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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Conor Michael Armstrong
  • Born 17 October 1980 Drogheda, Co Louth
  • Educated St Joseph's, Rush
  • Occupation Self Employed Bread Salesman
  • Debut 30 May 2001 v MCC Denis Compton Oval, Shenley
  • Cap Number 634
  • Style Left-hand bat, right hand medium pace
  • Teams North County

Conor Armstrong was an essential member of the North County XI for most of the Balrothery club's existence until his retirement from the club in 2016. Though the side has had many other fine players for example the Mooney brothers, Reinhardt Strydom, Andre Botha , as well as - more briefly Eoin Morgan - there can be no denying that Conor's left handed batting - often but not invariably opening, - and - in his earlier seasons - his right arm medium pace bowling were among the main factors involved in making North County one of the most powerful sides in Ireland.

His secondary school, St Joseph's, Rush has an enviable number of Irish internationals amongst its alumni, being able to cite not only Conor but also Catriona Beggs, Catriona O'Gorman and Ciara Metcalfe among those who have "pulled on the Green Jersey." Conor also had the advantage of hailing from a cricket background, following his brother Dara, who must vie with such fine glovemen as Harry Hill of Pembroke and Dennis Artt of North Down as a contender for the "best wicket keeper who never played for Ireland" accolade, and cousin Cian into the North County side.

Once established Conor was to prove his worth time and time again. By the end of the 2014 season he had made 7508 runs in Leinster Senior Cricket at 31.68 with 10 hundreds and 44 fifties. He had also taken 206 wickets at 22.05, though he bowled less as the years went on. His first hundred came in 2003, a season in which NC, led by Botha, won the first of four successive League titles. Conor, who hit 713 runs at 37.53, made his century 101 v Railway Union in a late August encounter. Eventually caught behind, off Kevin O'Brien, he set his side well on the way to a 45 runs victory. The season was, of course, the year of a remarkable treble as the Balrothery side also carried off the Leinster and Irish Senior Cups. He had added a further 310 runs to his overall aggregate in Leinster senior cricket by the time of his last match in 2016.

Conor's best season with the bat came the following year 2004 when he aggregated 973 runs at 57.24 with 2 hundreds and 6 fifties. The "bigger" of his two tons which was also to prove - to date - his highest score in Leinster cricket, came against Dublin University in the Lewis Hohn Williams League. In a one-sided contest NC amassed 383-4 with Conor striking a superb 141 before falling to the medium pace of Dom Joyce. The University were dismissed for 112 in reply. NC were able to add the tournament's Cup to their trophy cabinet by beating Phoenix in the Final, They totalled 258 Conor topscoring with 91 and Botha contributing 58, despite David Langford-Smith taking 5-36. Overall NC owed much to Conor in the competition, as he hit two other fifties besides taking 4-30 against CYM. He was also the key player in the first round of the Senior Cup against local rivals The Hills, who posted a challenging 303. However, well supported by Paul Mooney (54) Conor was always in control during a commanding 120 which enabled NC to achieve a 3 wickets victory.

His best bowling performance in Leinster cricket came in the League against CYM in 2002. North County had batted first and stacked up an impressive 293-7 with Botha making a dominating 129, Conor, coming in at the fall of the third wicket, contributed a useful 30. He then proceeded to dismiss five of the top six CYM batsmen, the only one to escape him falling to a stumping by Dara! He finished with figures of 15-2-61-5, leaving CYM all out for 146.

It is, however, arguable that for all Conor's sterling work for North County in Leinster Leagues and Cups, he has been of more value to them in the Irish Senior Cup, which they had won five times when this piece was written. At the outset of the 2015 season he had the highest aggregate of any batsman in the competition since 2003, the date from which full records are available. He has scores 1486 runs at 40.16 with 2 hundreds and 12 fifties. No other batsman has passed the half century mark so often. His highest score 104 came against Bangor at Upritchard Park in 2003. Batting first the visitors posted 344-6, based around a big second wicket stand between Conor and the inevitable Botha who made 120. Conor was eventually run out but the "ask" was too much for Bangor who were dismissed for 156.

In the next round he was out for a duck against Merrion at Anglesea Road, NC being all out for 191. However Conor rose to the occasion with the ball, having figures of 8-0-29-4, to see the hosts dismissed for 103. His other hundred, exactly three figures, came against Brigade three years later. Batting first NC lost Paul Mooney for 0 but Conor and Strydom (90) saw them on the way to a challenging 292-7, the North Westerners were bowled out for 193. His value to his team in this competition was shown once again in his final appearance in 2016 when he contributed greatly to an 8 wickets win over Ardmore, hitting a typically pugnacious 74 from 59 balls including 13 fours and 1 six.

We may note three more notable innings though several others were equally valuable and worthy of mention. Against North Down at The Green in 2005 he was joined by Eoin Morgan in a second wicket stand of 179, before being dismissed ten runs short of a well deserved hundred, Morgan blasting his way to an undefeated 142. Chasing a score of 305-2, the Comber side were all out for 234. Brigade were again on the receiving end of Conor's strokeplay in a Second Round match in 2008, as he made a highly praised 94 which, aided yet again by a powerful knock from Botha (71) saw NC to 294-5, which set up a 95 runs victory. Probably his most valuable innings that season, however, came in the Final against Donemana at Strabane. This was a tense low scoring encounter with Conor contributing a hard fought 68 to a total of 165-9, he had been sixth out at 113 bowled by Will McGonigle. Donemana could only manage 112 in reply. Conor was deservedly Man of the Match.

He was a key contributor to two North Leinster victories in the Regional Challenge Tournament of 2003. Against the North West at Beechgrove, the visitors struggled against an accurate attack. However Conor played an outstanding innings. Coming in at No 5, he made 66 in 122 minutes from 82 balls, with 7 fours and 1 six. He was joined by Dara in a 7th wicket partnership of 53, which lifted the score from an inadequate 152-6. NL finished on 218-9, the brothers have both fallen to the medium pace of Richard McDaid. The hosts then succumbed to the wiles of John Mooney, who took 5-19 to bring the Southerners a 131 runs victory.

Later in the summer Conor was Man of the Match against the NCU at The Green. He bowled tightly to take 1-12 in six overs as the home side fell for 94. Batting was by no means easy and the visitors lost four wickets in achieving their target, Conor with 39* topscoring and seeing them home.

Conor had finished playing for North County because he found it hard to have time to train - he has three young children! - and because he felt that he lacked the drive to keep playing. However he lives "next door" to Rush's ground - his seven year old son plays youth cricket there - so he accepted an invitation to coach the 1st X1 in 2017. When the club's professional Lynal Jansen had to return to South Africa for family reasons, Conor stepped in to fill the breach. Again he shone in all Ireland competitions. In the National Cup in 2018 he aggregated 240 runs, more than any other batsman and played two magnificent innings. Against Lisburn at Kenure, he made 101 from 84 balls with 11 fours and 3 sixes, enabling the hosts to post 223-7 which proved too much for the Wallace Park side who went down by 85 runs. Even more significant, however, was his innings in the Final v Limerick Raiders. Opening with Sean Doheny he mad 90 from 93 balls with 13 fours, taking part in a first wicket partnership of 136. Rush totalled 269-6 from their 50 overs before bowling the Munster men out for 243.

His initial appearance on the international stage came in 1999 at U19 level when he was a member of the Irish team in the European Championships held in the NCU area. Against Denmark at Ballygomartin Road he made a sound 49 at No 3, second top score to Peter Shields 69. The combination of North County and North Down was enough to set up a victory by 32 runs. They found stronger opposition from England at Greenisland but Conor took the lead with the ball, with 3-39 from nine overs, numbering Matt Prior among his wickets. England won by a Duckworth Lewis 52 runs and also won when the two sides met again at Ormeau in the Section A Final, this time by 5 wickets. However Conor had an excellent match. After topscoring with 47 before being run out, he proceeded to take all but one of the wickets that fell to return analysis of 10-1-33-4. Prior fell to him again as did the current (2015) Glamorgan captain Mark Wallace as well as the Durham pair of Nicky Peng and Ricky Ponting's favourite 12th man Gary Pratt.

These performances were enough to earn Conor a trip to Sri Lanka in the World Cup squad. Against a strong Australian side, led by a certain Michael Clarke, he made 19, his innings ended but future Test off spinner Nathan Hauritz, and took 3-29. We may note that when Ireland batted a tearaway Aussie paceman called Mitchell Johnson had figures of 0-30. Perhaps "Cookie" "Bellie" KP etc should have had batting lessons from Shields, Armstrong et al! Conor also bowled well in Ireland's 19 runs win over the Netherlands, his figures of 6-1-13-1 being an essential part of the victory.

His best performances with for Ireland A came in the European Development Xi Championships in 2001 and 2002, both against Scotland. In the former year, at Deventer, Ireland batted first as rain threatened. They were bowled out for a paltry looking 209, Conor falling LBW to Majid Haq for 1. The score would never have passed 200 had it not been for a valiant innings from Mr Extras who made 55, thanks to an inordinate number of wides and no balls. Scotland also found batting difficult and had succumbed to 69-4 when rain intervened leaving Ireland the winners on run rate. The four had all gone to Conor who had the remarkable analysis of 9-3-11-4. The following year's tournament, again in the Netherlands, saw rain again intervene in the Scotland match. Ireland posted a formidable 298-8 with Niall O'Brien, who opened with William Porterfield, striking an imposing 120. Several other batsmen weighed in with useful knocks, notably Conor who struck 36 from 37 balls to be second top scorer. He then took the new ball with Boyd Rankin, each taking one wicket. The rain came with Scotland staring defeat in the face at 142-6. What Matthew Maynard once called "The Vera Duckworth System" certainly did no injustice on this occasion by declaring Ireland the winners.

It is unfortunate that though Conor gained 27 caps for the full Irish side he rarely reproduced the form which has meant so much at The Inch and elsewhere. His best performances came in the two matches against the MCC, the first at Upritchard Park and the second at The Lawn, in June 2005. At Bangor, facing an attack which veteran watcher Derek Scott regarded as the weakest MCC had ever sent to Ireland, even though it was led by Langford-Smith, Ireland batted first and openers Dom Joyce and Conor were soon in the runs. However the Merrion man was out at for 56. Conor, playing shots all round the wicket went to his own half century from 86 balls. Eventually he was out ten short of the coveted three figures, stumped off Derek Heasley going for another boundary. He had hit 10 fours.

The stage was now set for the main event, Peter Gillespie's devastating 102* from 43 balls. Ireland reached 351/4 from their 50 over, Lanky failing to take a wicket. With Kyle McCallan also making a half century the only batsman in the first five to fail was Botha out for 2! Debut maker Gary Wilson did not get a knock. MCC also batted well but were dismissed 94 runs short of the Irish total. Two days later at Waringstown saw more of the same. Conor again shared in a first wicket century partnership (101), this time with skipper Jason Molins who had missed the first match through injury. Conor made 55 before being caught at long off, having reached 50 from 55 balls. He faced 69 in all and hit 8 fours. The top four batsmen passed the half century mark (Botha 85), Ireland going on to win by 64 runs.

Early in 2019, Conor announced his retirement as a player. However he will remain at Kenure as coach. Rush are sure to benefit greatly from hid knowledge and enthusiasm.