Deryck Vincent (CricketEurope)
1984, having just finished my first full season of senior cricket, Des Cahell asked me to travel to Tipperary for a Des Cashell Selection to play Ballyeighan. This was a fixture he had begun during his Presidency of the Irish Cricket Union and one he held dear to his heart.
Now Des was not an easy man to say no to and coupled with the fact that he was a Director at the Insurance Broker, Coyle Hamilton Hamilton Philips who paid my weekly wage, the answer was always going to be yes.
He took these fixtures seriously and always brought a strong side, of the team that played in that 1984 game, 7 were either internationals or would go on to be internationals, which gave an indication of the popularity not just of the fixture but of the team’s patron.
There was good reason for the popularity of the fixture, the cricket was of a good standard, played competitively but in a great spirit and when the side travelled they were looked after extremely well.
Ballyeighan had some great characters none more so than Captain Donald Swan, amateur jockey and trainer, a character P.G, Wodehouse might have struggled to make believable and father of one of Tipperary’s finest sportsmen, Charlie Swan (who also turned out on occasions).
But the beating heart of Ballyeighan CC was John Kenny. There were others too, Eddie Dwyer, the Pim brothers, Chris and Alistair, the Budd family and Allan Eastwood who started his cricket life there before international honours came. And many more of course.
Des was not the only person to bring a side down either. Having lived in Cloughjordan for a few years while in the banking world, Victor Freeman of YMCA had played for the local side and on his relocation to the big city, he too began to bring a side for a fixture, a game which played for the Tom Kenny Memorial Trophy, Tom being John Kenny’s father.
Over the years Ballyeighan have had some incarnations and homes but the ground now stands on the Kenny family land and while the home club are not currently operating the ground is used by Slieve Bloom and Nenagh and the hope remains that Ballyeighan will rise again.
So when Dick Forrest of The Leprechauns suggested a trip to Tipp on a Sunday in August for the Leprechauns visit to play Slieve Bloom, it was always going to be an answer in the affirmative.
It is a two hour drive, with the obligatory stop in the Obama Plaza before hitting the country roads and the ground which sits under the hill of Knockshegowna. It's a beautifully appointed spot and a winning toss gave us the chance to settle into our surroundings and have a gander. Or so we thought.
Father and son opening pair Dennis and Matt Walker having started brightly had a dispute over the validity of a run and so ended Dad’s stint at the wicket. Tristan Auret, a young player who in the past was part of Cricket Leinster’s youth programme had opened the bowling and was bowling with good pace and bounce. However, Ray Shimmins got one which kept low and that was that.
Yours truly arrived - and departed, another victim for Auret. Matt, perhaps feeling a bit guilty at having run out Dad, managed to repeat the trick only sacrificing himself this time. 23 for 4 became 25 for 5 and things were looking bleak, well in the scorebook anyway.
Karl Medcalf and William Blackley steadied the ship bringing the score up to 53 before both had to trudge back to the pavilion. Enter Ryan Walker, whose father and brother had started proceedings, Matt opted for attack and took on the bowling, striking the ball cleanly and more importantly adding much needed runs.
Together with the captain Dick Forrest runs began to flow and while the final total of 126 might not have been as many hoped it was a considerable amount more than looked likely at various points of the innings. Ryan top scored with 28 while Dick was in silver medal position with 21 not out. Tristan Auret was the outstanding bowler returning 3 for 11.
Auret and Scott Kenny, having opened the bowling, also opened the batting as the home side gave youth their chance to begin the response. Scott is the grandson of John and son of Graham, more of whom later. In the first over, Tristan tried to hit David Cooke over the top and perhaps undone by Cooke’s lack of pace was caught at mid off.
And so began an outstanding set of overs by Cooke and Ray Shimmins who gave the batsmen nothing to work with. Both Scott and Sikander showed good technique but the canny bowling made runs hard to find and even when they did the energetic fielding of Matt Walker kept them to the minimum.
Cooke, one of the nicest people to grace Leinster cricket is now a Munster man, perhaps Ted Williamson might give him a call. This was a time game with 20 overs called at 6pm by umpires John Kenny and Alan Smale, the home side were 24 for 3 with all 3 wickets in Cooke’s figures.
Slieve Bloom needed something to kickstart the innings, that came in the person of David Ormond. A lefthander, he made his intentions clear early on but unfortunately for the visitors when David struck the ball it stayed struck. His 32 came in no time and gave the impetus which was carried on by Graham Kenny who replaced Ormond when Dennis Walker got one past his bat, Kenny however played the innings of the game, and his 34 was of a very high order. One shot over long off for 6 was worth the 2 hour drive alone.
The less said about his reverse sweeps the better though. These runs brought Slieve Bloom to the brink, despite an excellent catch to dismiss Kenny by Derek Dockrell . It was left to Mano and Sai to finish the job which they did with a couple of overs remaining.
And so it ended, a lovely day in good company, in a beautiful part of the country.
The team photo at the end was taken in front of the pavilion and despite his protestations, the teams insisted that Victor Freeman who had travelled down for the game with his son Trevor and spent the afternoon happily reliving past years, memories and maybe even glories, should be part of a memorable day in Tipperary.