of enthusiasm for cricket in Balrothery during this period was such that the club was able to field two teams in the Leinster Cricket League in 1952.
The First X1 won the Intermediate League for the first time in 1952 by beating Leinster in the final game of the season. The Second X1 under the astute leadership of G. L. McGowan won the Minor Cup. The victory for the Seconds was particularly meritorious because the team was mostly composed of young players.
At the AGM, Mr Moore, Secretary of Balrothery CC, ascribed the progress of the club since its foundation 17 years ago to the “loyalty of the members and good sportsmanship in defeat as well as victory.” These sentiments are a fitting conclusion to this review of a year in the life of Balrothery CC.
Note The continuing assistance of Joe Curtis and Martin Russell for photographs and answering queries is acknowledged with gratitude.