- Born Quarter 4, 1884 Dublin
- Died Unknown
- Educated Blackrock College
- Debut 11 September 1909 v All New York
- Cap Number 271
- Style Right hand bat; right arm medium pace
- Teams Pembroke
William Coffey was one of the six sons and eleven children of Thomas Coffey a solicitor of Sandymount on the southern coast of Dublin Bay. William's immediate elder brother was John Joseph Coffey (1875- 1945) who gained 20 Rugby caps for Ireland as a forward between 1900 and 1910. He also played for the Barbarians, on whose committee he served, and was later a leading referee. The brothers were educated at Blackrock, William thus unsurprisingly being a useful Rugby footballer also, played with John for Lansdowne.
He had not long left school when he played for Pembroke in a two day match against The Remnants an English wandering side in 1903. The visitors, who also played against Phoenix and Dublin University Long Vacation Club, won by an innings with some ease. William's scores have not been seen but he took one wicket, dismissing the tourists' opening bat George Potter, who had played 10 matches for Lancashire the previous season. In 1909, described by Hone as "a very young player," William, thin faced and of average build, was one of only five of the originally selected side to make the tour of North America under the captaincy of Frank Browning. This was the fourth and least successful of the Irish sides to cross the Atlantic before the First World War. They were no match for the Philadelphians in the two main fixtures of the tour but did well enough against other opposition.
William played in three non cap matches without making much impact. Against Ottawa he made 0 at No 10 and, but, failing to take a wicket in the first innings had 1-10 in the second, disposing of one of the hosts' seemingly over long tail. However he can hardly be faulted for not getting more wickets as the spinners Willie Napper and Bill Harrington carried all before them in both innings. In the United States, the tourists took on a Baltimore XVI, William finding his form to take 3-11 with two of his victims falling to catches by Oscar Andrews. Batting at 11 this time William contributed 2 to the Irish total but then took a further wicket as Baltimore followed on.
His third non cap match was against a Philadelphia Colts XVI. The game ended in a draw, William having taken 2-37 in the hosts' first innings. He also played in two of the three cap matches, which perhaps revealed the weakness of the Irish attack rather than his ability as a cricketer. His debut came against all New York at Staten Island a ground still used for cricket today but, as Joseph O'Neill's "Nederaland" described, very different from the splendidly ornate and well maintained one on which William and his team-mates played. He made little contribution to Ireland's 5 wicket victory, though this was, in part, due to Harrington and Napper again carrying all before the ball.
William appeared in the second of the two Philadelphia matches, replacing the pace bowler and Army medic, John Lynch. Ireland had lost the first by an innings and 168 runs with the great American pace and swing bowler Bart King having match figures of 14-91. He took all 10 first innings wickets and did the hat trick in the second! In the second match Ireland collapsed for 78 and 68 but did - in between their two innings - restrict the home side to 212. William played his part in this, having the highly credible figures of 3-40. He and Napper (4-72) were the best bowlers. Batting he made 4 in the first innings before being stumped by wicket keeper Thomas Jordan off King. Considering King's pace and how much he swung the ball, this was a considerable piece of glove work, but Jordan has always been seen as the best of all American keepers. In the second innings William was leg before to the Australian dental student HV "Ranji" Hordern for a duck. Hordern, one of the first of Australia's "googly merchants" was to return home and severely trouble England in the 1911/12 series, though he was never able to tour.
At the end of the tour William Loftus Coffey, to the disappointment of his team-mates, decided to stay in the United States. Another brother, Stephen, visiting him there the following year. He is known to have been married with a daughter and living in New York in 1920, but thereafter nothing is known of him.
Note: This player has previously been wrongly identified as William Lees Cloffey born in 1888 and seemingly unrelated to the cricketer's family. I am much indebted to Mr David Coffey, whose great grandfather was William's uncle for pointing out this error and for providing valuable information.
Edward Liddle, December 2010, updated February 2012