- Born 25 July 1975 Londonderry
- Educated Faughan Valley High School
- Occupation WD Meats Coleraine
- Debut 11 June 1994 v Scotland Hamilton Crescent Glasgow
- Cap Number 590
- Style Right-hand bat, right arm medium pace
- Teams Berryburn, Cumber Claudy, Eglinton, Ardmore, Limavady, Brigade, Drummond, Coleraine
Gordon Cooke is a very good cricketer. One of the middle tier of a three generation North West cricketing family, his brother David having also won international honours, he deserves to be ranked as a genuine all-rounder, though, particularly when in Irish colours, he sometimes lacked the chance to prove his batting skills. An upstanding batsman, who can both hit powerfully and defend as the situation demands, he will however, probably, be mainly remembered as a fine medium pacer, capable of surprising speed, when conditions were favourable. However his batting, as shown for Drummond as recently as last (2012) season is capable of commanding an attack or turning a match.
He and David, his elder by almost three years, began their cricket with Berryburn Boys' team as Cumber Claudy, the team for which their father Sidney, and - later - they, played did not have one. Gordon did well enough at this and School level to be in the Ulster U 15 side which played its Welsh counterpart in a drawn match at Bangor (North Wales) in July 1990. Gordon fell for 10 in the first innings bowled by future Glamorgan and England A quick Darren Thomas. He also had one wicket as Wales built a big lead. However any thoughts of a defeat for the visitors were ended by much more resolute batting in the second innings as Ulster reached 224-7 before declaring, Gordon contributing a solid 23 from 81 balls with 2 fours.
Three years later saw him gain further representative honours when he played for Ireland at both U 19 and U 21 level. The U 21 match, coming before the others, saw him open the batting with Johnny Byrne in a two-day game against the Irish Universities in College Park, which the Universities just managed to save. In the first innings Gordon and Byrne led off with a stand of 134, Gordon making exactly 50 with 5 fours from 107 balls in 140 minutes. As he also made 23 in the second innings and took 2 wickets, he had reason to be satisfied with his performance. It also ensured his selection both for the U 19 match against the Welsh Schools, when he was opposed to several players whom he had met three years before, and in the Youth International Tournament in Denmark.
The Welsh match, at Observatory Lane, saw Ireland lose by 6 wickets, though their visitors had appeared to be down and out. Gordon's bowling was hardly used but he again made exactly 50, adding 63 for the 6th wicket with Ryan Eagleson (29) in the second innings, a partnership which seemed to put the match out of Wales' reach. The Irish side, captained by Gareth O'Meara, contained seven players who were to go on to gain full international caps.
The Youth International Tournament, won by Zimbabwe, saw Ireland finish 5th out of seven teams. Gordon played in only three of the five matches as he went off injured in the middle of his spell against Zimbabwe and wasn't fit again. However, though he failed to score a run in his two innings, Gordon did well with the ball, heading the averages with 5 wickets at 7.40. He had 2-11 in a defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe, including the wicket of Heath Streak later to captain Zimbabwe's Test side, but despite his 3-26 against The Netherlands, Ireland lost by one run.
Gordon's feats in North West cricket are numerous, as is the number of clubs he has played for! Here we examine just a few of them with the knowledge that many more have been left "on the cutting room floor." He also led the club well though it must be said that his time with Brigade was not without controversy. However he and David played a major part in Brigade's successes in the last decade, Gordon having his best all round season in 2001 when he scored 579 runs at 37.38 and took 51 wickets at 10.25 His best bowling figures that season 5-15 came against Fox Lodge away in mid-July leading to a 100 runs win though Brigade had been bowled out for 154. He had another fine performance with the ball against Strabane earlier in the season when his figures of 7-3-8-4, not only showed remarkable accuracy, but bowled the opposition out for 94, of which the stalwart Peter Gillespie made a chanceless 47*. Not all Gordon's feats ended in victory, though it was no fault of his that, near the end of the season, Donemana scraped home by 1 wicket. Gordon, who might have come in higher up, had been undefeated on 54, before taking 3-28.
We may also notice two big hitting knocks the following year, when Brigade again carried off the League title. Against Drummond at home on the first Saturday in August, he made an undefeated 73 at No 5, with 1 four and 5 sixes, putting on 71 for the 4th wicket with David (40). He then bowled 5 overs to take 1-10 as Brigade had little trouble in achieving victory.
A fortnight later, at home to Donemana, he was easily top scorer in a Brigade total of 162, making 71 with 7 fours and 3 sixes. He took the first three wickets, including that of a young William Porterfield, reducing the Co Tyrone side to 18-3, a start from which they never recovered, Gordon's figures being 5-1-13-3. In 2004, when the League Trophy again came to Beechgrove, he returned career best bowling figures in a home match against Sion Mills. Sion were put out for 34 in 20.1 overs, with Gordon returning analysis of 9-5-5-6, figures which thus surpasses his 7-3-6-5, achieved against Fox Lodge two seasons earlier.
At the end of the decade, he left Brigade to captain Drummond, now in Section 2 of the League. In 2012, accompanied in the side by his son Curtis, he showed that he had lost none of his oft displayed talents. With the bat, he scored 636 runs at 106.50 with 1 hundred and 5 fifties. The hundred came in the League, early in the season, against Killyclooney away as Drummond raced to 425-8 from their 50 overs, Gordon finishing on a spectacular 112*, sharing in two big partnerships, 125 for the 5th wicket with Steve Moore (106) and 112 for the 6th with Craig Hartin (51). Then against Ardmore in the Sam Jeffrey Cup in July, he opened the batting and made 98* putting on 103 for the second wicket with Phil Moon. He also took 31 wickets at 10.45 with two five wicket hauls, both achieved in the new National Cup.
In the First Round against Ardmore he paved the way for victory with 49 then in the Second Round, against Downpatrick at The Meadow, he took the leading part in bowling the hosts out for 132. Coming on first change, he returned figures of 10-4-22-6, Drummond going on to win by 3 wickets with Gordon 28*. However they were knocked out in the Quarter Final away to Muckamore at Moylena. Batting first he visitors reached 172-8 from their 50 overs, with the captain un defeated on 52 at No 5. Then, keenly aware that there were probably not enough runs on the board, he bowled with great hostility to take all but one of the wickets that fell. Unfortunately his - 9-0-34-6 was not enough to prevent a home win by 3 wickets.
However in 2013 Gordon joined Coleraine where David was captain, Gordon succeeding him the following season. Two all round performances that season show his value to the Club. In early May at home to Donemana in the League he helped Dennis (81*) add 112 for the 6th wicket before being run out for 46, allowing his side to reach 226-6 from their 50 overs. He then had figures of 8-1-15-4, putting the result beyond doubt as Bready collapsed for 90. Later in the season, away to Strabane, he had 2-17 from his 10 overs, including Peter Gillespie in his brace, as the hosts stumbled to 136 all out. However Coleraine also found the going hard, but Gordon, coming in at 72-5, held firm, his undefeated 31, seeing the visitors to a 3 wickets victory.
He had another notable bowling performance in 2016, a season in which he averaged 21.14 with the bat and took 29 wickets at 16.03. Against Bready in the NW Cup he had analysis of 9-0-33-5 to dismiss the opposition for 90 and set up a 9 wickets victory. Though Coleraine had to cede their hold on the Premiership at the end of the season, Gordon had still lifted every available trophy in North West Cricket.
Strangely some of his best performances in Interprovincials came in matches which North West lost. Thus in 1997, in a close contest at Rathmines he took 3-37 against Leinster but half centuries by Alan Lewis, Angus Dunlop and Johnny Byrne saw the hosts to a one wicket win. He was again on the losing side against North Leinster at Castle Avenue in 2004, though he had a good all round match. Inspired by a typically belligerent hundred from Jeremy Bray, the hosts ran up a formidable 302, with Gordon taking 3-42 from his 10 overs. The visitors were never really in the hunt but Gordon, batting too low at No 8, was on 45* when the innings was closed.
He was one of Allan Rutherford's Northern Ireland team which took part in the 1998 Commonwealth Games at Kuala Lumpur, playing a key part in the one victory, a decisive one over Bangladesh. Facing a score of 177, the "Tigers" really should have won but Gordon had other ideas. Maintaining his accuracy and hostility he had figures of 10-1-35-5 to bring a win by 77 runs.
His 66 matches for Ireland, the number perhaps belying his reputation for unavailability, came in three distinct phases After making his debut in 1994, he was dropped the following season and did not play again until 1997. He then became a regular in the side until 2000, when he, surprisingly, retired from representative cricket only, having as we have seen been a dominant force on the North West circuit, to return to the side in 2004, Adi Birrell considering him a good one-day bowler.
In all matches he scored 481 runs at 16.03, but the fact that he was not out on 18 occasions suggests that he might, with advantage, have batted higher up the order. His highest score made twice was 38*. Against Denmark in the 1998 European Championships in the Netherlands it was not enough to prevent Ireland from losing by 3 wickets. It took 58 minutes and brought 3 fours from 59 balls. The following season he reached the score again, with happier results in a Nat West Trophy Match against Essex County Board XI at The Green. The visitors had been dismissed for 196 with Gordon, bowling first change taking 2-46. Faced by a none too daunting task, the Irish batting faltered, the scoreboard showing 122-6 when Gordon came to the wicket. After a brief stand with Ed Joyce, he held the tail together to bring the hosts victory and himself the Man of the Match award.
Among several useful bowling performances - which in all brought him 84 wickets at 32.99 - his 5-55 against Bangladesh, perhaps his favourite opponents, at Limavady in 2004 stands out. Bangladesh totalled 231 which was enough for them to win by 54 runs, but Gordon, having dismissed opener Javed Omar. took 4 wickets in his final three overs to finish the innings. He lost his place in the side after the ICC Trophy Final against Scotland at Castle Avenue in 2005. He took 3 wickets,, including that of former Yorkshire and England man Gavin Hamilton, but at a cost of 70 runs, far too many for a such a match. Facing a total of 324, Ireland faltered after Joyce and Bray had gone, and it was left to Gordon, at No 11 and Paul Mooney to restore respectability with an unbroken stand of 55 for the last wicket. Gordon's 34 was, however, not enough to keep him in the side.
Gordon Cooke has achieved much in cricket and remains, as his form last year shows, a dominant force in the North West. He was also a considerable player on the international scene. Siggins and Fitzgerald quote Joe Doherty as saying, "He did his bit for Ireland, that's for sure." Nobody would disagree with that.
At the end of the 2016 season Gordon retired from cricket. As will be evident from the foregoing, he will be greatly missed far beyond the confines of Lodge Road and elsewhere in North West Cricket.
He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."
Edward Liddle, February 2013, updated September 2016