CricketEurope Irish Cricket History logo
Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Samuel Wilfred McDonough
  • Born 8 August 1899 Armagh
  • Died 19 May 1983 Bangor, Co Down
  • Educated Royal School, Armagh
  • Occupation Gas Company Manager then School Bursar
  • Debut 21 June 1930 V Scotland at Mannofield, Aberdeen
  • Cap Number 368
  • Style Right hand bat; wicket keeper also Occasional slow right arm bowler
  • Teams Armagh

Wilfred McDonough - whom close friends knew as Wilfie - was a key member of the Armagh 1st XI for a decade and a half after the First World War. Following the 1935 season, however, he ceased to play regularly, but emerged from retirement in 1940 to help the club out when war time difficulties meant that they had problems in fielding a side at senior level. Such an action, which cannot have been easy for him, typified Wilfred's attitude towards the club which he served on and off the field for half a century.

Making his debut in 1920, he was a very consistent opening batsman who, in almost every season until his last full one finished in the first three or four in the batting averages. He was, particularly in his early years, usually joined there by hard hitting left hander Charlie Raynor, whose career dated back before 1914. As Charlie's star waned, Wilfred found another team-mate with similar, but more successful, belligerent intentions than Raynor in Bobby Barnes. Wilfred, who captained Armagh to the League title in 1931, was also a highly competent wicket keeper, and, minus gloves and pads, was known to come on to bowl and take vital wickets.

It was, however, as a batsman that he was best known. He played 249 matches for Armagh over a 21 year period, scoring 4049 runs at 17.45. He was the first player to reach the 4000 run milestone for the Club and still (this is written in March 2010) holds fifth place among its highest run scorers. His best season was 1928 when his 542 runs at 31.88, with a highest score of 88 v the now long defunct Queen's Island Club, had much to do with Armagh securing the League. That season, he passed 2000 runs for Armagh, becoming the second player after the ebullient Raynor to do so.

Strangely, he never scored a hundred though he twice reached the "nervous nineties." In 1929 he made 93 against neighbours Waringstown at The Mall, but capped this three summers later with 94 against Holywood, a side against whom he invariably scored runs. In sharp contrast to Raynor, Wilfred could be described as a dogged batsman. He had tremendous powers of concentration and often seemed to have set out his stall to bat all day. This did not mean that he was devoid of stroke play as a remarkable knock against Lurgan at The Mall in 1930 showed. Batting first the visitors were put out for 68. Armagh also found the going hard, finishing on 98-7. Wilfred, who scattered the attack to the four corners of the ground, making 74, while none of his team-mates reached double figures. One other batting achievement may be mentioned.

In 1924, he took the major part in setting a then record for the Club by sharing in an opening stand of exactly 100 against Cliftonville at The Mall. His partner and captain who made 38 was the old Dublin University and Ireland all rounder, Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Meldon, who made 38. Meldon, who was - in his day - a top class leg spinner numbering WG Grace and Victor Trumper amongst his conquests, had settled in Armagh and was an immediate choice as captain. He did little with bat or ball himself, but his experience was of great value to the Club.

On reflection, His settling in Armagh seems rather bizarre, considering that his Irish links were with Dublin and Galway. Considering how he was, at a fairly advanced age, employed in the Second World War, it may well be that his residence in the Primatial City was not quite what it seemed. In the match in question Wilfred also bowled to some effect, getting three of the 39 wickets he took for Armagh.

Wilfred's consistency brought him selection for Ireland against Scotland at Aberdeen in June 1930. Though the Irish side suffered several late withdrawals, it was very strong in batting, with the captain AP Kelly at No 10 and Barnes at 11. Nevertheless they were overwhelmed by their hosts, losing by 10 wickets. The pace of the Scots' opening bowler AD Baxter, who was genuinely fast and was seriously considered as a Test possible, was too much for the Irish. Wilfred did better than most. Opening the batting, after the Scots, with Gilbert Alexander and the inevitable John Kerr making big scores, had posted 316, he reached 13 in the first innings before Baxter removed his middle stump, reducing Ireland to 19-4. They recovered slightly to reach 145 and, led by Wilfred's example, did much better in the second innings, forcing Scotland to bat again. Wilfred, who put on 50 for the first wicket with TJ Macdonald, reached 48, topscoring though closely pursued by Tom Dixon with 45*.

His reward was to be given only one more match for Ireland, the second of the two games played against Sir Julien Cahn's XI later the same summer. It would seem that he was a victim of what seems - at this distance - to have a selectorial policy of picking sides to suit the venues in Ireland. Thus Wilfred did not play against Cahn's team at Rathmines, or later against MCC at The Mardyke or College Park, but was chosen for the Cahn match at Ormeau. Even allowing for the serial withdrawers who bedevilled Irish teams at his time, this appears to have been a short sighted policy, which meant that Ireland were often well below full strength. Removed to the middle order, Wilfred failed in the match, falling to the leg spin of former Test man Tom Richmond for 3 in the first innings and the medium pace of future Nottinghamshire captain George Heane, for 4, in the second. Cahn's XI progressed to an easy win and Wilfred never played for Ireland again. His consistency at club level - and his batting against Scotland - suggests that this was a mistaken policy.

Away from cricket Samuel Wilfred McDonough was Manager of the Armagh Gas Company and, following his retirement from that post, bursar of the Girls High School in the City. His abiding interest always remained the Cricket Club to which, as player and administrator he gave such valued and dedicated service. This service was rewarded by the well deserved honour of the presidency of the Club from 1960 - 1964.