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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Peter Mark O'Reilly
  • Born 23 July 1964, Dublin
  • Educated Belvedere College; Dublin University College, Dublin; Dublin University
  • Occupation Professional Cricketer, Schoolteacher, Journalist
  • Debut 27 July 1982 v Wales at Rathmines
  • Cap Number 546
  • Style Right-hand bat, right arm fast
  • Teams Old Belvedere; Warwickshire 2nd XI; Warwickshire U 25; University College, Dublin; Dublin University

Peter O'Reilly looked like being the answer to a long felt wish in Irish cricket. He came into the national side while still - just - a schoolboy, with a natural run up and easy action, which enabled him to generate something approaching genuine pace and clearly marked him out as a magnificent prospect.

In the opinion of some, however, this very promise and success was to - in the end - prevent him from achieving all that he might have, though he still had a career which many would envy. In only the second season of his international career, he bowled so impressively against Warwickshire at Rathmines, in a match usually remembered for an astonishing hundred by John Prior, that he was offered a two year contract with the County. When he returned after two seasons at Edgbaston, it was with a changed action and approach to the wicket. Critics seized upon this and blamed the County coaching staff from destroying a priceless asset, a thesis which Peter himself denied saying that changes in his run up and delivery style had been his own ideas. "They showed me the correct way to bowl, " he told Irish Cricket Magazine's Annual in 1986, "but they didn't try to change me."

Though he attempted to return to his old methods and continued to meet with considerable success, bowling with great effect in the interprovincial matches of 1989 and regaining his place in the Irish side, he was - in the opinion of many who saw him at every stage of his career - never quite the same bowler again.

He had three years in the Irish Schools XI, though his debut, against Welsh Schools at Sophia Gardens, was rain ruined. However a two day match against the ECSA XI at Bristol followed and Peter, playing under the captaincy of Jimmy Kirkwood, made an impressive start with three wickets in each innings allowing him to finish with match figures of 6-63. All his victims went on to play County or 2nd XI Championship cricket, the best known being Edward Cunningham - nephew of former Middlesex and England captain George Mann - who played 14 matches for Gloucestershire and Nick Falkiner who had some success for both Surrey and Sussex.

Peter's best match against Wales came at Park Avenue in 1982 by which time he had already won his first senior Irish cap. In the Park Avenue match, he helped Ireland to an impressive 97 run victory. Batting first the hosts made 215-8, thanks largely to a 5th wicket stand of 119 between Alan Lewis and Michael Rea. Then Peter clean bowled Numbers 2 and 3 in the Welsh order, Stewart Maddock and night watchman John Cawtright for ducks, reducing Wales to 11-2. They finished on 167, then, thanks to fine bowling from future Test man Steve Watkin (9-119 in the match) reduced Ireland to 139-8 declared. The visitors' upper order survived Peter's opening assault, but after Lewis and Mike Shannon had spun their way through the innings, he returned in classic fast bowling mode to knock over the last two batsmen and bring about a memorable victory.

His debut for the full Irish side had come a week earlier and had, for Peter, been the first leg of a double triumph with Ireland emerging victorious by 49 runs. From a spectator's point of view this match is, perhaps, best remembered for a barnstorming first innings 70 by John Prior and a more careful century by Alf Masood, but Peter also played a notable part. Opening the attack with Roy Torrens he had 1-47 in the first innings holding a return catch from opener David Samuel to claim the first of his 39 wickets for Ireland but in the second he had a significant role in ensuring that Wales, chasing 300, finished well short of their target. By removing the first three in the order, two thanks to the large hands of "Big Roy" Torrens, he denied the visitors the good start essential if they were to achieve their "ask."

The Warwickshire match already referred to was his third for Ireland and is best remembered for a feast of batting. Not only was there Prior's record breaking knock, but also two startling innings from the visitors' Keith Smith and Alvin Kallicharan. Peter had come into the side as a late replacement for Simon Corlett and took a rather expensive 1-56 in the first innings, dismissing Warwickshire opener Andy Lloyd, whom he was later to house share with while at Edgbaston, for 8. Lloyd played for England in 1984, having reached 10, in the First Test v West Indies at Edgbaston, was hospitalised for 10 days by a Malcolm Marshall bouncer and remained a "one cap wonder" on the Test scene. In the second innings Peter, still in tandem with Torrens, had 4-50 including stylish batsman Asif Din, who came near England selection, and potentially brilliant all rounder, Paul Smith, one of several Warwickshire players of that era who self destructed for reasons other than cricket. Smith's own account "Wasted" is an interesting, if disturbing, read.

The next two summers saw Peter at Edgbaston. He appeared for Warwickshire Under 25s in the 40 over Warwick Pool competition without much success, but made more of an impact in the 2nd XI Championship taking 30 wickets at 31.93. Among the wickets he took was that of Mark Cohen, then opening for Glamorgan at this level, and he also dismissed former English Schools all rounder Edward Cunningham on two further occasions.

His best performance was in a closely fought draw with Lancashire Seconds at Leamington, a picturesque if rather exposed ground, in late July 1983. Warwickshire led off with 270, thanks mostly to some amazing hitting by England fast bowler Gladstone Small, who, coming inn at No 8, made 146! Only two other batsmen reached double figures. When Lancashire replied, Peter, at first change, had the praiseworthy analysis of 22-3-71-5. His speed told as he obtained two leg befores, and saw his wicket keeper Geoff Tedstone, later like Peter to enter the teaching profession, catch the other three. Peter was again to the fore in the second innings, taking 4-55 thus keeping the Red Rose to 171-6 as they chased 202. The best known of his victims was all rounder Andy Hayhurst who was, in a career which spanned three counties, to score over 7000 first class runs with 14 hundreds. Peter greatly enjoyed his time with Warwickshire, explaining to ICM, "I was playing a standard of cricket that was very close to the first class game, bowling to first team players like Dennis Amiss and Alvin Kallicharan and sometimes I'd field in the County matches."

Peter played three matches for Ireland during his spell with Warwickshire., twice against Wales and once against Gloucestershire at Bristol. The County match, in 1983, was an epic encounter in which Ireland went down by just 7 runs, Peter taking three wickets in the first innings, including Cunningham yet again. However his best performance was in the Welsh match of 1984 at Malahide when he was released by his County as a late replacement for Garfield Harrison. Opening the attack with left armer Alan Jeffrey, his pace troubled the visiting batsmen. With four wickets in the first innings and three in the second, he finished with match figures of 7-96, thus contributing well to a resounding Irish victory.

Back with Old Belvedere in 1985, he found wickets hard to come by, telling the ICM annual that he felt he had had only two really good matches. In fact, while he was, as we have already mentioned, to regain his Irish place, and to have some spectacular successes both in Leinster and interprovincial cricket, his bowling was, over the years, to become less used. By the time he dropped out of regular senior cricket in the next decade, he was primarily a batsman. This trend was evident in his appearances for the Irish Universities during the late 1980s.

Taking his degree at University College, where he read Art and History, before studying for an H Dip Ed. at Dublin University, he played for the Irish Universities XI, over four seasons, often opening the batting but not bowling until first or second change. One of his best matches came during the British and Irish Universities tournament of 1985 in the match against London University. London posted a useful 222, with Peter, at second change taking 2-28 in 7.2 overs. He then opened the batting with Paul McCrum and made an important contribution of 42 in 86 minutes off 75 balls, with four 4s. He was also to the fore in the match against Scottish Universities in a match which Ireland won by 10 wickets on run rate. He had taken 1-23 as the Scots collapsed to 93 all out, then with quick runs needed, was 21* when the rain came.

His interprovincial career was, of course, interrupted by his Birmingham sojourn, or his figures would undoubtedly have been more impressive. However he was in good bowling groove in 1989 with three four wicket hauls. Against a strong Ulster County batting line up at Stormont his wickets cost 87 runs as the hosts were bowled out for a gettable 194. However North Leinster also foundered and were glad to escape with a draw on 131-7. Peter was also prominent in an 8 wicket win over Munster at The Mardyke, when at the cost of 52 runs, he helped send his hosts back for 145. Finally, at Cabra, against Ulster Town, he made the most of bowling on home turf, with a marathon spell of 26-3-54-4, including Paul Linehan and the Semple twins in his bag. However the visitors also bowled well to claim a two run victory.

Peter returned to the Irish side in 1990 and retained his place for the Zimbabwe tour the following spring. No longer the main strike bowler, he had the role of third or fourth seamer, turning in some useful performances. Against New Zealand at Ormeau in May, his two wickets cost him 56 runs but were most useful scalps, in future Kiwi captain and Irish coach Ken Rutherford, an eventual scorer of almost 2500 Test runs with three hundreds, and Mark Greatbatch, who had a very similar Test career to Rutherford, and who was also to - during a spell at Edgbaston - to prove a somewhat controversial coach.

Against MCC at Coleraine in late June, Peter bowled what might well be termed the crucial spell of the match. His 3-36 in ten overs in the second innings, helped Paul McCrum wrap up the middle and lower middle order, and thus ensure a Narrow - six runs - victory. His wickets included the visitors two most experienced players, former Oxford captain, Dr Giles Toogood and Rodney Cass, former wicket keeper/batsman with Essex, Worcestershire and Tasmania, with a highest first class score of 172*. Peter's last match for Ireland was against Matabeland and saw him bowl impressively in a drawn match. With three wickets in each innings, he finished his international career with match figures of 6-74, which was no bad way to bow out.

Away from cricket, Peter - having completed his university courses - taught for several years at Dublin's St Andrew's College. The death of the much lamented Sean Pender created a vacancy for an Irish Times Cricket Correspondent, which Peter filled with distinction, before - having been a most useful player with Old Belvedere - he turned to rugby writing in 1995.

After spells as Rugby Correspondent with The Sunday Tribune and The Irish Independent - he became Irish Rugby Correspondent of The Sunday Times, a post he still holds. His book about Ireland and the Triple Crown, The Full Bag of Chips (2004) received high praise from its reviewers.