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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
William McCartan Joseph Mooney
  • Born 5 October 1890 Blanchardstown, Co Dublin
  • Died 11 September 1967, Dublin
  • Educated Beaumont College, Berkshire Oxford University (Brasenose College)
  • Occupation Army Officer (1912 - 1922)
  • Debut 11 September 1909 v All New York at Staten Island
  • Cap Number 272
  • Style Right hand bat
  • Teams Phoenix; Brasenose College

Willie Mooney was a very stylish upper order batsman, whose elegant stroke play was much admired by all who saw it. Unfortunately, he was an almost total failure in his four matches for Ireland aggregating only 45 runs at 6.43. This may, to a certain extent be explained by the fact that in two of his games he faced the great American swing bowler JB King, but his figures are still disappointing for one selected as a specialist batsman.

Aged 13, he followed his elder brother Edward to Beaumont College in Berkshire. Beaumont was a small (170 boys) Jesuit run public school which had been founded in 1861. Despite its small numbers, it was always a good cricket and rugby school, with Willie excelling at both sports. Among his predecessors in Beaumont XIs were the Meldon brothers, PA and WW as well as their cousin Jack, though he was there only briefly. The College, now closed, also made much later contributions to the Irish cricket scene. Those whose memories stretch back to the game in 1960s Dublin, may recall Dublin University and Phoenix all rounder Adrian Naughten and elegant University batsmen the Halliday brothers, all of whom, like Willie, bore the unmistakeable style of Beaumont in their approach to cricket.

After Beaumont Willie went up to Oxford, enrolling at Brasenose College (BNC). Here he was in the College cricket and rugby teams, as well as becoming President of the Octagon, a BNC dining club, this suggesting that he was a very popular member of the College undergraduate body. He was also a member of the University Athletics Club and of Vincents, a club whose members are mostly Blues or other leading sportsmen.

While at Oxford Willie played for Phoenix in his summer holidays, where his array of cultured strokes won him many admirers. He was thus selected for the Irish tour of North America in September 1909. This team was the weakest of the four sides which "crossed the pond" in the years before the First World War, William being one of only five of the original choices to make the trip. His brother Edward attached himself to the side as its manager, and was highly successful in this role. According to WP Hone, also a member of the party, Edward became known as "The Old Manager", while Willie was "the Young Manager."The main problem was the batting which in the absence of players such as the Lambert and Meldon brothers, to say nothing of Harry Mulholland and William Pollock, was very suspect relying too much on Frank Browning, the captain, and George Morrow. As it turned out, Browning had lost his once commanding form.

After a pleasant voyage, on the SS Magnetic, the team began with some non cap matches in Canada. Willie, batting at No 3, made 27 out of a total of 169 against Ottawa, but otherwise did little against fairly ordinary opposition. Nor was his situation to improve in the United States as a duck against XVI Colts of Philadelphia indicates. His debut cap match came against All New York at Staten Island CC. The ground in Walker Park was magnificently appointed, a truly wonderful setting for cricket. It is still as cricket played on it today, though Willie and his team-mates would find much of its use now it hard to recognise.

Its fate and current style cricket are described in Joseph O'Neill's recently much acclaimed novel Nederland. Back in 1909, Ireland won by an innings, with the spinners Bill Harrington and Willie Napper being far too much for the New Yorkers. Mooney made 12, batting at No 3, easily his best score in the cap games on the tour. In the two Philadelphia matches which followed Ireland were outclassed. Their hosts had two world class bowlers in King and the Australian leg spinner HV "Ranji" Hordern who - particularly King with an all 10 in the first innings of the first match - swept the Irish batting away on both occasions. None was more swept away than Willie falling to King in each of his four innings. His sequence of scored 1 0 1 0, showing that he was not really made for this class of cricket.

Willie returned to Oxford to play College cricket and rugby and to enjoy life to the full. He was to play one more match for Ireland v Scotland at Rathmines in 1912. This was a low scoring thriller which was marked by some excellent bowling performances, notably that of Robert Gregory in his only match for Ireland. Bowling a mixture of leg spin and medium pace cutters, he took 8-80 in the Scots first innings. Robert, son of the literary figure Lady Gregory, was to die on the Italian front, the victim of "Friendly Fire."

He was, of course, celebrated in several poems by WB Yeats. However he was unable to prevent a Scots victory by 3 runs. Ireland were left needing 132 to win, but provided the fourth batting collapse of the match. Willie, out for 0 at No 4 in the first innings, came in at the fall of the seventh wicket. Amid mounting excitement, he took Ireland close, finishing on 23*, when he ran out of partners. It was his highest score for Ireland, but hardly a masterly knock. He was missed twice.

William McCartan Joseph Mooney did not appear in any major cricket again. On leaving Oxford, he was commissioned in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry where he was to reach the rank of captain. His war was mostly spent in France, both with the Cornwall and other infantry regiments. He appears to have left the Army in 1922 and subsequently returned to Ireland.