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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Alan David Johnston
  • Born 14 September 1953 Lurgan, Co Armagh
  • Died 29 March 2017, Moira
  • Educated Lurgan College
  • Occupation Bank Official
  • Debut 8 June 1990 v Worcestershire at Castle Avenue.
  • Cap Number 575
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm fast medium
  • Teams Lurgan

Alan Johnston was a very good right arm opening bowler, who - particularly in his younger days - was a distinctly unpleasant proposition for opening batsmen to cope. Even when his pace waned, as it had by the time he was eventually selected for Ireland, he remained a most formidable opponent. Former Lurgan team-mate Paul Stafford described Alan as "one of the three best cricketers I ever played with." Considering this and his most impressive record for Lurgan, it seems strange that Alan, who was for some time one of the best new ball bowlers in the country, should have gained only three Irish caps, and have been in his 38th year when he did so. Two reasons may be advanced. The main reason for this was probably his deeply held religious convictions which meantt hat he was unwilling to play on Sundays. However it should also be remembered that Ireland was, at the time well served by pace bowlers, Alan having to compete with, for example, Alec O'Riordan, Dougie Goodwin and Roy Torrens for a place.

Alan gained an Irish Schools cap against Wales at Pembroke (South Wales not Sydney Parade!) in 1971, playing an important role in an Irish victory. In a rain affected Welsh first innings, he took one of the only wickets to fall, as the hosts reached 109-2 before declaring. Alan ended an opening partnership of 79 by clean bowling Mark Davies, who later played twice for Glamorgan, for 33. Ireland, however, found the going equally difficult and slumped to 46-5 before Alan came to the wicket. By judicious use of the long handle he topscored with 29, surpassing BRA opener Nick Lowther's 24, taking Ireland to within 5 of the Welsh total. Eventually, though Alan went wicketless in the second innings, Ireland needed 93 to win. Alan, with 14, made one of several useful scores, that saw them to a 5 wickets win.

Alan was already a Lurgan senior player by this time, he was to be a key member of their attack for over two decades. Some of his most outstanding performances came in the NCU Challenge Cup, a few of which may be considered here. In 1972, he was virtually unplayable. In the first round, after Lurgan had avoided the preliminary one thanks to a bye, he routed Downpatrick with figures of 9-22 - the 9th best in the history of the competition, leaving his side only 78 to win. They did so by 8 wickets, a margin repeated in the "local Derby" against Waringstown with Alan taking 4-15. He proceeded to destroy Cliftonville in the semi, his 7-20, ensuring that they totalled no more than 50. The final against Muckamore saw another splendid performance. The Co Antrim spin attack of McQuilken and Campbell, restricted Lurgan to 180-3 in their first innings - despite a fine innings of 87* from Ray Hunter - whereupon Alan virtually decided the match with the first ball of the Muckamore reply making the indomitable Archie edge to slip and depart without scoring, He finished with 4-35 and went one better in the second innings with 5-29 after another commanding knock from Hunter had set Muckamore an almost impossible task.

In 1974 he twice took 8-21, Queen's and North Down being on the receiving end, before a quarter final defeat ended Lurgan's participation for the season. Nine years later he ensured that Lurgan beat the rain, which affected most of the day's other matches, by taking 7-7 against Armagh, who were dismissed for 40. Though it was by no means his last noteworthy feat, we may finally record here, his bowling against Academy in a second round match in 1989. The "Old Boys" were shot out for 38, Alan taking 6-15, well supported by Paul McCrum 3-15.

As late as 1991, he won the Hool Cup as the best bowler in the NCU area taking 37 wickets at 14.76. It is typical of Alan's approach to the game, that not only did he stay with Lurgan, a club with which he has always had a strong family association, throughout his career, but that, when his playing days ended he continue to serve in an administrative capacity. Still the Club's Treasurer, he also served on the selection committee for many seasons.

At Interprovincial level, he achieved some of his earliest successes against Munster. In 1973 at Downpatrick, the South Easterners were heavily defeated as Alan with 3-20, supported John Elder (4-14) destroyed their batting. Only Pat Dineen with 25 being able to counter them. Nine years later at Pollock Park Alan was again on form against the same opposition. Ulster Country posted 260-5 then Alan took 3-28 but Munster just held out on 186-8, this time it was Pat Dineen's son Peter who withstood him with 53. However easily his best bowling in the competition came in 1990, the year in which the national selectors finally recognised his talents, against the stern opposition of North Leinster at Wallace Park. UC piled up a massive 290-8 with Garfield Harrison narrowly missing a hundred. Opening the attack with Alan Nelson, Alan returned figures of 24-8-60-7 including the prime wickets of Deryck Vincent (36) and Michael Rea (2). However UC just failed to force a win with their opponents finishing on 146-9.

1990 Ireland v Sussex (NatWest Trophy)
Alan's overdue Irish debut came in the first of two one day matches with Worcestershire - reigning County Champions at the time - at Castle Avenue in June 1990. Rain limited the match to 34 overs a side, Alan returning creditable figures of 8 - 2 - 29 - 1 when the county batted first. His wicket was that of the former England opening batsman Tim Curtis, one of the most difficult of any county batsmen to dismiss at the time, though not the fastest of scorers. Alan was, perhaps, fortunate that he missed feeling the full force of Graeme Hick who, coming in down the order, made a rapid and brilliant hundred. In the second match Alan added two more notable scalps to his collection. He had the captain, Phil Neale, a very consistent middle order player once considered a Test possible, caught by Garfield Harrison, then held a return catch to dispose of wicket keeper batsman Steve Rhodes, a particularly effective lower middle order batsman in one day cricket. Alan finished with 2-64 as the county raced to 304 all out . Ireland batted out their overs to finish on 159-8, Alan not batting.

His third and final appearance came later in the season in a Nat West match against Sussex at Downpatrick. This was a game which all Ireland cricket followers - to say nothing of the players - would rather forget. Sussex's Australian paceman Tony Dodemaide tore through the Irish batting taking 6-9 in 11 overs, bowling Ireland out for 72. An easy win for the visitors followed, with Alan having 0-21 in four overs.

Alan David Johnston was probably past his best when he played for Ireland. However those who saw this "fiery young Lurgan paceman" (Clarence Hiles) in his pomp can only regret that he had not been seen earlier in the national side. "He never, " said Paul Stafford, " bowled a bad ball."