Philip Boylan chewed through a few universally interesting topics with Darrell Hair just before he addressed a special Leinster Cricket Umpires' Association meeting at Clontarf last August. The Australian World Cup umpire, along with Eric Cooke, took charge of the Royal Liver Irish Senior Cup semi-final between Clontarf and Ballymena at Castle Avenue, and the final at Beechgrove between winners Strabane and Ballymena with Stan McCready.
Pembroke stalwart Frank Malin and Australian Test umpire Darrell Hair may live poles apart but they are soulmates because of Law 26.2(a) which covers the thorny point of leg-byes. The nearest either of them gets to raising their voice is in expressing incredulity that because of the tenet of that particular part of cricket law runs can accrue to a team simply because a batsman has made a genuine(!) attempt to play the ball with the bat. They contend that just because a batsman has made a genuine attempt but ingloriously failed to lay bat on ball and yet can "pinch" runs because the ball has run off some part of the body, is in life's category marked "absurd".
Darrell Hair already has a long list of Tests and One Day Internationals on his CV in a blossoming career and through the European Cricket Council, on the initiative of Dr Ali Bacher, Chairman of the ICC Development Committee, he officiated at the Castle Avenue semi-final of the Royal Liver Irish Senior Cup and final at Beechgrove. Special umpires' evenings North and South were much enjoyed.
Hair is a big man. Big in stature as you find with most fast bowlers, and big in the way he is forthright in that Australian way about various aspects of the game and the fact that, top official or not, he feels pressure and is exhausted by the demands of a Test match, mentally and physically.
On the Muttiah Muralitharan controversy: Did you ever wish it had not arisen? "Yes," was the straight and honest answer, but there was never any question of him not continuing to face the bouncers (as underlined a few months later).
On cameras and the third umpire: "I am for it for simple things like run-outs and boundary decisions."
The suggestion of fellow Australian Cony Crafter that technology was only around the corner which could take the guessing out of lbw decisions could have caused a seizure in a lesser man, but the fact that Hair only reacted with a questioning mild incredulity at the idea is one his strengths.
On the field of play, apart from the inevitable few hurlers on the ditch everyone could see that his man and match management skills were from the top drawer.
Some of the over-enthusiastic appealing in the deciding test between England and South Africa was obviously fresh in the mind, and in spite of fines and admonishment, Hair readily admits that "there is no doubt that players do appeal when they know full well that a batsman is not out."
Seems that the equivalent malaise of feigning injury and diving which was a sickening part of the soccer World Cup can be found on some cricket fields and is just another malaise which will have to be tackled by the World Health Organisation as it is sadly spreading to the younger generation, too.
"The present system of fining players doesn't seem to work, but I tell you what (must be a relation of Alan Hansen!) if captains, who are responsible for the behaviour of their team, also copped the same fine there would be some captains out there really taking control." There seems to be ice in Darrell Hair's veins, so it is comforting to know that he is human. Eg: do you feel pressure? "Yes, definitely. You feel pressure no matter what type of appeal goes up. I think that if you don't, you are not concentrating properly on what you should be doing."
Hair is willing to listen to most suggestions and accept innovation within reason, but one development brings him out in spots. What do you think of coloured clothing? "I absolutely hate it. And in Australia I hate the gear we have to wear. It makes me shudder at the start of each year when I have to unpack the gear and have to walk out in it."
He may have a half-century of one day internationals under his belt, but traditional cricket fits more easily around his massive frame, so it was no wonder that he was so relaxed as he told a gathering of Leinster umpires and scorers of his experiences and vision of the game.
Nobody had asked him to dress up in pyjamas to umpire the Royal Liver Cup matches!