John George O'Brien

Born10 January 1866 Dublin
Died15 August 1920 Stevens Hospital Dublin
EducatedDownside School; St Charles College, Notting Hill
OccupationReservist Army Officer
Debut21 July 1910 v Scotland at College Park
Cap Number276
StyleRight-hand bat, slow right arm
TeamsKensington Park MCC Herefordshire Waterford Cork County Phoenix
HistoryJohn O'Brien was a lower order batsman, whose career was overshadowed by that of his brother Sir Timothy, though, considering the nature of many of his performances, it seems that the family name was certainly no hindrance to his cricket. His first match of any note was for MCC at Lord's in 1886 v South Wales Cricket Club, a team which, on many occasions - though not this one - was able to waive qualifications to have at least one of the Grace family play. They were overcome in this match, but O'Brien, with 0 in his only innings did not contribute much to the 79 wicket victory.

Following his brother, he played spasmodically for Kensington Park in London Club Cricket. Here again, he was not seen to best advantage. in 1892, for example, in his only appearance of which a record has been found, he made 0, while in 1895, his figures for the season in the all day matches,read: 5 innings, 1 not out, 47 runs, highest score 29, average 11.30. He also played in one afternoon match but made one of his, unfortunately, regular ducks! He did, however, continue to play in representative cricket, making, for example, several appearances for Herefordshire, though these were without conspicuous success. Thus in 1893 he played for the County v Glamorgan, then almost three decades from obtaining first class status. The Welsh bowlers were too good for John. He reached double figures in the first innings but, again, "failed to trouble the scorers" in the second.

Nevertheless he went on an MCC tour of the Netherlands in August 1902. The Dutch batsmen were no match for the left arm medium pace of former Irish international George Berkeley and the, very, occasional bowling of future Lancashire captain, and Cork County batsman, AH Hornby. The standard of the batting can, perhaps, be seen from the fact that Hornby's career bowling average was 89.66, which perhaps explains why when O'Brien got on to bowl he, too, was amongst the wickets taking 3-51 v North Holland. With the help of 3 not outs he scored 27 runs in the 3 matches at 13.50. Like other members of the party, he struggled against the leg spin of the great all rounder CJ Posthuma, deservedly known as "The Dutch WG."

O'Brien had always appeared spasmodically in Irish cricket, including, since his brother became an adopted Munsterman, for Cork County, but again, conspicuous success had been lacking. However, in 1910, aged 44, he was selected for Ireland v Scotland in College Park, this was as a replacement for RStL Fowler, the recent hero of the Eton v Harrow match, who could not get leave from school to play. The wicket was soft and Bob Lambert routed the Scots taking 10 cheap wickets in the match, as Ireland won by 208 runs. Batting a 9 O'Brien made 4 and 3. In the first innings he was dismissed by JH Bruce-Lockhart, who was also a rugby International and a fine leg spinner. He took 11-107 in this match. The Bruce-Lockharts were a remarkable and multi-talented family, this member was also the son in law of Henry Brougham, Irish wicket keeper on the 1879 American tour.

John George O'Brien did not appear again in important cricket and was only 54 at the time of his death in 1920 as the result of a car accident in Phoenix Park. He was trapped under the wreckage of his car following a collision, his passenger, a niece, was thrown clear. He was freed, taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards.

Edward Liddle, October 2007, April 2017, updated December 2020

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