- Born 12 January 1965 Johannesburg, South Africa
- Educated The High School, Dublin
- Occupation Insurance Company Executive
- Debut 28 May 1986 v India at Ormeau
- Cap Number 562
- Style Right-hand bat, right arm fast medium
- Teams Leinster, YMCA
Jon Garth, the first of his remarkably talented family to achieve representative honours on the cricket field, was a first rate all round sportsman. Apart from his cricket, described in some detail below, he won caps for Ireland at both Rugby Union and Rugby League, the former with the 7 a side team. As a cricketer, he was a genuine all rounder: a batsman capable of brilliant and devastating stroke play, a bowler who, though ranked by some as a medium pacer could be distinctly lively and was possibly, in his younger days, among the fastest in Dublin. He could also turn his hand to off breaks and could keep wicket in an emergency.
Educated at Dublin's High School, where he was a contemporary of Deryck Vincent, he gained a place in the Irish Schools side against Wales in 1982 and 1983, being captain in the latter season. Ireland had a very strong side in the first year and finished victorious by 97 runs, despite some top class pace bowling by the future Glamorgan and England paceman Steve Watlin. Coming on late in the visitors first innings after Ireland thanks to Alan Lewis and Michael Rea had totalled a respectable 215-8 declared - Jon ensured Ireland a useful lead by wrapping up the tail with figures of 8.1-6-5-3. He also caught Tony Cottey, later of Glamorgan and Sussex, off Mike Shannon. He took a further wicket in the second innings so, though he did little with the bat had a satisfactory entrance on to the international scene. The following year at Pontarddulais, Wales led on first innings by 124 runs. They must have felt happy about setting Ireland a target of 379 and astonished to lose the match by 2 wickets with Ireland, led by fine innings from Charlie McCrum and Sean Clarke, batting consistently down the order, Clarke hitting the formidable Watkin out of the attack. Jon, dropping himself down the list, came in at 335-6 and saw his side home, finishing on 22*.
That summer also saw him a member of the Irish squad in the Youth International Tournament in the Netherlands, under the captaincy of Alan Lewis with whom he established a firm friendship. He played a key part in Ireland's three wicket win over Bermuda taking 3-17 to help dismiss them for 107. In all he took 9 wickets at 19.88, but must have been rather disappointed with his batting which left him with an average of 9.75. He could console himself that it placed him above his captain!
His senior cricket career in Dublin had begun with Leinster while he was still at school, but Lewis persuaded him to move from Observatory Lane to Claremont Road. He was thus a part of the great YMCA side which was so dominant in Leinster cricket in the 1980s. To bat they had not only Jon and Lewis but Angus Dunlop and Mark Nulty.
International representation was rounded off by wicket keeper Keith Bailey, while there were other very good players such as Ian Burns and Eamon Masterton. Most of Jon's 5022 senior runs at 24.36 - including his three centuries - were scored for YM. Twice - in 1986 and 1990 - he won the Samuels Cup for the best all rounder in Leinster. In the former year, YM made an almost clean sweep of the individual awards, with Australian Tim Sullivan, who formed a highly successful pairing with Jon, taking the O'Grady Cup for bowling and Bailey the Hopkins for wicket keeping. That year, incidentally, the club carried off the Senior League, Senior Cup and Alan Murray Cup. The three summers from 1986 to 1988 had also seen the Cup come to Claremont Road, with Jon playing a leading part in the last two victories. In 1987 at Castle Avenue, he saw Lewis (86) and Burns (46) pile up a score of 294-6 before himself taking 5-25 to send the hosts spiralling to defeat at 72 all out. Only Enda McDermott (17) gave the south siders any trouble. 1988 saw a low scoring local derby on neutral turf at Sydney Parade. Railway Union were put out for 148 but YM had Jon (40) and Burns(36) to thank for their 4 wicket victory. Jon was man of the match. We may conclude our brief review of his YM career by noting that all three of his hundreds were scored against Leinster at Rathmines : 105* in 1987, 103 in 1988 and 123 in 1990.
Jon was also a prominent member of the South Leinster side in the interprovincial tournament for a number of years, scoring 978 runs at 32.60 with 2 hundreds It is probable that he would have passed his 100 runs had not rugby commitments in the early 1990s begun to restrict his availability. The oval ball had also restricted his time at Claremont Road. The first of his two hundreds came in a high scoring match at Stormont in 1987. Ulster Town had led off with a massive 290-5. Rea (120) and Chris Harte (97*) putting on 159 for the 4th. The visitors looked to be in some trouble on 58-2 when Jon joined Mark Cohen who was in one of his more obdurate moods. They added an unbroken 147 for the third wicket thus drawing the match on 205-2. Jon, undaunted by the situation, completed a brilliant hundred to finish on 104*, the Carlisle man making 70.
His highest score in the tournament, however, came in 1989 against Ulster Country at Sydney Parade. With Paul McCrum and Garfield Harrison sharing seven wickets between them, most of the home batsmen struggled, SL being all out for 215. Jon's share was a dazzling 119 before he gave McCrum a return catch. The next highest score was Nulty's 31. We might also note a match saving 58* against North West at Strabane in the same year. The hosts dominated the SL attack reaching 313-8 declared with Ray Moan batting through the innings for 116*. Were it not for Jon's 58, the visitors would have been routed. They just hung on at 122-8 with Cohen's 18 the next highest score.
Jon also had a number of notable bowling performances in the competition, often part of a good all round match. Thus against North Leinster at Kimmage in 1987 he opened the bowling and took 4-42 including the formidable pairing of Brian Gilmore and Neil Taylor. Then with a resolute 57 he saved his side from defeat as they finished on 131-8. SL themselves were thwarted by a rearguard action when they faced Ulster Country at The Green in 1988, despite more fine all round work by Jon. He began by top scoring with 69*, adding 73 for the 5th wicket with Ian Burns as the visitors totalled 313-8. Their hosts just held out at 122-8, Jon taking 3-46 including Garfield Harrison caught at the wicket by the ever dependable Bailey.
He made several appearances for Ireland U 23, never to more effect than in the match against Scotland at Ayr in 1986. Winning the toss Ireland were struggling on 20-3 when Jon came in. With some help from John Hoey in a 5th wicket stand of 74, he tore the hosts attack to shreds with an innings termed "brilliant" by the ICU Yearbook. His eventual 129 came from a total of 223. Thanks to some excellent bowling by the McBrine brothers Ireland were able to enforce the follow on and eventually win by 6 wickets.
It must, however, be admitted that, for so talented a player, Jon's record for the full Irish side is somewhat of a disappointment. In 26 matches between 1986 and 1989 he scored 392 runs at 14.00 and took 24 wickets at 43.46. These figures are particularly puzzling considering the fact that his best cricket was played in his first year in the XI. His debut match, against India was, like much else in that summer, ruined by rain. Batting first the visitors had reached 57-3 in 18 overs of keen bowling and fielding, before the weather closed in. Jon had time, at second change to return the figures of 4-0-16-1. His one wicket was a memorable one. With his third ball in international cricket, he bowled the elegant record breaking Azahruddin, not then tainted by the match fixing scandal, for 9. The following day the teams met at Downpatrick in a thriller. Batting first on winning the toss, the Indians were restricted to 209-7 from 55 overs with Jon taking 2-35 to be Ireland's best bowler. And what a two they were! The mighty "Aza" fell to him again, caught by Simon Corlett, while Dilip Vengsarkar, scorer of almost 7000 Test runs with 17 hundreds fell for 46, thanks to a Mark Cohen catch. Ireland made a good reply with Stephen Warke and Alf Masood leading the way, but a mid innings decline saw 49 needed off the last 5.
As the ICU Yearbook reported, "Garth, in his first innings for Ireland, made a great effort, but 15 off the last over proved too much." He was caught on the boundary off the first ball of the last over from pace bowler Prahabakar, having hit a second top score 41. He and Patil of India received man of the Match award. Three days later he had 26* in a one day "friendly" against Yorkshire at Malahide, if such an adjective can be used to describe a match in which the opposition included a certain G Boycott and had a certain DB Close lowering on the boundary edge. In the match Jon's 5th wicket of 73 with Lewis, rescued Ireland from the depths of 44-4 and put some sort of respectability on the scoreboard. He also batted well in the MCC match at Castle Avenue in July though any other batting performance had to take second place to the brilliance of Mark Waugh, then far from being the household name he became, who made a double and single century in the match. Jon's second innings 64 came as Ireland chased a target of 278. He shared in a 5th wicket stand of 93 with Paul Jackson, but Ireland had, in the end, to bat out time to save the match. Jon was also prominent the following summer in which Ireland, ultimately, suffered heavy defeats. At the end of June Ireland at the County Ground in a Nat West first round match. Jon, with highly creditable figures of 11.1-1-28-3 was the leading bowler as Ireland bowled a county out for the first time in the competition. His wickets included the diminutive Richard Williams, once seen by many as a potential England player. Ireland, chasing 199, found the county attack too strong and folded for 110, though Jon (17) did enough to have his all round play praised by The Times.
His final season, 1989, saw another good innings against professional opposition. Having been left out of the side earlier in the season, ironically replaced by his old schoolmate Deryck Vincent, he returned for the bi annual tour of England and Wales as Warke was unavailable. Against Gloucestershire in a three day match at Bristol, Ireland thanks largely to the batting of the two Marks, Cohen and Nulty, were able to stay in touch until set 246 to win on the third afternoon. They collapsed against the pace of David "Syd" Lawrence losing by 100 runs. The only bright spark of the innings was provided by Jon and Lewis in a 5th wicket stand of 71 which took Ireland from the brink at 9-4. Jon was eventually out for 29 to slow left armer Courtney Ricketts, whose first class career was limited to three matches with Sussex, Lewis remained undefeated on 82 when the last wicket fell.
Jonathan Digby Garth is not, of course, the only member of his family to have won fame on the cricket field. His wife Anne-Marie McDonald won 13 caps for Ireland Women between 1989 and 2000, while their three children have all played the game with distinction. The eldest, Robert, has represented both Pembroke and YM at senior level and, by the end of 2010, seemed to have established himself as a permanent member of the Claremont Road attack. Their daughter, the prodigiously talented Kimberley Jennifer - Kim - has already gained 12 caps for Ireland women being one of the youngest to be capped at senior level. As an upper order batter and medium pacer, she already has several notable performances to her credit both for Ireland and Pembroke. Last, but by no means least, is the youngest, the second son known universally as JJ, who - though not yet (2010) in his teens - has already attracted much favourable comment from shrewd observers of the Irish game. It seems that the name Garth will continue to feature in Irish cricket for some years to come.
Edward Liddle, November 2010