- Born 16 May 1866 Moira, Albert Road, St Kilda, Melbourne
- Educated Oscott College, Dublin University
- Occupation Director Of Castlemaine Breweries
- Debut 14 July 1887 v Canada at Rathmines
- Cap Number 191
- Style Right hand batsman, right arm round arm fast medium.
- Teams Dublin University; Phoenix; Melbourne
John Fitzgerald was the second of three Australian brothers who played for Dublin University and Ireland. The sons of Irish - Australian politician and entrepreneur Nicholas Fitzgerald they had four other siblings, one of whom, Percy, a Brigadier, was also a good cricketer. Biographies of the two Irish cricketers, Francis and Edward also appear on this site, while Francis' biography also contains details of their family background.
John, who attended Oscott College near Birmingham - was a fine all rounder. Some have seen him as the best cricketer in the family, though Edward would run him close. An attacking lower middle order batsman, he was primarily a fastish round arm bowler, whom differing accounts have ranked from medium to genuinely fast. It would appear that his stock ball was fast medium, but that he could produce real pace. On his day, he lost little in comparison with University team-mate David Emerson, of whose speed and hostility there has never been any doubt.
Entering Dublin University in the autumn of 1884, John was four years in the XI from the following summer, winning his colours each season. In all he scored 1034 runs at 18.46 with a highest score of 112 made against Co Meath in College Park in 1887. This was his best season with the bat bringing him 527 runs at 26.25. The hundred won him a presentation bat. As a bowler he took 123 wickets. 39 at 11.70 in his final year was his best performance.
One of his outstanding matches for the University was against "An England XI" in 1887 in College Park. The "England" side was really a combined Yorkshire Lancashire team, led by the latter county's captain AN "Monkey " Hornby, whose eccentric ideas about batting orders had gifted the Oval Test of 1882 to Australia and so created the Ashes. This match was the first time the University had taken on first class opposition on level terms and they gave a good account of themselves. John was second top scorer in the first innings 141 getting 33 at 7. He defied a varied attack which included doughty pacemen Tom Emmett and George "Happy Jack" Ulyett and famed left armers Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs, to say nothing of Billy Bates a slow round armer and taker of Test cricket's first hat trick . Billy's son, also Billy, was to play for Yorkshire and Glamorgan before coaching NICC for many years.
When the "England" side batted, John shared the attack with Emerson, both men taking 4-42, to give the hosts a 19 run lead. They were then put out for 107, with John again second top scorer on 27. Chasing 127, the visitors scraped home by one wicket. John, troubling all batsmen and hitting top pace, bowled superbly to return figure of 19 - 6 - 45 - 6.
John played nine times for Ireland 1887 - 1888. Two of these matches were 12 a side games on the North American tour during the latter year. His figures for these games do not appear on his stats page, but match scores and reports may be found by following the links on the stats zone home page. In his nine matches he scored only 109 runs at 9.90 but took 47 wickets at 10.46.
He began well in the two matches v Canada at Rathmines in 1887, the second played only because the visitors, still without their land legs after a long voyage, succumbed by an innings. John had 4-38 on debut, but his most impressive performance for Ireland came against Scotland, at the same venue later in the season. The Scots batted first on a rain affected wicket. They were dismissed for 65, John, despite being hit out of the ground by rugby international Don Wauchope, who gave him the charge, finished with 3 cheap wickets. Ireland obtained a 77 run lead- partly thanks to John's brother and fellow debutant Edward who hit a brilliant 37 - and the visitors had crashed to 4-3 when John entered the attack. Well supported by Archie Penny, he returned the remarkable figures of 15.2 - 9 - 9 - 6 to give Ireland victory by an innings and 21 runs.
As soon as the match ended the Irish team sailed for North America. Raised by John Hynes but, after a shipboard election, captained by Dominic Cronin, they did not represent the full strength of Ireland, not, for example being a strong as the team which had disposed of the Scots. It was largely composed of current or recent Dublin University players, with both the Fitzgerald brothers included. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as tough opposition normally brought out the best in him, John did not do much in the non cap odds matches, though he took 6 wickets against XV of Coburg and made 48* v Northern Counties XVI, both on the Canadian leg of the tour.
It was, however, a different matter in the cap matches. Against Canada at Toronto, he had match figures of 8-61 as the hosts went down by an innings and 26 runs. In the first innings of 114, he bowled unchanged to record remarkable figures of 29 - 10 - 50 - 5. He then made 22, opening the innings, before helping Hynes (6-17) wrap up the match with second innings figures of 15 - 9 - 11 - 3. The wicket was somewhat rough and brother Edwards keeping was described as "brilliant."
John also had 5-50 against somewhat sterner opposition in the second innings of the first Philadelphia match. This was a closely fought encounter ending in a 7 run victory for the hosts in dramatic circumstances described in the biography of Thomas Tobin, which may also be read on this site. Alas in such a close game, John failed with the bat, contributing 9 and 0 to the Irish totals.
He returned remarkable figures also in the 12 a side cap match against Longwood. This was a low scoring contest in which no total reached 100 as Ireland emerged victorious by 5 runs. The hosts first innings was destroyed by the leg spin of Hynes (6-31) and John's speed. He returned figures of 15.1 - 9 - 10 - 5. His second innings 2-11 helped seal the narrow victory.
The final match of the tour, also 12 a side, was the second Philadelphia game. Ireland agreed to play 12, though this was considerably to their disadvantage. John did little with the ball on this occasion, but made his best score for Ireland in the first innings. Batting at 7, he made a quickfire 35, helping the teenage Jack Meldon add 50 for the 6th wicket.
John did not play for Ireland again and seems to have returned to Australia shortly after the tour. He continued to play cricket however, appearing in several matches for the famous Melbourne Club, whose home ground is the MCG. Here in late December 1891, he was a member of the Club's XVI which took on Lord Sheffield's XI, the English touring side led by WG Grace. The Doctor was far from popular Down Under and made far more from the tour than all his professionals combined. In this match, though, he did little. The game was drawn; with the tourists establishing a narrow first innings lead. John contributed 4 at No 12, and did not bowl, the team, led by the great wicket keeper Jack Blackham, having several top class performers including Hughie Trumble, ranked by some as the best off spinner ever to play for Australia. John caught "The Guv'nor" prolific Surrey opener Bobby Abel off paceman Jim Phillips.
Of John Plunkett Fitzgerald's subsequent life little is known. He was involved for sometime in the family firm Carlton United Breweries, but research, at both ends of the globe, has failed to unearth either a date of death or any other personal details. He is the only one of the seven Fitzgerald brothers whose death is not recorded in the family's chapter in "Burke's Irish Family Records." Any further information on this elusive but remarkable cricketer would, of course, be most welcome.
Edward Liddle, August 2009