Jim Bennett (CricketEurope)
Man-O-War Cricket Club
This paper is dedicated to Tom Murphy who played cricket from 1938 to 1992. I acknowledge the assistance of Tom and Joe Murphy, Jody and John Morgan, John Archer, Jim Garry, Martin Russell. I thank Joe Curtis for providing some very important references, photographs, and his constant support and encouragement.
1.1 Man-O-War, 1883 -1940
Man-O-War is an area of population which is located within the townland of Courtlough in the Barony of Balrothery East. The origin of its intriguing name has given rise to many theories, and the most credible explanations are that the name is a corruption of the Irish phrases, Meann Bharr - Middle Height or Meann Bhothar - Middle Road. These and the other theories regarding the placename have been discussed in detail by Jim Walsh in the paper which he delivered to Skerries Historical Society in 1999.
The first reference to cricket in the area is a game between Wanderers CC, Balbriggan and Man-O-War CC which was played in Balbriggan on 21 May 1883 and resulted in an “easy win” by 18 runs and 4 wickets for Wanderers on a score of 88 runs to 70. Reynolds and Hammond of Man-O-War received favourable mention for bowling which was deemed to be “splendid”, and for the Wanderers, Purfield and Kirk “were credible”. There are no further references to cricket in this area until 1904 but it cannot be assumed that the game was not being played.
The tensions arising from the Land War and the Gaelic Revival are one explanation, but it is also possible that games were played on a field in a different townland, and accordingly, the name of the team was changed. The next reference to the Man-O-War and cricket is a game between the team and Ballykea which was played on 16 October 1904. The result was a win for Ballykea by two runs with two wickets to fall. In 1905, there is an account of an annual meeting, and after the meeting, “a most enjoyable evening was passed with bat and ball”. Everything was in readiness for the season and players were requested to be “on the grounds, sharp at 2.00 o’clock for practice on Sunday next, 11th June”.
The first game of the season was played against Knockbrack, and “owing to the day being so fine, the game was witnessed by a large number of spectators.” The result of the game was a win for Knockbrack on a score of 57 to 34 runs, and the only game for which there is a reference was scheduled to take place at Balcunnin on 18th June. For the next twenty- five years, there are no accounts of cricket being played by the Man-O-War CC, and it is a matter of conjecture whether to ascribe this dearth of information to pressure on space in the newspapers due to local, national and international events, games not being played or reports not being submitted.
What is not a matter of debate however is that the preservation and development of cricket in Fingal can be attributed to the establishment of the Fingal Cricket League in 1926. Between 1930 and 1940, Man-O-War CC played intermittently in the Fingal League, and this did not constitute a problem because if a team opted out for a season or two, it was possible to re-affiliate without the previous difficulty of having lost a place on a fixture list. There were 19 teams in the Fingal League in 1930, and Man-O-War CC was drawn in Division C along with Balcunnin, the British Legion, Skerries 11, Oldtown, and Curkeen. The only game for which there is a report in which Man-O-War was involved was against the Black Hills which the Man-O-War won on a score of 46 to 22 runs. The additional comments were to the effect that the game was “interesting to the last wicket”, and the Man-O-War “are improving at every outing.”
At the end of its first season in Fingal League cricket, Man-O-War finished a creditable third in the division which was won by Balcunnin. For the 1931 season, 17 teams entered the Fingal League, with the new teams being Baldwinstown 11 and Rush, while the Black Hills, the British Legion and Balcunnin dropped out. Man-O-War was again in Division C, and joined by Rush, Naul Hill, Curkeen, Oldtown, and Baldwinstown 11. Man-O-War’s record for the season was that it played 10 games, won 8 of them, scored 309 runs, and finished top of the division.
The Fingal League was organised on the basis of play-offs, and Man-O-War played Ballymadun in a two innings per side game. In the semi-final, Man-O-War was beaten by one innings and ten runs, with the scores being Ballymadun 75 runs, Man-O-War, first innings, 37 runs and second innings, 28 runs for a total of 65 runs. The best players for Man-O-War were T. Morgan 9 and C. Dowdall 8.
Information for 1932 is limited, and there is no evidence that Man-O-War played in the Fingal League during this season, but the club was back in the League in 1933. There were 17 teams in the League in total, and Man-O-War was drawn in Division B, and the other teams in the section were Balrothery, Oldtown, Knockbrack, and Baldwinstown 11. The team played 8 games, won 3, lost five and finished last in its section. By 1934, the number of teams in the League had fallen to 13; Man-O-War was in the same section as Portrane, Black Hills, Knockbrack, Ring Commons, Balbriggan, and Balrothery. Its record improved from the previous season, and of the 12 games which it played, it won 7 games, lost 5 games and finished joint second in its section.
The decline in the number of teams in the league continued in 1935, and only 10 teams were affiliated. It was decided again to divide the League into 2 sections, East and West Fingal, and Man-O-War was drawn in the same section as Balrothery, Knockbrack, The Black Hills and Balbriggan. In 1936, there were still 10 teams affiliated, but there were significant changes in the membership of the Fingal League. Garristown, Man-O-War, and Balbriggan did not affiliate, but Portrane and Naul Hill had re-entered, and the new teams were Blanchardstown and Clonsilla. Information on the 1937 season is in scarce supply, but it is known that the Fingal League Championship was won by Balrothery. Man-O-War was back in Fingal cricket for the 1939 season, and it was drawn in the same section as Portrane, Naul Hill, Skerries, and Mulhuddert.
There is no further information available regarding that season, but the Fingal League was the object of glowing praise in a Sunday Independent article by GJ Bonass, one-time President of the Irish Cricket Union which was headed “Flourishing State of Fingal League:” It is good to see that the Fingal League flourishes…. There are some delightfully named clubs in this most sporting North County Association. Naul Hill, Man-O-War, Ring Commons, Ballymadun are surely names to conjure with. In North County Dublin, there are few billiard table wickets. Scalps may be had at bargain prices and it is usually a matter of great difficulty to get runs. Competition is extraordinarily keen.
Man-O-War was involved in one of those very keen games in 1940 in what turned out to be its last season in cricket for over twenty years. On 16 July, in the game between Man-O-War and Ballymadun, Ballymadun batted first and at the fall of the first wicket, had accumulated 25 runs. Of this total, Peter O’Brien had scored 19 runs, but in the words of the Drogheda Independent reporter, “the tail failed to wag”, and Ballymadun was dismissed for 36 runs. The main wicket-taker for the Man-O-War was T. Morgan who ended up with a tally of 6 wickets for 16 runs. In reply, Man-O-War’s score at 7 wickets down was 35 runs, but with 2 runs needed for a win, M. Rogers dismissed the last three men for 1 run. The best batsmen for the Man-O-War were T. Kerrigan 12, T. Morgan 10 and T. Sheridan 8. With honours even, “the large crowd present gave the players a great ovation.”
For the 1941 season, there is no mention of Man-O-War CC, but it appears to have been succeeded by Walshestown CC because there was some overlap between the personnel in both teams.
1.2 Walshestown CC, 1940-1959
Walshestown CC was founded in 1940, and initially had no home ground, but played its games away. Eventually a field across the road from Tom Murphy’s house was made available by the McGuinness family. While Man-O-War’s main objective during its somewhat fragmented early existence appears to have been to play a few games of cricket, Walshestown CC in addition to becoming a successful cricket team also took a full part in the social life of the community.
The first reference to the club in the Drogheda Independent is an advertisement for a Ceilidhe and Old-Time Waltz which was to be held in the Library in Lusk on Sunday, 15 December. Dancing was from 8.00 to 12.00, music was by the Gay Gordan’s Band, there were numerous novelties and other attractions, and admission was 1/6. The club organised a second Ceilidh in Lusk on 16 February, with the same band providing the music, the price of admission was also the same but there was no reference to novelties or other attractions on this occasion. Later in the year, the club organised another ceilidh in Lusk, but on this occasion, a rival club, the Ring Commons CC held a ceilidh on the same evening in the Naul. Irrespective of the community involvement, the main business of the club was to play cricket, and it had a difficult introduction to the Fingal League.
On 25 May 1941, Walshestown played the all-conquering Balrothery team, and the young players were no match for a much more experienced side. Balrothery scored 57 runs, with C. Russell getting 27 runs and C. Mooney “playing up to his usual form.” In reply, Walshestown scored 12 runs, and of this total, K. Murphy contributed 7 runs. The opposition for the second game of the season was Tubbergregan, and again there was a defeat with the score being 26 runs to 14. The Walshestown scorers were J. Moore 5 and M. Ayres 4, and the bowling honours went to K. Murphy who took 6 wickets for 12 runs and A. Ayres whose tally was 4 wickets for 8 runs. As the season unfolded, there were obvious signs of the team improving, and when a cup competition was organised at the end of the league season, the biggest surprise of the early rounds was Walshestown’s defeat of The Black Hills, the League Champions, on a score of 32 runs to 15. The report on the game ascribed great credit to Walshestown “for their grasp of the game after such a short time.” A noteworthy element of the display was “the spirit to win amongst the members of the team” which was evident from the start. Walshestown’s season ended with a game against Rush in which Jim Murphy scored 22 runs, but Rush won on a score of 69 runs to 48. Despite this defeat, the auguries for the future were positive, and in the words of the Drogheda Independent, “their prospects are looking bright for a young team and their sporting spirit will be amply repaid in future seasons.”
Despite the difficulties caused by the Emergency during 1941, there was general satisfaction regarding the way that the Fingal League had managed games: Notwithstanding the amount of difficulties confronting the Fingal League cricket this season a very high standard of cricket has been witnessed…. A practical example of the impact of the Emergency on cricket was that on some occasions, games could not be played because the rationing of petrol meant that fields were not cut or only half of a field was cut. This may account for clubs having to make alternative arrangements for their games, and there is a reference to two Fingal League games Walshestown and Tubbergregan, and Knockbrack versus Balrothery, being played on the same day at Walshestown.
There were 13 clubs represented at the AGM of the Fingal League in 1942, and the League’s divisional structures were amended slightly so that the issues caused by the continuing rationing of petrol could be ameliorated to a certain extent. Walshestown CC was drawn in the East Division along with Balrothery, Clonard, Rush, the Black Hills, and Ring Commons. The improvement from the 1941 season was maintained, and Walshestown reached the final of League by beating Balrothery. In the final, Walshestown played Tubbergregan, and unfortunately, met up with Peter O’Brien whose innings of 53 was described as “faultless”. The final score was Tubbergregan 69 and Walshestown 29 for whom J. Moore 8* was top scorer.
For the 1943 season, 10 teams were represented at the AGM, and Walshestown was paired with Portrane, Balrothery, Rush, and Clonard. Early in the season, Walshestown had two positive results, firstly by beating Clonard and then having a comprehensive victory over the Black Hills on a score of 76 runs to 7. However, this run of victories was halted when it played Portrane and the final score was 90 runs to 24. One of the defining characteristics of teams in the Fingal League has been the vigilance with which teams sought to ensure that other teams complied with the letter of the law. From the very inception of the League, the Management Committee was kept busy with objections and counter-objections, and as early as 1927, the League Secretary was complimented for the able manner in which he had handled many difficult problems during the season. It is possibly for this reason that the administration of the League was streamlined to a certain extent in 1943, and a Management Committee consisting of 7 members was put in place. The most frequent objection related to the eligibility of players, but at different times, there were complaints about umpires, scorers, and player behaviour. Walshestown lodged an objection against Portrane in 1943, but without access to the Minutes of the League, it is not possible to ascertain the nature of the complaint. In any event, it is irrelevant because the League dismissed the objection and Portrane went on to win the League by beating Balrothery in the final.
It is important to maintain a sense of perspective and to recognise that many of the complaints stemmed from the love and passion which the players and administrators had for the game of cricket. This was shown to its fullest extent when a Fingal League Selection played a Phoenix team which contained 6 international players (the 4 Quinn Brothers, Jimmy Boucher and JN Brophy). Walshestown had two representatives, Jim and Tom Murphy, on the Fingal Team, and the game was played at the Clonard Grounds, Balbriggan on 15 August 1943. It was described as “one of the best games seen in North County Dublin for many years” and “witnessed by a very large crowd”. Phoenix scored 59 runs, with Simon Hoare taking 5 wickets for 0 run, and in reply, the Fingal Selection scored 62 runs for the loss of 7 wickets.
In 1944, Walshestown was drawn in the same section as Portrane, Skerries, Naul Hill and Knockbrack, and from a Walshestown perspective, there was nothing of note in terms of the League, but players from the club represented Fingal with distinction during this season. K. Murphy of Walshestown was named on the team which played Phoenix CC on 18 June 1944. Unfortunately, the result of that game was not published in either the local or national newspapers. The Fingal League team was again in action on 5 August when it played against a Meath Selection. The result was a win for Fingal League on a score of 106 runs to 73, and one of the main contributors to the Fingal League’s score was Tom Murphy 15 who was to have a long and distinguished cricket career. The Fingal League team’s final outing in 1944 was the return game against Phoenix, and the Fingal League emerged victorious by 10 runs. The top scorers for Fingal were E. Moore, J. Neville, and T. Murphy, with C. Russell and J. Neville being the outstanding bowlers.
While the club may have had a quiet year at league level, it continued to be active on the social front, and 2 Ceilidhes were held in the Naul Hall on 1st and 8th October. Music was provided by the Whispering Pines, admission was 2s, and there was a cycle park. Walshestown CC commenced the 1945 season with a Ceilidh in the Naul on 29 April; music was provided by the same group, admission remained the same, but there was no reference to a cycle park. The team was in Division 2 along with the Black Hills, Portrane, Skerries, Knockbrack, and Ring Commons. It is an indication of how competitive Fingal cricket was that it was never possible to predict results. Walshestown lost to Knockbrack and to Skerries, and yet based on other results, qualified to meet Skerries in the semi-final which was played at Clonard. Skerries batted first and scored 49 runs, and in reply, Walshestown had scored 43 runs for the loss of 6 wickets when the excitement became “intense” as three wickets fell in the next over. According to the Drogheda Independent, Kevin Murphy, despite injured fingers, “carried the team on his back”, … and batting with confidence, they survived to win by 19 runs.” The main contributors to the score for Walshestown were Tom Murphy 14 and Kevin Murphy 11. Walshestown played Balrothery, the title holders, in the final, but was beaten by the all-conquering Balrothery team.
Eight teams were represented at the AGM of the Fingal League in 1946, and Tom Murphy of Walshestown was elected Treasurer. The team continued to be inconsistent in the League, and on 26 May 1946, it had a day to forget when in front of its home followers, it only scored 4 runs. Kit Mooney took 5 wickets for 1 run and Christy Russell took 5 wickets for 2 runs, and in reply, Balrothery scored 50, with Henry Russell 28 being the main contributor. However, the following month, Walshestown in the words of the newspaper report, “sprang a rare surprise” when it beat Balrothery at Balrothery on a score of 45 to 37 runs. T. Lindsay 17 was described as “the youth who played a big part in Walshestown’s success.”. In August, Rush needed to defeat Walshestown twice to win the division, but Walshestown beat Rush at Kenure Park on a score of 90 for 8 to 88 runs, and everything now hinged on the result of the second game. Walshestown beat Rush on a score of 35 runs for 3 to 31 runs, and qualified to play Balrothery in the semi-final. On this occasion, two of the Murphy family, Jim and Kevin, ended up with identical bowling figures, 5 wickets for 14 runs. Tom and Kevin Murphy were selected for a Fingal League team which played a Leinster Selection as part of a cricket festival at Rathmines. Fingal won handsomely on a score of 171 to 66 runs, and importantly according to the report which was submitted to the Drogheda Independent, “every one of the Fingal Selection… looked very clean and neat in their whites, which was very necessary for this big occasion.”
At the AGM of the Fingal League in 1947, Tom Murphy who had been elected Treasurer the previous year, appeared to have taken on the role of Secretary during the course of the year because he gave his report to the meeting in the roles of Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer. At the AGM, he relinquished the role of Treasurer to RJ Moore, and was elected Secretary for the coming season. Walshestown played Rush in the semi-final of the Fingal Cup, and won by 31 runs. Walshestown scored 55 runs, and bowled Rush out for 24. Jim Murphy took 5 wickets for 6 runs, and J. Moore took 4 wickets for 5. Walshestown played Knockbrack in the final, scored 94 runs, bowled Knockbrack out for 34 runs and won its first Fingal Cup after seven years of endeavour. The players who represented Walshestown on this historic occasion were as follows: T. Murphy, K. Murphy, Joe Moore, W. Tolan, P. Murphy, P. Mulligan, John Moore, J. Murphy, N. Lindsay, J. Hughes, C. Lindsay.
There was also representative cricket during this season when Fingal played a Meath Selection. Tom, Kevin, and Jim Murphy were on the Fingal team and all contributed to a reasonably comfortable win on a score of 77 to 43 runs. For the 1948 season, Tom Murphy continued as Hon. Secretary of the Fingal League, and a decision was made to put two competitions on a more formal basis as distinct from the ad hoc arrangement which had existed heretofore. In defence of its title, Walshestown did not qualify for the final which Balrothery won by beating Knockbrack in a very one-sided game. Balrothery scored 133 runs, and Knockbrack only managed 21 in reply.
As Secretary of the Fingal League, Tom Murphy was also responsible for arranging the Annual Dance and Prize-Giving, and it was gratifying to note that there was a record attendance, Ralph Sylvester’s Band supplied “a very pleasing selection of music”, and “the catering arrangements in the hands of Mrs McKeown, Erin House, Balbriggan could not have failed to satisfy the most fastidious”.
At the 1949 AGM of the Fingal League, Eddie Dunne was elected to the role of Secretary. It was decided that the 1948 Cup Final between Walshestown and Balrothery which “had been unavoidably delayed” would be played as early as possible. Walshestown batted first, struggled against the “constructive bowling of Mooney and Russell”, and was dismissed for 23 runs, with Tolan 7 and C. Lindsay 7, the only batsmen to “give any trouble”. In reply, Balrothery scored 80 runs for the loss of 5 wickets when the stumps were drawn. J and T. Murphy are mentioned as bowling best for the losers. When the same teams met in the League, Balrothery beat Walshestown on a score of 69 for 7 wickets to 48. The principal scorers for Walshestown were K. Hughes 11 and T. Murphy 9, while T. Murphy and N. Lindsay were the best bowlers. After these defeats, Walshestown’s season improved, and there were comfortable victories over Skerries and Portrane which meant that Walshestown qualified again to meet Balrothery in the final. The Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal’s preview referred to the supporters of Walshestown being “confident that the trophy this year will change hands.” There is no report available on the final, but there is no doubt that Walshestown won because it was presented with the Fingal Challenge Cup Perpetual Trophy at the Annual Dance which was held in late 1949. Walshestown retained the trophy in 1950 when it defeated Clonard in the final.
Information on the happenings in the Fingal League in 1950 and 1951 are somewhat limited because for much of this period, the involvement of Rush, Balrothery and Portrane in Leinster League cricket appeared to have taken priority. Balrothery’s wins in the previous year sparked a revival of interest in cricket in Fingal. Eleven teams entered the League, and eight teams, among them, Drogheda YMCA and Malahide entered the cup competition. Walshestown played Drogheda YMCA on 22 June 1952 and won by 43 runs. The innings featured some “glorious batting” by P. O’Neill 45, T. Murphy 31 and J. Tolan 11, and the wickets were shared among T. Murphy, M. Brady, J. Murphy, and P. Murray. Walshestown, did not have the most propitious of starts in the game against Balrothery. Balrothery batted first and scored 97 runs. In reply, Walshestown lost the first wickets for only 4 runs, but the day was rescued by the combination of S. Carty and T. Murphy who had a “magnificent stand” of 70 runs, of which, Murphy scored 34. T. Hynes and S. Carty 42* brought the game to a satisfactory conclusion for Walshestown.
In mid-August, confidence was high in Skerries CC because it had accounted for Portrane, and then played Walshestown in Skerries. Walshestown suffered a disastrous day with the bat, with only one player, J. Tolan 11 reaching double figures, the rest of the batsmen unable to cope with the bowling of J. Walsh, W. Beggs and R. Byrne. Walshestown ended on a “meagre total of 38 runs”, and Skerries scored the necessary runs with the loss of 4 wickets. Both of these teams qualified for the final, but Skerries’ hopes of winning its first title since 1931 were dashed by a resurgent Walshestown team.
The surge of optimism for cricket continued into the 1953 season, and it was hoped to have 13 teams playing in the league. It cannot be stated conclusively that 13 teams played during the season, because only 8 teams entered for the cup competition. Walshestown reached the final again and played Portrane in “ideal conditions”. Walshestown batted first and was dismissed for 18 runs. Out of this total, Jim Murphy scored 10 runs, and it appeared that a win for Portrane was a foregone conclusion. However, in Fingal cricket, it is never wise to predict whether a score is either a winning or a losing score. Portrane wickets fell like ninepins, and it ended with a score of 11 runs. Tom Murphy took 6 wickets for 8 runs and Jim, his brother, took 3 wickets for 1 run.
In 1954, Walshestown attempted to emulate Balrothery’s feat of three league titles in a row and met Cottrellstown in the final. Walshestown batted first, and only scored 22 runs, with Hughes 11, the only batsman to offer any resistance. In reply, Cottrellstown had scored 35 runs for the loss of 4 wickets when stumps were drawn. The main contributors to the Cottrellstown victory were C. Russell and V. Farrell, both of whom had starred for Balrothery in the very recent past.
Walshestown continued with its commitment to social activities in the community by organising a social in the Library, Lusk on 18 November, with admission costing 2/6. In 1955, the social activities continued, and a card night called Three Fifteens, was organised on 21 January in the Library in Lusk. The First prize was £5, second prize was £3, and third prize was £2. Admission for the event was 3s. Walshestown was one of only six teams entered for the Fingal League in 1955, but the only game for which there was a report during this season was its defeat of the Black Hills by seven wickets. The Black Hills scored 13 runs, and Walshestown “had no difficulty in passing the required number with the loss of only three wickets.” Cottrellstown played in the 1955 Final but lost to Balrothery on a score of 26 to 22 runs. In 1956, there are no reports of Fingal League cricket in the local newspapers.
A special meeting was convened in late November to review the state of Fingal League cricket because of the big “falling-off” in the number of affiliated clubs in the Fingal League. Some members argued that the Fingal League be dissolved, but the majority viewpoint was in favour of persevering. As an aside to this development, Eddie Dunne resigned as Secretary and was replaced by Thomas Mc Grane. Another meeting was to be held in February 1957 and every effort was to be made to get more clubs in Fingal to join the League. The revival campaign was unsuccessful in the short-term, because only 5 teams affiliated for the 1957 season, and they were Cottrellstown, Knockbrack, Portrane, Balrothery and Walshestown. Half-way through the season, Cottrellstown withdrew from the League , and it was not clear if this was due to “a shortage of players or a lack of interest,” but it meant that “after some 35 years in West Fingal, cricket gets a rest.” There are no references to Walshestown playing cricket in 1958, and the solitary game which is reported on in 1959 was played against Skerries at the Ballast Pit. Walshestown scored 34 runs, and Skerries with two wickets in hand needed 7 runs to win. W. Beggs scored “a wonderful six and Thomas Hand gave Skerries the winning run.”
Unless evidence is produced to the contrary, it appears that Walshestown CC ceased to exist at the end of the 1959 season. Over nearly twenty years, the club played a major role within the community in providing social and sporting activities during this period. It was a successful cricket club as is attested to by the number of Fingal Challenge Perpetual Clubs which it won despite being pitted against Balrothery which during this period was one of the strongest junior cricket clubs in Ireland. The members of Walshestown CC were not finished with cricket however, and when Man-O-War CC was re-established in 1962, many of the Walshestown players were very influential in its development.
1.2 The Man-O-War CC, Phase 2, 1962-1969
The Man-O-War Cricket Club was re-established in 1962, and it is relevant to comment on the contribution which pragmatism and a reluctance to accept authoritarianism made to the existence of two clubs. The Man-O-War GAA club was founded in Thomas Morgan’s house in November 1946. In an area where the population was low, it would not have been possible for a GAA club and a cricket club to survive if the GAA’s ban on playing foreign games had been implemented strictly or even implemented at all. Instead, the administrators of the Man-O-War GAA club ignored this edict, and people from the area played both games very successfully.
This very commendable attitude to a restrictive practice was one of the reasons that cricket remained a mainstream sport in Fingal and it was not achieved at the expense of the GAA clubs, but in conjunction with them. A similar situation existed in Skerries where the Beggs’ brothers, one of whom was a double All-Ireland medal winner, played cricket with Skerries, rugby with Skerries and Gaelic football with Skerries Harps. In addition to pragmatism, it was also necessary to be flexible regarding fixture-making, and there were very few instances prior to the abolition of the Ban when players were unavailable to one or other code due to a clash of fixtures. If there was a clash, some very astute strategic planning was brought to bear on the situation. If the Man-O-War or The Hills won the toss, the Gaelic Footballers batted first, and when they were out, they went off the play the football match. When the football match was over, the players returned to field for the second innings. It was a little bit more complicated if the opposition decided to bat first, now substitute fielders were required, and for this to occur, permission was required from the opposing team’s captain, and this permission was not always forthcoming; thus, at times it was necessary to field a number of players short until the Gaelic match was over.
The early 1960s saw a resurgence of cricket in Fingal because in addition to Man-O-War, Ring Commons re-formed in 1961 and Balbriggan returned to cricket in 1962. The seven teams in the Fingal League in 1962 were Knockbrack, Balbriggan, Man-O-War, Ring Commons, Skerries, the Black Hills and Balrothery. With this increase in the number of teams, the officers of the League decided to put the second competition on a more formal footing and to purchase a cup. The Man-O-War’s return to Fingal League cricket was moderately successful. It beat Ring Commons twice, and qualified for the semi-final of the League where it played Skerries. No result is available for that game, but it did not win the league because Balrothery CC won the League and was the first winners of the cup competition. In its first incarnation as a cricket club, the Man-O-War’s objectives were relatively modest and limited to playing Fingal League cricket, but the new version was more ambitious, and in addition to Fingal League cricket, the officers decided to affiliate the club to the Leinster Cricket Union. With three Fingal League teams affiliated to the Leinster Cricket Union, and 10 teams playing in the Fingal League, cricket was thriving in Fingal.
The impact of the Man-O-War on Leinster Cricket was immediate, and in its first season in Leinster, it won the Minor League. In 1964, Man-O-War had another very successful campaign in Leinster when it retained the Minor League and reached the final of the Minor Cup but lost to Clontarf. In the Fingal League, there was an eagerly-awaited clash with Rush where Ciaran Clear 12 and Tom Walsh 10* were the only batsmen to play the “accurate bowling of T, J. and K. Murphy”. The rest of the Rush batting collapsed, and Rush ended on a score of 48, all out. The Man-O-War batsmen, T. Murphy 33, T. Sheridan 16 and K. Gaffney “had no difficulty in knocking off the runs against a variety of bowlers. In the semi-final of the League, Man-O-War lost to Knockbrack on a score of 36 runs to 15. In the Fingal Cup Final, Man-O-War faced the mighty Knockbrack who batted first and accumulated 106 runs, thanks to Sean Moore 30 and Eddie Lindsay 20. Man-O-War was 17 for 6 wickets down when Tom Murphy appealed against the light. At that stage, Murphy was on 10*, and was Man-O-War’s “best batsman by far”. The game resumed the following Sunday, but the weight of runs on the scoreboard was too much for the Man-O-War, and Knockbrack completed a League and Cup double.
The AGM for the 1964 season showed the strong links between Walshestown CC and Man-O-War CC, with Tom Murphy, Treasurer and Captain of the First X1, and Jim Murphy, Captain of the Second X1. The close ties between the GAA Club and the Cricket Club were also evident and Thomas Morgan, a founder member and officer of the GAA club, was vice-captain of the First X1. During the close season, Man-O- War CC was active in maintaining the public profile of the club, and in providing social activities for the community. On 5 March 1964, there was a Club Dance in Rolestown Ballroom with music by the Silver Slipper Showband, and admission was 5s. There was another dance in the Holmpatrick House Hotel, Skerries, with the same band, but the admission had increased to 6s. At the end of the season, social activities resumed, and the club hosted another dance at the Holmpatrick House Hotel, with the same band and price of admission, but on this occasion, suppers were available. The ubiquitous Christmas Raffle was a valuable fund-raiser for all the Fingal clubs, and in keeping with the importance of transparency, the names of the winners of the Man-O-War’s Raffle were published in the Drogheda Independent on 19 December 1964.
Affiliation to the Leinster Cricket Union brought pressure on the clubs in terms of administration, the quality of pitches and ancillary facilities, but there was no doubt that the Fingal League clubs and the Leinster Cricket Union derived benefit from the presence of the Fingal clubs in Leinster competitions. In 1964, Gerry Byrne, President of the Fingal League, complimented the clubs on their impact on Leinster Junior Cricket, and he mentioned Rush, Man-O-War and Knockbrack as being responsible for providing brighter cricket in the Fingal area. A potential disadvantage was the possibility of the Fingal competitions being downgraded in importance, but this did not occur for many years because of the very strong commitment of the clubs to the concept of Fingal identity and heritage. The Man-O-War CC did not win a League or a Cup in 1965, but it continued to field two teams in Leinster competitions, and to compete very well. It was beaten in the Final of the Junior League by Monkstown and in the Final of the Fingal Cup by Balrothery. The only game for which a report exists was a Fingal Cricket Cup tie against Skerries in which Man-O-War batted first, scored 57 runs, with F. Morgan 12 and J. Archer 10 being the main contributors to this total. Skerries was dismissed for 20 runs, with K. Murphy taking 5 wickets for 10 runs, and T. Morgan, taking four wickets for nine runs.
In 1966, Man-O-War reached the Final of the Leinster Junior Cup where it played a Knockbrack team which was in the middle of a golden era for that club. The Man-O-War batted first, but only two batsmen, V. Farrell 11 and S. Hoare 22 reached double figures and the team was dismissed for 67 runs. In reply, Knockbrack got the necessary score for the loss of 4 wickets. However, the Man-O-War had better luck in the Fingal competitions, and it completed a League and Cup double. At the AGM on 19 March 1967, the officers of the club were re-elected, Tom Murphy continued as Captain of the First X1 and Thomas Morgan became Captain of the Second X1. No competitions were won in Leinster, but the Man-O-War retained the Fingal Championship Cup.
In 1968, the Man-O-War teams were involved at the final stages of practically every competition in which they played. Man-O-War CC played Phoenix in the final of the Leinster Junior Cup, and on the first day, Phoenix struggled to 145 runs, all out. At close of play on Day 1, Man-O-War had scored 35 runs for the loss of one wicket. Play resumed on Tuesday evening, and Man-O-War ended up on 89 for 7 wickets down. This saga resumed on Thursday, and unfortunately, no details are available other than the comment in the Evening Herald that Man-O-War had been beaten by Phoenix “in a very exciting finish.” Man-O-War’s tale of Cup woe was made complete when the Second X1, captained by Thomas Morgan, was beaten convincingly by local rivals, Balrothery, in the Minor Cup Final. The comment regarding a convincing beating requires clarification because Balrothery had lost 6 wickets for 47 runs when the Evening Herald went to print on Saturday evening, but Peter Hand, one of the late order batsmen, got some runs, and Balrothery ended up on 90. In reply, Man-O-War only got 52 runs. After these reverses, the strength of the club was shown by winning the Junior A Section of the Leinster League and winning the Fingal Cricket Championship for the third successive year.
In seven years in Leinster Cricket, Man-O-War CC was making rapid progress through the divisions, and in 1969, it was in the same section as Balrothery, so the number of local derbies increased. Man-O-War played Balrothery on 3 August and had a poor start, but J. Archer 33 “changed the course of the match with big hits.” Balrothery had an opening stand of 29 runs, but then lost wickets cheaply to end on 66 runs, 7 runs short of Man-O-War’s total. The best bowler for Man-O-War was Matt Gaffney who took 4 wickets for 13 runs. Man-O-War won Intermediate League B, but it was deprived of the double by Clontarf 111 which won the Intermediate Cup in a low-scoring game. Only 4 batsmen, V. Farrell 10, T. Murphy 15. T. Sheridan 13 and J. Archer 10 got into double figures, and its final score was 67 runs. Clontarf reached the required total for the loss of 7 wickets, with T. Murphy returning figures of 4 wickets for 23 runs.
Man-O-War also had a successful season in Fingal Cricket in 1969, it won the League and Cup double, and it had the Indian sign over Balrothery, its old rivals. On 26 July, Man-O-War played Balrothery and won this game by 6 wickets. Balrothery batted first and ended on 86 for 4 wickets. The best bowler for Man-O-War was Tom Murphy, and in reply, the opening stand for the Man-O-War amounted to 50 runs, “helped by a few dropped catches”. On the following weekend, Man-O-War scored 45 for 3 wickets, and in reply, Balrothery got 44 runs, with T. Morgan taking 7 wickets for 10 runs. In the Cup, Man-O-War played Rush and in the words of the Rush Correspondent in the Drogheda Independent, “Rush failed to dismiss the Man-O-War for less than 64 runs and lost by 4 wickets. When the Man-O-War met Balrothery again in the Fingal League, the margin of victory was 62 runs, and this was an untypical result in a competition where all games tended to be cliff-hangers. Tom Murphy 23 and J. Archer 22 were the main contributors to the Man-O-War’s total, with Joe O’Callaghan of Balrothery taking 8 wickets for 43 runs. In reply, Balrothery had a poor start with only Oliver Murray 25 getting a score of any consequence. The main bowlers for Man-O-War were Tom Murphy, 5 wickets for 17 runs, and Seán Moore whose 5 wickets for 24 runs included a hat-trick.
1.3 Man-O-War CC, 1970 – 1992
The treatment of individual seasons will be more cursory in this section because the aim of this paper is to place Man-O-War CC within sporting, cultural and social contexts. It was never intended to provide a history of the Man-O-War CC because that would require an approach which would involve analysing each season in detail. Cricket Leinster’s Centenary Book, 100 Not Out, referred to the “re-emergence of Fingal in the 1960s”, but the impact of the Fingal League clubs on Leinster Junior competitions was even more pronounced in the 1970s.
The Man-O-War, The Hills, Knockbrack, Rush and Balrothery all won cups or trophies during this decade, and of the 45 league championships, outside of senior cricket, Fingal League clubs won 24 of them, a 53% win percentage. In 1970, Man-O-War retained the Fingal Challenge Cup and the Championship Cup. It was less successful in Fingal Cricket in 1971, although it retained the Cup for the 6th time in succession, but it lost the League to Balrothery CC. Winning the Championship Cup for the seventh time in succession proved to be a step too much, and Man-O-War was beaten by 8 wickets by Balrothery. In the final, Man-O-War batted first, lost 4 wickets for 7 runs, and was 51 for 9 wickets down. John Murphy 43 and Dermot Sheridan 10 were the only batsmen to reach double figures. The 56 years old, Kit Mooney, took 7 wickets for 18 runs, off 16 overs, with the first 8 overs being maidens. In reply, John Mooney 43* and his uncle, Kit 13* steered Balrothery home, and this gave Balrothery its first cup since 1965, but it was also Balrothery’s last success in Fingal competitions until 1982.
From 1973 until the early 1980s, the Man-O-War’s main rivals for Fingal League honours were The Hills CC. For the 1973 season, John Morgan was elected Captain of the First X1, Tom Murphy was Captain of the Second X1 and Liam Rooney was Captain of the Thirds. On the last weekend of the season, Man-O-War and Clontarf were in the running to win the Senior 2 League, and the two teams met at The Nevitt on Saturday, 13 September. Unfortunately, there was one of those infamous batting collapses which seemed to affect Fingal sides on some of the big days. Man-O-War was dismissed for 34 runs, with Don Geraghty taking 6 wickets for 22 runs, and W. Dalton-Browne taking the other 4 wickets for 10 runs. Clontarf needed to beat CYM on the following day to ensure a league triumph, but the game was not played due to rain, and the Junior Branch was left to make a decision because Man-O-War and Clontarf were now tied for first place. In the end, it was decided to share the League title, and for the Man-O-War, this was a wonderful achievement for a club which had only been in Leinster League cricket since 1963.
There was a further triumph for the club when Tom Murphy won the Oulton Cup which is awarded to the best bowler in Senior 2 Cricket. To finish off a successful season for the club, it won the Fingal Championship Cup. The 1974 season was one of consolidation for the Man-O-War because it did not win any trophies at Leinster League level, and The Hills CC commenced on a run of Fingal Championship Cup victories which lasted from 1974 to 1978 inclusive. The Challenge Cup was shared between Man-O-War and Balbriggan, due to a tragic event which occurred on 28 September 1974. Christy Russell, one of the legendary Fingal Cricketers, was playing with Balbriggan in the final against the Man-O-War, but he suffered a heart attack, and died during the game. As a mark of respect, the game was not re-played but the Fingal League decided that the Challenge Cup should be shared. Additionally, Balbriggan CC presented a cup in memory of Christy, which became the prize for a T20 competition.
From 1975 until 1979 inclusive, Man-O-War won the Perpetual Challenge Cup and won back the Championship Cup from the Hills in 1979. In 1976, Man-O-War played Knockbrack in the Intermediate Cup final at Phoenix. There is a photo extant of the Man-O-War team, and it evoked many memories as some of the players attempted to name the entire team. This was the Man-O-War’s 10th attempt to win this trophy, and it was given a very solid start by Nick Farrell 32, Joe Keogh 21 and Michael Murphy 18. There was then a mini-collapse, but Jim Garry 21 and Alo Rooney 8 ensured that Man-O-War had a total 112 which was defendable.
In reply, Eddie Lindsay 41 and George McNally 15 kept Knockbrack in the game, but its final score was 20 runs short. Liam Rooney, who bowled 22 overs, took 5 wickets for 24 runs and Michael Murphy, despite the handicap of a stomach ailment, took 4 wickets for 28 runs. In 1977, Man-O-War was in the running until late August to win the Senior 2 League, but a poor result against Malahide ruined its chances of winning it. On a rain-affected wicket at The Nevitt, Malahide batted first and declared on a score of 219 runs for 8 wickets. The best bowler for the Man-O-War was Tom Murphy, who took 5 wickets for 68 runs off 19 overs. The Man-O-War response started badly but Liam Rooney 43 and Nick Farrell 40 compiled a stand of 80 runs for the 6th wicket to give the score a semblance of respectability. When this partnership was ended, Man-O-War attempted to bat for a draw, but this effort failed, and Man-O-War’s final score was 125 runs.
The Man-O-War’s Thirds followed up the previous year’s cup success by winning the Intermediate C League, and in one of the games in that season for which a report is available, it had a comprehensive victory over Civil Service to maintain its 100% record in the League. Civil Service, for whom the famous umpire, Stuart Daltrey featured, batted first and was dismissed for 124 runs. Christy Garry took 3 wickets for 20 runs, off his 10 overs. The Man-O-War reply got off to a brisk start, and Christy Garry completed a successful all-round game by scoring 32 runs. Other contributors to the Man-O-War victory were Brian Murphy 21*, Jody Morgan 17, Michael Kiely 16, and Kevin Gaffney 14.
The development of youth cricketers has been one of the defining characteristics of the Fingal League, and this was given formal recognition in 1971 when Gerry Byrne, President of the Fingal League, presented a trophy for youth cricket. In 1977, the Man-O-War played Balbriggan in a play-off game to decide the winners of this trophy. Man-O-War batted first, and scored 72 runs, of which Thomas Murphy Jnr, was the main contributor with 29 runs. Balbriggan only scored 43 runs in reply because it struggled against the bowling of the Murphy brothers, with Thomas taking 3 wickets for 12 runs, and Joe taking 3 wickets for 19 runs.
The main success story of the 1978 season again related to a Junior team, and Man-O-War’s Second X1 won the Whelan Cup by beating Knockbrack by 7 wickets in the final. Knockbrack scored 61 runs, and the main wicket takers for the Man-O-War were T. Murphy, 3 wickets for 7 runs, and Albert Harper, 2 wickets for 16 runs. Man-O-War reached the target for the loss of 3 wickets, with Jody Morgan 17*, T. Murphy 11, S. Halligan 9 and B. Murphy 9* being the main contributors to the score.
The non-selection of Fingal players for representative teams was a source of grievance for many years, with the most extreme instance being the failure of the Irish selectors to pick Matt Dwyer of The Hills CC until he was 39 years of age, despite the fact that he had won the award for being the best bowler in Leinster on 5 occasions. At underage and junior league levels, the balance was redressed to a certain extent, with John Murphy of Man-O-War CC being selected to play for the North Leinster U19 team in the Jeyes Cup in 1972.
Further representative honours were forthcoming for the Murphy family in 1976 when Tom and John, Father and Son, were selected for the Senior 2 League team which played against Clontarf in the Centenary Fixture. By this stage, John had become a youth international, and was also playing for the North Leinster Senior side in the Guinness Cup. His brother, Michael at 15 years of age, had already scored a century for the Man-O-War in a game against Old Belvedere, and was selected for the North Leinster U19 team in 1977. Over the next 10 years, Michael Murphy won the Bookman Cup for being the best Senior 2 batsman in Leinster in 1982, 1983, 1987 and 1989; his brother, Joe, won the Oulton Cup in 1989, and Liam Rooney won it in 1981, 1983 and 1984.
The clamour for Fingal League players to be selected for representative sides was not confined to Fingal, and Seán Pender of the Irish Times, an advocate for Fingal cricket, argued that Michael Murphy was in a different class to many other cricketers and that it was “past the time that he should be given the chance to prove this at Guinness Cup (Interprovincial) level”. This situation regarding selection issues was not rectified until Mike Hendrick became Coach to the Irish team, and players were judged on results and ability, rather than on their clubs or addresses.
After that digression on selection issues, it is opportune to return cricketing matters, and in the late 1970s, and early 1980s, the aspirations of the Fingal League clubs changed from being content to play Leinster Junior cricket to a desire to be considered for membership of the Senior League. Unfortunately, entrance to senior cricket was controlled by the senior clubs, and they feared that the inclusion of some other teams would eventually lead to the introduction of relegation, with the consequent loss of senior status for some long-established clubs. The Hills applied for membership on several occasions, and after a period of provisional membership, was eventually granted Senior League status in 1982.
It was argued by some eminent cricket people such as Michael Sharp and Seán Pender that Man-O-War CC’s record in Leinster Cricket in the early 1980s should have ensured its admission to senior cricket. In 1980, it played Clontarf, the holders of the Senior 2 League title, and recorded its highest ever total at that level. It had a poor start, and lost 3 wickets for 39 runs, but a quick 23 runs from Tom Murphy, a “faultless” 102 from Michael Murphy and a patient 33 from Liam Rooney gave Man-O-War a total of 231 for 8 wickets. The “much-vaunted” batting line-up of Clontarf struggled against the bowling of Michael Murphy (5 wickets for 30 runs) and Liam Rooney (4 wickets for 56 runs) and was dismissed for 110 runs.
While Man-O-War had shared the Senior 2 League title previously, it won the title in its own right in 1980 and again in 1982. Man-O-War applied for senior status in 1982 but was refused admission to the senior league. The matter was discussed at a Junior Branch meeting, and Michael Sharp, Secretary of the Branch, argued that the system was defective if a club was not provided clear criteria for its application being refused. In 1983, Man-O-War had an opportunity to show that it merited admission to the Senior League when it was drawn against CYM, one of the two clubs admitted to the Senior League, for the first round of the Leinster Senior Cup.
Sean Pender in his column following this game argued that Man-O-War was more than ready in terms of playing resources and facilities, and that its promotion to the Senior League should not be delayed any longer. In the game, Man-O-War scored 149 against CYM’s 171, and one of the stars of the game was Tom Murphy, who at 60 years of age only conceded 19 runs off 12 overs. The Man of the Match was Tom’s son, Michael, who scored 69 runs, took 3 wickets and 2 slip catches.
Man-O-War reapplied for membership to the Senior League in October 1983, but its application was refused again on this occasion because its ground did not meet the required standard. At Fingal League level, Man-O-War won the Perpetual Challenge Cup in 1983, won the Fingal League double in 1984 and again in 1985. Man-O-War and Balrothery met in the Fingal Championship final, and the first attempt to play the game was abandoned due to continuous rain in Rush on 4 August 1985. The teams met again on 15 September, and Balrothery batted first, but superb bowling from Liam Rooney 7 wickets for 24 runs, off 14 overs meant that it was dismissed for 61 runs. In reply, Anthony Rooney and Brian Southam scored 49 for the first wicket when Anthony Rooney was caught in the slips by Tommy Mooney, off the bowling off Phil Mooney. Brian Southam and Tom Murphy were out shortly after, and this left Jody Morgan and Liam Rooney at the wicket. Jody Morgan hit a four to tie the scores, and Liam Rooney hit the winning run.
At this juncture, player retention had become an issue for both clubs as some of their better players had begun to transfer to senior clubs. John Morgan had left Man-O-War in 1977, John Murphy had played for Trinity while in college, and then played for Malahide, and his brother, Michael, had also transferred to Malahide. Gerry Harper had transferred to The Hills, and there was a fear that other players might wish to test their skills in Senior Cricket. Applications for senior status by Balrothery and Man-O-War had been rejected so it was logical that the new amalgamated club entitled North County would apply for admission to the Senior League for the 1986 season. This application was refused, but it was intimated that if North County won the Senior 2 League in 1986, its application would be looked upon favourably.
For Fingal League purposes both clubs decided to retain their individual identities and to maintain two grounds, the Nevitt and the Matt. Man-O-War continued to be a successful club at Fingal League level; it won the Challenge Cup in 1987, 1988 and 1990, and it won the Fingal Championship Cup in 1987, 1988 and 1990. In 1991, Man-O-War was involved in an interesting test of the Fingal League’s residency rules which simply stated that it was necessary for a person to reside in Fingal for 1 week. There was no prohibition against playing a professional cricketer in the Fingal League, even though professionals were not allowed to play in Leinster League cricket during that season.
Man-O-War recruited Gary Wood, the Malahide Professional, and its argument was that Wood was intended to counteract the influence of Alf Masood who was playing for Rush. In any event, neither player had a starring role in the final, and it fell to Brendan Wilde who scored 42 runs to enable Rush to win the Championship Cup for the first time in 30 years.
Man-O-War continued to play in the Fingal League, and it won the Perpetual Challenge Cup in 1995 for the last time under its own identity. From that point onwards, the amalgamated team is listed in the Fingal League’s Archives as Man-O-War/Balrothery.
The aim of this paper has been to locate the Man-O-War Cricket Club within its sporting, social, cultural contexts; thus, it is beyond its scope to discuss the subsequent achievements of North County Cricket Club. In an era where sporting affiliations were divisive at times, Man-O-War Cricket Club was an outstanding example of a community-centred club whose members played cricket and Gaelic Football. It promoted a sense of identity, and it provided a splendid sporting and social outlet for the people of the wider community. It produced magnificent cricketers who played the game with pride and passion and represented the finest values of the game of cricket by being scrupulously fair.
When the question is asked, why did cricket remain a mainstream sport in this part of Fingal, Man-O-War Cricket Club will feature prominently in the ensuing discussion.