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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Thomas Fitzgerald Ward
  • Born 14 February 1904 Armagh
  • Died 2 July 1989 Dublin
  • Educated Christian Brothers' School, Londonderry
  • Occupation Bank manager
  • Debut 28 July 1934 v MCC at Sion Mills
  • Cap Number 395
  • Style Right-hand bat, right arm fast medium
  • Teams Armagh, Phoenix

Tom Ward was a very good fast medium bowler who was a force to be reckoned with for almost 20 years in both Northern and Leinster Cricket Union competitive matches. Consistently hostile he invariably troubled the best batsmen as his career figures for both Armagh and Pembroke indicate. Unfortunately he showed only glimpses of his true form during his four matches for Ireland though he could have said, with a great deal of justification, that he was never given an extended opportunity to parade his skills.

Though he made his debut for Armagh in 1922, it was not until 1926 that he fully established himself in the side. He played 54 senior matches in all, taking 143 wickets. A negligible batsman, he managed just 123 runs, a third of which came in two innings! As a bowler he first came to real prominence at the end of the 1925 season, with highly productive spells in the last two matches of the season. Thus against Lisburn, he took 5-36 and, aided by a 14 year old Bobby Barnes (4-26) dismissed the Wallace Park side for 117. Alas the Armagh batting failed also - Barnes did well with 14* and they went down by 36 runs. However victory was achieved over Downpatrick as the curtain fell on the season. Tom ensured that the limelight shone on him with a remarkable return of 7-12.

The following season was his best for the Club. He took 48 wickets, thus narrowly failing to become the first man from The Mall to garner 50 in the season. His fellow opening bowler Bob McKinley did that with 52. At the end of April, he took 7-12 v Waringstown, sending the villagers crashing to a meagre 34 all out. He was clearly the match winner; the batting had again failed posting only 78. Tom was also on top of his game when they faced NICC at Ormeau. He took 8-44 including a hat trick to dismiss the hosts for 113. Armagh still lost, collapsing for 81.

He continued to surprise and harass batsmen for a further two seasons, adding 72 more wickets to his tally. He did make one appearance in 1929, but his career saw him promoted and transferred in the banking world, which was good news for Pembroke and the cognoscenti of Sydney Parade, even if their counterparts at The Mall did not share their enthusiasm for the move. Over the next 14 seasons Tom was to prove one of the most effective bowlers in Leinster cricket, the high place he still occupies in the LCU competitive cricket career averages, suggests that history still regards him as such. In all League and Cup matches for Pembroke, he took 498 wickets at 11.03 with 46 "5 fors".

Together with TC Williams he won the first ever Leinster Senior Cup Final - against Phoenix in 1933. Pembroke used their home advantage, bowling Phoenix out for 132, Tom had 4-43, Williams 4-42. The hosts only just scraped a 3 wicket win. Not to be outdone by a mere pace bowler from Co Armagh, the great "JCB" weighed in with 6-53, but for once his heroics were in a losing cause. However his best bowling in Leinster Senior - or any other cricket - came at Sydney Parade in 1932. Bowling for Pembroke against Leinster (the club) he established a personal and provincial record by taking 10-29 routing a strong batting side.

As mentioned above Tom was, unfortunately, unable to produce his club form for his country. In four matches he took 10 wickets at 31.20. It is certainly true that his opportunities were limited, in face of competition for new ball places from such opponents of seam and swing as Charlie Billingsley, Henry Morgan and Tommy Martin. He had also to face a selectorial policy which sometimes meant Ireland taking the field weighed down with spin but fielding only one genuine opening bowler.

He did well enough in his first match v MCC on a perfect Sion Mills wicket, taking 2-47 in a two day match doomed to a draw from the first, but was seen by some as having rather blown his chances against the same opponents - in name at least - at Lord's the following summer. Having returned his best bowling figures for Ireland in the first innings 8.4-1-28- 3, he failed to take a wicket in the second. Conditions were favourable, the hosts were going for runs to set up a declaration, and Billingsley took five of the six wickets to fall.

Tom's most successful match in terms of numbers of wickets came when he was next required v MCC at Rathmines in 1936. Ireland won by a massive 285 runs and Tom, the only paceman in the side - he shared the new all with Eddie Ingram - had two wickets in each innings, breaking the back of the visitors line up to allow Boucher and John Graham get to work with the rest. As his four victims included the visitors' captain MK Foster, one of the famous Worcestershire septet, and former Test players JCW McBryan and Lionel Lord Tennyson, he might be said to have done a good job. Tennyson, who despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary always held that his grandfather had written "Hiawatha" (perhaps more of a comment on English Literature teaching at Eton than misplaced family loyalty), was by now well past his best.

Really requiring assistance from both Alcoholics and Gamblers Anonymous, he was barely recognisable as the man who had savaged the "unplayable" Australian attack of 1921 and gave Tom a simple return catch. Tom's reward was to be dropped from the national side for three years before returning for the Scotland match in 1939. On what was mostly a spinner's match, dominated by Boucher, though Ireland were heavily defeated. He took only one wicket, that of Scots opener James Forbes Jones who was a regular in the side throughout the 1930s.

Tom was by this time well into his thirties. It must be doubted if he would have played again, had hostilities not intervened. He had lost that fine edge of pace, necessary for success at international level. He continued, however, to play for Pembroke, with great distinction, for another four seasons.

Thomas Fitzgerald Ward, away from cricket, had successful career in the banking world finishing as a Manager for the Hibernian Bank. He married Maria Theresa O'Connell in 1936. They had two sons and one daughter.

I am indebted to Brian Weir's Armagh Cricket Club. 150 Not Out for details of Tom's Armagh performances.