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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Joseph Desmond Caprani
  • Born 27 May 1920, Clontarf
  • Educated Howth Road School, Clontarf
  • Occupation Printer
  • Debut 16 June 1948 v Yorkshire at Ormeau
  • Cap Number 437
  • Style Right-hand bat
  • Teams Clontarf, Leinster, Malahide

Joe Caprani, who was also a goalkeeper of League of Ireland standard, was somewhat of an enigma in Irish Cricket. At club level he was a heavy and consistent scorer. The first to 10000 runs in Dublin competitive cricket, he finished with 11019, a record at the time, including 4 hundreds and 86 fifties.

Joe Caprani (right)
For Ireland however, he has to be described as a failure, managing only 125 runs from 13 innings at an average of 9.82. At his best he was a superb player of spin bowling. Quick footed he would advance far down the wicket to stun the turn at birth or launch into his powerful drives. He was particularly strong on the on side. He also had a sound defensive technique and patience second to none. He captained each of his three clubs, winning several Cup Finals in the process, and was a fine fielder at mid on or mid off. He often, but not invariably, opened the batting, presenting a strong defence against the fast attack.

His Clontarf career ran from 1937 to 1951 and saw him reach 3027 runs. He captained them to Cup success in 1950, but arguably made a greater contribution to the victory in the Final of 1943, their first such success. This was in the days of single innings, play to a finish, unlimited overs, cup matches. Clontarf reached 219 v Pembroke a winning score, helped by a 270 minute 51 from Joe, which included 10 fours! For Leinster he also passed 3000 runs and captained them to two Cup Final victories: 1955 when he made a painstaking 67 and the following year when he hit 60. He had also made a half-century in 1953, when the Rathmines team regained the Cup after a 12-year absence. In all he hit 3 hundreds for Leinster, two were against his former team mates but the highest was v Phoenix, 131, at Rathmines in 1957.

In 1958 he joined Malahide and continued to score heavily, being just short of 5000 runs for them when he retired. He had passed his fifty-second birthday, when an innings of 30, appropriately at Rathmines took him past the 11000 run mark.

Other notable innings included a 69 in a losing cause in the Second Round of the Cup against Merrion in 1961 when he played an almost lone hand against Rodney Bernstein and Joe Burke and 52 against Pembroke in the Cup in 1963. This was a bizarre match which, played to a finish, dragged on for 12 days. Malahide made 302 with Paddy Neville outscoring Joe with 98, before the opposition were dismissed for 232.

Joe represented Leinster in the old style interprovincials and was also seen to advantage for the South against the North in the Irish Trials, sometimes leading the side. At Ormeau in 1952 he made 106 as the South totalled 280 in reply to the North's 110, the visitors going on to win by an innings. Joe's innings ended when he was stumped by Vic Craig off Tom Newburn, no mean feat of wicket keeping as Tom was a lively fast medium. Three years later Joe made half centuries in both innings after the North had posted 282, with Eddie Marks making a century. Joe's first innings 50 came in 100 minutes with 7 fours and 1 six as the visitors were dismissed for 154. Following on they had little difficulty in saving the match reaching 172-1 with Joe undefeated on 62 including 9 fours and 1 six. He was again to the fore at Ormeau in 1960 with a first innings 73 in 103 minutes including 13 fours, putting on 110 for the first wicket with Ciaran O'Maillie. The match again ended in a draw.

However, as mentioned above, it was a different matter when he pulled on an Irish sweater. He could be described as being a pale shadow of the confident batsman, who was the bane of bowlers in Dublin cricket. On his first appearance he fell to Alec Coxon for 3, as the visiting Yorkshire side swept Ireland aside before rain intervened. Coxon was just days away from his one and only Test match when he removed the Australian opener Sid Barnes for a duck. Sid made 141 in the second innings! In all Caprani played only five double figure innings for Ireland. He passed 20 only once, top scoring with 44 v Scotland in the first innings at College Park in 1955 - a match Ireland lost by an innings. Otherwise his best score was 19, achieved twice: v MCC at Lord's in 1955, when quality leg spinner Ian Bedford swept the visitors batting aside and the following season at Edinburgh.

Why did a batsman of such evident class prove a failure for his country? Anyone who saw him bat at club level would dismiss any thoughts of temperament or nerves. As four of his matches were against Scotland he was hardly outclassed by superior opposition. His failures against Coxon and Bedford were shared with most of his team mates. Playing MCC at Rathmines in 1948 he fell to HD "Hopper" Read, a Test opening bowler, but "Hopper" who died in 2000 aged 90, was long past his top pace. Perhaps the answer was simply pure chance. All batsmen have runs of small scores. Did Joe's simply coincide with his Irish appearances? After retirement he became an umpire and then took up coaching. In both these thankless role he was widely respected. In 1983, he was a popular and hard working President of the Irish Cricket Union.

NB I am indebted to an article by Gerard Siggins in the 2013 Railway Union Annual for the football details shown above.