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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Matthew Damian Dwyer
  • Born 22 February 1959 Dublin
  • Educated Milverton Primary School, Skerries Secondary School
  • Occupation Roofing Contractor, Cricket Coach
  • Debut 1 May 1998 v Glamorgan at Castle Avenue
  • Cap Number 611
  • Style Left hand batsman, slow left arm bowler
  • Teams The Hills

Matt Dwyer, one of three cricketing brothers, was a very good slow left arm bowler often seen as the best of his kind in Ireland, after the enforced retirement of Dermot Monteith. While this statement may provoke a chorus of disagreement from the general direction of the Sperrin Mountains, there would surely be general consensus that Matt's eventual selection for Ireland was both deserved and overdue. He was also a more than useful batsman in the lower order generally seen as one who sold his wicket dearly, presenting an ironclad defence to the bowler. However he developed into a pinch hitter in his later years. Opening the batting for The Hills, he delighted in crashing the ball over the infield while fielding restrictions were in place, racing away to a quick 40 or 50.

Many young boys of Matt's generation would say that watching the Test cricket heroes of the age on television inspired them. Not so with Matt and his brothers. "We just played sport, " he told Cover Point magazine in 2009. "There was Gaelic up the road and there was cricket across the road... we just played what was around us." He played a good deal of Gaelic in his younger days but it was on the cricket field that he made his name. So too did brothers Mick, who kept wicket for The Hills and North Leinster before turning to umpiring and Willie - somewhat younger - who was capped for Ireland U 19s, besides playing for The Hills and CYM and is now cricket manager of Phoenix.

Matt's feats for The Hills are legendary. He took 764 wickets at 15.03 with 35 "5 fors." Between 1990 and 1996, he won the O'Grady Cup - for the leading bowler in Leinster Cricket - on five occasions with 73 wickets at 9.95 his best season. That year, as in others he owed much to Mick's wicket keeping : st Mick b Matt, being a not uncommon mode of dismissal for opponents of the Milverton club. That summer he was also club captain for the fifth time and saw his side to the 50 over League and Senior Cup Double. He also, somewhat to the surprise of Dublin cricket cognoscenti, carried off the Samuels Cup for the best all rounder in the LCU. He was, appropriately, Man of The Match in the Final, taking 3-18 as The Hills, having posted a useful total of 200-9. dismissed Pembroke for 140 to take the silverware.

At interprovincial level, The Hills having become a senior side in 1983, Matt was first selected for North Leinster in 1985. He told Cover Point in his 2009 interview that there were at that time number of very good players in Fingal who never got any recognition in interprovincial cricket. Having been elected a selector himself, he found that when he put forward some names to his colleagues, "they had never heard of them." Matt himself took 70 wickets at 24.92 in 50 appearances, mostly for North Leinster, but, as the competition underwent various changes of format, for Leinster and The South also. One highly successful match came against Ulster Country at Castle Avenue in June 1991. Winning the toss the visitors piled up 261-6 with Uel Graham, at 2, hitting 68 and Jim Patterson at 4 making 67. Both fell to Matt however, two of his 5-86 from 26 overs. Without his contribution NL might have lost control of the game. As it was, despite some good bowling from Alan Johnston, Deryck Vincent (112) and Michael Rea (83) put on 203 for the second wicket, Johnston having disposed of David Pigot for 0. The hosts won by 5 wickets, but without Matt's long and successful bowling stint, the "ask" might have been too much even for their talented batting line up.

Matt also had a 5 wicket haul against Munster on another good track at the Mardyke four years later. NL began with a score of 228, Brian Gilmore leading the way with a fine hundred. However the total was gettable until Matt put a break on proceedings. Coming on first change and supported by Justin Benson's medium pace, he bowled throughout the rest of the innings to finish with figures of 20.4 -5-47-5, Justin having 3-15. The hosts were dismissed for 151. Three years earlier his bowling had been even more economical - and probably crucial - against the same opponents. Munster made 164 with Matt's figures 32-16-47-4. NL squeezed past the winning post with one wicket in hand. Appropriately, Matt,, on 10, was there at the finish.

Matt's selection for Ireland was delayed until 1998 when he was 39. He came in under Mike Hendrick as coach and had to change his bowling style. The former England seamer, himself sometimes criticised for bowling in too negative a fashion, instructed him to "Spear it into leg stump to defensive leg side fields. Aim to go for less than 4 an over." Though Matt disagreed with this philosophy of bowling,"I believe that wickets win matches. The only sure way to stop people scoring is to get them out", he followed the Hendrick mantra and, though they had many disagreements, he liked him: "He was a similar type of character to me." He particularly welcomed the end to provincialism in selection policy that Hendrick's appointment brought.

His late selection, which rectified what The Hills website calls " the greatest injustice of all time", probably meant that he was slightly past his best when he finally took the field for Ireland. However he was to gain 51 caps, taking 62 wickets at 25.87. He never took a "5 for", partly, of course because a large number of his matches were over limit games and - it is possible - partly because of the type of bowling imposed on him by Hendrick.

His first season, 1998, saw several bowling performances to gladden the former Derbyshire man's heart. In the three Triple Crown Matches his combined figures were 8 wickets for 75 while against Middlesex at Lord's, with the county thirsting for revenge after their defeat at Castle Avenue the previous season, his figures of 10-1-23-1, ensured that it took the hosts 48 overs to reach their target of 196, Mark Ramprakash having to bat an inordinately long time for an undefeated 55. Matt also had two fine performances against the touring Australia A.

In the three day first class match at Rathmines, he had 4-57 trapping Matthew Hayden lbw for 68 to end a first wicket stand of 115 between Hayden and Mike Hussey. He also had Damien Martyn caught behind by Jonathan Bushe who also stumped wicket keeper Ryan Campbell off the Milverton man for 53. Matt's quartet was completed by removing Test all rounder Brendon Julien for 5. Matt also bowled tightly in the five one day matches which followed, apart from the second game, the first of two at The Lawn where his five overs went for 54. He recovered the following day to have figures of 7-2-17-0. Ian Callender, who had noted that on the previous day, "all went wrong for the 39 year old Dubliner," now wrote that Matt " responded superbly after the mauling he received ." He was easily the best bowler in the defeat at Downpatrick, bowling the visitors' captain Michael Di Venuto - later to become such a consistent run scorer in county cricket, for 52 when he was in full cry, then surpassed himself at Beechgrove where he returned figures of 9-4-19-3 numbering the devastating hitter Adam Symonds among his victims. He had, in Callender's words, " bounced back with courage and showed his truth worth" in the last three matches. Australia A coach Allan Border named him Man of The Match at Beechgrove, a well deserved honour.

Among several other noteworthy performances we might mention two in 2000. In the European Championship match against Italy at Cambusdoon, Ayr, he had figures of 10-5-10-3, including Peter Di Venuto, brother of Michael, using his Italian ancestry to make a mark on the international stage. On the same ground a month later Ireland lost a three day first class match to Scotland by 6 wickets, collapsing in their second innings after both sides had made 259 in their first. That the Scots did not have a first innings lead was largely due to Matt, whose superb line and length resulted in figures of 24-7-39-3, easily Ireland's best analysis.

He had been developing coaching interests for some time, for example he had joined Brian Walsh in having charge of the U13 side which had played in a tournament in Scotland in 1997. A small boy called William Porterfield scored 56 in the match with Scotland while, in the same game, a red headed medium pacer named Kevin O'Brien took 3-10. When his international career was over, Matt increased his interest and was a much respected and valuable assistant to Adi Birrell for two seasons, building to the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, where his work was highly praised, Birrell, particularly, being most appreciative of what he achieved.

However after one match working with new coach Phil Simmons he resigned, though the change at the top had nothing to do with his decision. Rather he felt that he was neglecting his bread and butter, i.e. his roofing business, from which he had been absent for seven weeks in the Caribbean. The heavy programme Ireland had lined up for the 2007 season meant that he would no longer be able to spend the time needed with the team. He did return to coaching with the U19 side the following season, when he also, briefly, looked after the Ireland Women team. However the view expressed by Gerard Siggins that Matt might one day assume full responsibility where he had previously been assistant was not to be.

Matthew Damian Dwyer will long be remembered as a master craftsman, a slow left armer of high quality and skill. it is, surely, not only in Fingal that the question should be asked "What might not he have achieved if he had been selected a few years earlier?"

He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."