- Born 16 September 1963 Omagh, Co Tyrone
- Educated Strabane High School
- Occupation Window Manufacturer
- Debut 16 August 1986 v Scotland at Titwood, Glasgow
- Cap Number 564
- Style Right hand bat; right arm medium pace
- Teams Donemana
James McBrine hails from one of Ireland's most remarkable cricket dynasties, though their appearances for the national side have been strangely limited. His father and two uncles were stalwarts for the Donemana club for many years as, of course his twin brother Alexander - better known as Junior - and other brother Roy still remain. More recently his nephews, Junior's sons, have shown that the cricket still runs finely in the McBrine blood. Some account of all their deeds will be found in Junior's biography which also appears on this site.
James has always been an excellent all round cricketer. It is true that his batting has not always been highly rated at representative level. This has never been the case at Donemana where the fact that he has over 30 senior centuries to his credit gives the lie to those who doubt his ability. Normally in the middle order his aggressive style has turned many matches. No one, however, would question that he was - and remains - a highly skilful bowler of medium pace who has often proved the undoing of opposition batsmen.
Besides appearing with great success for Donemana schoolboys' sides and gaining a 1st XI place in his mid teens, James shone at age group interprovincial level. Thus he helped North West to win the northern section of the U15 tournament in 1978 by topscoring with 48 in a four wicket win over NCU in 1978. In a low scoring match, his innings was crucial. His best season in the U19 Esso Trophy came in 1982, though he had hit two half centuries the previous season, the best being an undefeated 64 against North Leinster at Castle Avenue which set up a convincing 5 wicket victory. In 1982, however, he dominated the NW batting, topscoring on three occasions. Thus against Munster at Coleraine, he made a hard hitting 88*, well supported by John Gillespie with 70, as the hosts reached 296-4. They just failed to bowl Munster out. In a low scoring contest with South Leinster at Eglinton, he piloted NW to a three wicket win with a hard fought 29. Finally against Ulster Country at Muckamore, he narrowly failed to reach three figures, making 90 out of a total of 202. The match again ended in a draw, the hosts finishing on 166-7.
James has, of course, reserved his greatest achievements for Donemana. It would fill a book to recount them all; so mention of only a few must suffice. He has often played a major part in bringing the NWCU Senior Cup to the Holm Field. This was never more evident than in 1985 when he played the leading role in an innings and 11 runs victory over Brigade. Put in, Donemana found the going tough against Brigade skipper William Wilson (4-67) but were assured of a challenging total by James, who - leading the side - played a true "captain's innings." After good batting from Junior and Ivor Dougherty, a middle order collapse threatened, but James, at 5, had other ideas. "He proved, " commented Billy Platt, "to be the rock of their innings." Batting for 88 minutes he hit six 4s and one huge 6 in facing 74 balls. Donemana totalled 221 which proved just enough to enforce the follow on with James taking 3-39 in support of Junior's 7-35. They shared the second innings wickets, James leading the way with 6-23.
What was, perhaps his best innings for the club came in an Irish Senior Cup Second Round match in May 1997, the opposition being the formidable Dublin side North County, who travelled to Donemana for the match. Batting first the hosts rattled up an impressive 343-5. James took complete control of the visitors attack hitting a magnificent, and typically aggressive, 146*. He was ably supported by Junior and Angus Scott both of whom made half centuries. North County were then bowled out for 64, Roy weighing in with 3-16. No doubt the vanquished felt they had seen enough of the McBrine triumvirate. We might also note a shorter but equally impressive innings in the 2009 semi final. against visitors Pembroke. Chasing a moderate target of 155 Donemana were in some trouble at 93-6 when James came in to join Jordan McGonigle. He proceeded to make light of the situation, target and attack. Facing only 39 balls, he stormed to 55*, striking six 4s and four 6s. Donemana won by four wickets with McGonigle undefeated on 3!
James was also a considerable force for the North West at interprovincial level both as a player and a captain, leading them to three titles. We may also note several useful all round performances. For example at Newforge in 1986 he and Junior were among the North West batsmen to counter Mike Shannon's leg spin as Ulster Town reduced their visitors to 188-9, with Junior making 27 and James 28. Then James had the distinctly useful figures of 7.5-2-11-3 as, together with Junior (4-30) he bowled the hosts out for 109. A similar performance, but in a losing cause, came against the same opponents the following year when North West dismissed Town for 180 with James taking 3-52. However the hosts then collapsed for 92, which would have been considerably less had not James struck a belligerent 40, the next highest score being Tommy Harpur's 16. Three years later at Anglesea road, NW ran up a huge 313-8 with Ray Moan hitting a brilliant 146*. James made 21 then took 3-29 as South Leinster struggled to hold out at 122-8. James had ensured they had little chance of mounting an effective chase by having dangerman Alan Lewis caught behind for 5 and Jonathan Garth caught by William Wilson for 58. In all these matches he scored 706 runs at 26.14.
He played for Ireland U19 in the Youth International Tournament in Denmark in 1981 under Jimmy Kirkwood's captaincy. Ireland won four of their six - 50 over - matches, James contributing to two of the victories with a brilliant catch which turned the match against the Netherlands and a good all round display against Bermuda. He also made several appearances for Ireland at Under 23 level touring the Birmingham area in 1984 and Scotland in 1986. His best performance came in the former year against a Midlands Club Cricket Conference U 23 side, when his second innings undefeated half century (56) probably saved Ireland from defeat.
It remains a puzzle, particularly to cricket enthusiasts in the North West, that this fine all rounder played only once for the full Ireland side, though he himself has said that this never particularly bothered him. He was unlucky to play in the final match of the season - against Scotland at Titwood in August 1986. Winning the toss the Scots piled up a formidable 394-7 before declaring. James opened the attack with Simon Corlett and finished with figures of 22 - 4 - 67 - 0, which shows that his bowling was never collared despite the large score. Corlett took 4-113. When Ireland batted, they could only muster 186, which would have been considerably worse had it not been for a 9th wicket stand of 52 between the two opening bowlers. James, low in the order at 10, was undefeated on 27, having batted for 73 minutes and faced 80 balls, Corlett making 54. They were together again in the follow on when, with James promoted to 9 in the order, they batted out the final 36 minutes of the match to earn a draw. Corlett making 44* and James2* having faced 36 balls.
Edward Liddle, April 2011