- Born 24 June 1943 Dublin
- Died 4 May 2001 Dublin
- Educated Blackrock College
- Occupation PR officer for Oil Company
- Debut 25 July 1963 v Scotland at Beechgrove
- Cap Number 499
- Style Right hand batsman, right arm off breaks.
- Teams Railway Union
Joey O'Meara was a fine all round sportsman. First and foremost he was a brilliant hockey player, who gained 52 Irish caps between 1970 and 1977, captaining the side and later becoming team manager. He was also a very good all round cricketer, who, unfortunately, never showed more than flashes of his true worth at representative level.
A highly competent off spinner, though he bowled little in some of his later seasons, he was selected for Ireland ahead of similar bowlers such as Ken Kirkpatrick. As a batsman, he was, at his best, a superb attacking middle order player. "I have never seen anyone else hit a cricket ball as hard as Joey O'Meara," said Charles Halliday, Dublin University opener of the 1960s, in a recent conversation with this writer. Charles was in a good position to judge. He played high class club cricket in England and abroad for over 30 years after leaving Dublin, turning out regularly for sides such as MCC, Free Foresters and the quaintly named, but ever formidable Hampshire Hogs.
Joey began for Railway Union as a sixteen year old and was to make his last appearance for the Park Avenue side, when he was forty eight. Always instantly recognisable in his heyday, by his shock of black hair, he won Leinster Schools and Irish Schools recognition, though the latter's programme was then limited to one match a year v the Leprechauns. In all Leinster Senior Cricket for Railway, he scored 7679 runs at 22.65, with his highest score, 113, his lone century. He also hit 35 fifties. He certainly had the ability to have scored more hundreds, his style of batting, however, was not really conducive to accumulation. He remains Railway's second highest aggregate holder, though trailing his contemporary Ginger O'Brien by more than 13000 runs.
He also took 375 wickets with his off breaks, placing him third in the club's all time wicket takers, behind the left arm duo of Niall McConnell and Edgar Pigot. Indeed had he played for another team, his tally of wickets would probably have been higher. This writer has memories of scoring for Dublin University in matches v Railway Union in the early 60s - and watching the Park Avenue side on other occasions in the same decade - when Niall and Edgar, left arm slow medium round the wicket, seemed in perpetual motion.
Visiting a certain bank in Grafton Street on Monday mornings, it was almost a surprise to see that cashier Edgar, behind the counter, was not still bowling. Joey and others were not called upon to ply their trades as often as they would have been elsewhere, as Niall snared 1033 victims and Edgar, though some of his were gained for Phoenix, neared a tally of 500. It comes as somewhat of a surprise, however, to realise that Niall did not play very many more matches than Joey for the club: 459 to 411. Joey also held a little matter of 157 catches, ahead of everyone else who was not also a wicket keeper, though this is to exclude Ginger O'Brien, 243 of whose 326 catches were made when he was not wearing the gauntlets.
Joey captained the club in 1969 and again in 1985 and 1986, one of the few with the temerity to interrupt Graeme Guthrie's seeming monopoly of the job in the 70s and 80s. His first real breakthrough came in 1962, when he and Ginger had much to do with Railway winning the Leinster Senior League. As Derek Scott, himself a member of the side, recorded in Wisden, "BA O'Brien, aged 19, made 478 runs and J O'Meara, aged, scored 278 runs and took 42 wickets with off spinners. Of these two a great deal more should be heard in the future." For neither the first nor the last time Derek was most certainly right about cricket and cricketers.
One of Joey's best matches, however, was in the Leinster Cup Final of 1967, under Ginger's captaincy. The match was with Phoenix in the Park and was, of course, under the old play to a finish, no limitations, rules. This produced some mightily boring cricket, but also some excellent matches, of which this was one. O'Brien won the toss and Railway posted a decidedly useful 310, Joey with 57 being one of three to reach 50. Phoenix dropped several chances, mostly off fast left armer Adrian Naughten, whose British Army duties had kept him in Catterick Barracks in Yorkshire, and away from Dublin for the entire season so far. He finished with 0-56, much to his annoyance.
Then the Phoenix reply faltered. Turning and flighting the ball skilfully. Joey wove a web around leaden footed batsmen on the second afternoon, with the result that the hosts were soon around 50-5. Enter Naughten, who batted right handed, to take charge of the game, so that, at tea, he had passed 50 and an upset seemed likely. At the interval however, captain and bowler decided on a change of ends, though as Ginger admitted almost twenty years later, for no good reason. It worked. Naughten fell for 84 and Joey wrapped up the tail to finish with 6-74. Railway were home by 127 runs. There was no man of the match award in those days, but, despite Naughten's batting, there could have been only one winner.
He was also to show his brilliance in the Irish Senior Cup in 1987. Rain made serious inroads into much of the competition. The second round that year was moved from May to June in an effort to find more cricket like weather than that which had assailed the Cup in the previous two seasons. Instead it rained even harder and a series of bowl outs and restricted overs matches followed. Railway found themselves playing host to Woodvale in a 24 over match. The visitors reached 142 in their allocation. Railway, or rather Joey, made light of the task, his big hitting delighting those brave enough to have defied the elements and stayed to watch.
Joey's appearances in the Guinness Cup came after his Irish career was over and he did not show the consistency required to resurrect it. He had a handful of useful scores, but lacked the really dominant innings of which he was so capable. A few typical knocks showed what might have happened more often. In 1967 South Leinster found themselves on 12-6 against Alec O'Riordan, Dougie Goodwin and veteran seamer Ernie Bodell. Joey, at 7, was then joined by Alan Parker, a tall fair haired medium pacer, with a penchant for batting well in a crisis. They quadrupled the score then took it past 50, before Joey was run out. The "North" won with ease but Joey had helped avoid a total disaster. In 1968 he hit a brisk 36 against Ulster Town to enable hid side reach 203-7 declared. A tight finish left "Town" on 188-8 when time ran out.
A good bowling performance came in 1972 against North West, when his 3-58 were all in the first five, including Ray Moan (24), one of the most reliable batsmen in the history of the Interprovincial Tournament.
Joey only gained two Irish caps, both in 1963. Possibly he was both picked and discarded soon. He began with a pair on a pig of a wicket against Scotland at Beechgrove, where only the defensive skills of Stan Bergin and Herbie Martin in Ireland's first innings and the more aggressive and less orthodox approaches of Donald Pratt and Noel Ferguson in the second could counter the visitors' bowling. However the Scots made even less of the Irish pacemen in their first innings, and, were tied in knots by Scott Huey's spin in the second. Joey lost his wicket to pace in both innings, the Scottish opening bowlers Ronald Hogan and Stuart Wilson each taking his wicket.
On to Lord's for the MCC Match where Ireland was somewhat lucky to escape with a draw. Batting at 6 in the first innings, Joey made his third successive duck, bowled by the fast medium Jeremy Cook of the Lord's groundstaff. Cook, who had troubled the Irish batsmen in College Park two years before, had six wickets as Ireland crashed out for 64. When MCC batted they passed 200 before declaring with Joey taking his one and only wicket for his country, returning the figures of 10 - 6 - 46 - 1, which suggests that he received rough treatment, but also commanded some respect. His one wicket was a most valuable one, that of the captain Raman Subba Row, just two years from having retired in his prime as a left handed Test opener, with two hundreds in the same Ashes series, 1961, to be remembered by. In Ireland's second innings, Joey helped to make the game safe, making 16, putting on 44 for the 5th wicket with Ray Hunter, before being out hit wicket to leg spinner David Lewis, who played a handful of matches for Glamorgan and also made a brief foray into first class cricket in South Africa.
Joey did not play again, thus joining Kirkpatrick, Given Lyness and Ken Hope in short lived possession of the off spinner' role, though Hope, of course lost his action, so the selectors cannot be charged with inconsistency in his case. It is true that Joey did not take the chance offered to him, but he was possibly not quite ready for it. It was, however, surely a somewhat harsh judgement to discard him after just two games, particularly considering the conditions at Beechgrove.
As we have seen, Joey continued in the Railway Union side for many years. His three sons, Greg, Gareth and Graham were all later to play for the club at senior level. Before his tragically early death, Joey had been manager of the Irish team, thus pulling off a unique cricket and hockey double, and had also been Irish Cricket Union commercial manager.
His obituary is in Wisden 2002.
Edward Liddle, February 2009