- Born 15 March 1842 Glencolmcille, Co Clare
- Died 14 January 1890 Paddington, London
- Occupation Professional Cricketer
- Debut 4 September 1863 v I Zingari at Vice Regal Ground, Phoenix Park
- Cap Number 69
- Style Right-hand batsman; fast right arm round arm.
- Teams Phoenix, MCC, Middlesex, South of England
Michael Flanagan was the first Irish born professional cricketer to make a living from the game in England. He was also, if Charles Lawrence - as an Englishman domiciled in Ireland is discounted - the first Irish cricketer to play for Middlesex, thus beginning a long chain of which Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan are but the latest links.
Michael, a burly and powerfully built man, learned the game fielding out while members batted at Phoenix CC. He appears to have had some tuition from Lawrence, then the Club's main professional, and, his mentor by now being in Australia, was showing enough talent as a bowler of distinct pace to be selected for Ireland v I Zingari in September 1863. He took 9 wickets in the match, which was left drawn as I Zingari left themselves insufficient time to win. Michael's success was remarkable as there were rain interruptions and the ball was always wet and slippery. Hardly the conditions for a fast bowler to flourish in.
His four first innings wickets included: RAH Mitchell, three times winning captain of Oxford v Cambridge and, later, for 30 years in charge of cricket at Eton; Captain Frederick Marshall, who had played for Ireland in odds matches, later a General and later still President of Surrey, and Lord Hyde. Hyde was an undistinguished cricketer, but was a direct descendant of the first Earl Clarendon, henchman of King Charles II, and, thus, a several times great nephew of Queens Mary II and Anne. Hyde was nephew of the legendary Robert Grimston, who ordered the lawn mowers at Lord's to be smashed, believing that sheep were an adequate way of keeping the grass in check. In the second innings Michael added Bob Fitzgerald, future Irish cricketer and MCC Secretary to his haul, besides removing HW "Lightning" Fellows, a bowler of exceptional speed as his nickname suggests.
Michael spent a number of years as a professional in London to the Household Brigade, before joining the MCC staff in 1873, which also made him available for Middlesex, making his first class debut for the County at The Oval later that summer. He took three wickets including that of the Surrey captain George Strachan, who later died of typhoid during the Second Boer War. In all Michael took 68 first class wickets at 16.08 in 18 matches. His best return was in the first innings of the MCC v Surrey match at Lord's in 1876. Bowling at great pace on an unreliable wicket, he had figures, in four ball overs, of 36.2-10-78-9. His fellow bowlers, who made little impression, were Thomas Mycroft, said by well known cricketer Arthur Conan Doyle to have given him the name for Sherlock Holmes' brother, and Arnold Rylott, later to be professional at NICC, to write passable poetry, and, to accompany the first Irish tour of North America as umpire. He may well also have provided the name for one Holmes villain, Dr Grimsby Roylott of "The Speckled Band", Doyle using the names of many cricketers in the stories.
Back to Michael's bowling, his wickets included the well known amateur, and future Test player, AP Lucas and a famous professional, who was to be in the first ever Test Side, Harry Jupp*. An interesting feature of Michael's wickets was that eight were clean bowled. He took a further wicket in the second innings as the Holmes characters shared the spoils.
Michael's best season was 1877 when he took 21 wickets at 14.85, including two six wicket hauls. For MCC Hampshire he had a second innings 6-50, clean bowling four and holding return catches off the remaining two. Rylott had taken seven in the first innings. Then, in a losing cause for the County against Oxford he had 6-76, four being bowled. He also, as was the practice for those on the MCC staff, umpired a number of matches at first class and minor level. His career came to an end when he lost an eye in an accident. His place in Irish Cricket History, as a bowler of genuine pace, and a trail blazing professional should be assured. He died before Wisden began its obituary section, but his brief biography appears in Volume VIII of Scores and Biographies.
* Jupp came from Dorking in Surrey. At the height of his fame, he played in a match there and was bowled first ball. He replaced the bails and took his stance. "Ain't you going, Juppy?" asked the bowler. "Not in Dorking I ain't," was the reply.
Edward Liddle, September 2008