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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
J A Donnelly
  • Born
  • Educated
  • Occupation
  • Debut 16 July 1914 v Scotland at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 294
  • Style Right hand bat
  • Teams Ulster, Pembroke, Phoenix

NOTE: The identification of this player has caused some problems. He has been named as Joseph Aloysius Donnelly who was born in Belfast in 1887 but of whom no further details have been found. There is no person of this name listed as living in Belfast in the 1901 or 1911 Census. There is however a James Andrew Donnelly who was born on 14 May 1873 and is shown as living in Belfast in both the Censuses. He was married with two children . However there are some problems with this ID also. This JAD was a post office and telegraph office worker. As such he might well have been transferred to Dublin on a promotion but whether or not, given the political situation of the time, he would have made such a move must be questionable. If anyone is able to throw any light on the problem we would be only too pleased to hear from them. It may well be that the cricketer was neither of those shown above!. The player is referred to as JAD throughout this piece. Since the foregoing was written, I have discovered that James Alexander Donelly, who had become a 2nd Lieutenant in the RFC died on 31 March 1918, from wounds received earlier. This was the last day of the RFC's existence, it then became the RAF. He was, therefore, not the cricketer. However problems of identification still remain.

JAD was a sound upper order batsman who first made his name with the Ulster Club, playing alongside two of the Jackson brothers, Sidney and Harold. He made three appearances in NCU Challenge Cup Finals, but, although the club was successful on two of these occasions, he was not. Thus in 1909 at Cliftonville Ulster recorded a huge innings victory over North Down, totalling 457 with openers Sidney Jackson and Jack Diamond both getting into the 90s. Coming in at 3, after the Lord Mayor's Show, JAD was out for 10. His only real contribution to the victory came in the North Down second innings, when - unusually - coming on to bowl, he dismissed the opposition's wicket keeper/batsman David Milling, finishing with 1-22 in six overs. He was no more successful against Cliftonville at Ormeau in 1911 when, though seen as one of the best batsmen in the province, he fell for 1 and 11. Sidney Jackson again played a leading part with the bat. Ulster were winners by 82 runs.

JAD's third and final such match came in 1912 against NICC at Ormeau. North won this game thanks to a superb second innings bowling display by Oscar Andrews who took 9-44 including the wicket of JAD for 0. Andrews was denied all ten by team-mate John Pollock who had the last wicket. He had also dismissed JAD in the first innings for 9. However the early rounds of the 1913 competition had seen him at his best. In the first round, against Lisburn at Ballynafeigh, Ulster totalled 336-9 before declaring. Well supported by Sydney Jackson, elder brother of Harold and Finlay, JAD batted superbly to make 130 including twenty three 4s. Lisburn then fell 264 runs short of their target, with Harold Jackson taking 4 wickets. In the second round against North, JAD and Sydney were at it again, chasing a score of 294. JAD again batted brilliantly to make 120, while Sydney made 61. Unfortunately their team-mates could not maintain this momentum, collapsing from 209-4 to lose by 34 runs.

In late summer of 1911 JAD played for Ulster against the Indian touring side. This was the first All India team to make a tour, though Parsee sides had previously done so. The full story of the team's rather unfortunate time in these islands is recalled in this (2011) year's Wisden, while a briefer account by this writer, which covers the two matches played in Ireland, may be found on cover-point.com. Though they had considerable travails elsewhere the visitors were far too strong for a good looking Ulster side in the two day match at Ormeau. Wisden 1912 reported that "The eleven got together to represent Ulster proved no match for the Indians."

Batting first the tourists totalled 324,the NICC professional Littlewood proving the best bowler with 4-82. Ulster in reply were shot out for 26, with only one player, NICC opener HA Moore, reaching double figures. JAD, first wicket down, failed to score as did other leading batsmen in Oscar Andrews and Harold Jackson. JAD fell to the pace bowler Khan Salam-ud-din who took 4-11, the rest of the side, apart from one run out victim, succumbing to the success of the tour the slow left armer Palwankar Baloo. In the follow on, JAD did marginally better, though the same could hardly be said of his team-mates. Ulster on this occasion amassed a total of 65 with JAD making 23 before being caught off the visitor's leading all rounder, the left arm spinner Jehangir Warden. The next highest score was 4, made by three players including Andrews. By 1914, JAD was in Dublin, turning out for the Pembroke Club. Whatever the reason for his move - and we should recall that this was the time not only of looming world war but of the growing tension of the Home Rule crisis - he soon established himself as one of the leading players in the city.

In mid July the Scots came to Rathmines for the annual fixture. It was, as already suggested, a match played against a background of rising tensions both national and international. Eighteen days earlier the heir to the Austrian Empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in Sarajevo, while just under two months previously Fred Crawford's consignments of rifles had found their way ashore at Larne, Bangor and Donaghadee. Only five days after the match ended Erskine Childers sailed his yacht Asgard into Howth harbour with a consignment of somewhat fewer and more dated weapons. Against this background it was perhaps not surprising that four players withdrew from the Irish side as originally selected including the Belfast based Oscar Andrews and William Pollock. The other two to call off were Jack Crawford, an Englishman resident in Dublin and Dickie Lloyd, by now living in Liverpool. These changes however allowed JAD to come into the side, which was captained by Ulsterman David Milling by now playing for Leinster. Though Milling had once, as we have seen, lost his wicket to JAD, he did not see fit to give him a bowl during the game!

The match proved to be a closely fought one with Scotland eventually setting Ireland 182 to win in a low scoring encounter. They fared badly at first, only future cricket historian Pat Hone with 27 making a worthwhile score among the upper order batsmen. The score was 67-5 when JAD, who batted fourth wicket down and had made 6 in the first innings, was joined by Cecil Bateman. Going on to the attack both men played really well as they added 91 in 70 minutes, JAD being the dominant partner. He reached 50 in an hour but, with victory there for the taking, ran himself out. Thereafter the tail collapsed against the pace of Henry Nicoll (7-64). Bateman fell for 27 leaving Milling undefeated but partnerless at the end. The visitors, who had won by 3 runs two years previously, this time had 11 to spare.

The War prevented JA Donnelly from playing for Ireland again, though he did make some senior appearances for Phoenix when cricket resumed. As stated at the outset of this article any further information about him would be most gratefully received.