Jim Bennett (CricketEurope)
Cricket in Skerries , 1883-1969
By the early 1880s, there was evidence of the democratisation of the sport in Fingal. There were names on the scorecards other than members of the gentry. Knockbrack CC was founded in 1880, and there were also teams in The Naul and Balscadden. The first reference to cricket in Skerries is in June 1883 when a team called Skerries Excelsior hosted Stamullen CC. The result was a win for the visitors with the main contributors to the Skerries’ score being Sherwin 18 and Wade 14.
The involvement of visitors and summer residents in cricket in Skerries was one of the specific factors in relation to the growth of the game in the town, and the availability of the rail network was also of importance because it provided flexibility and choice in terms of fixtures for the teams.
This is readily illustrated by the games which teams from Skerries fulfilled during this period. The report on the game between Laytown Visitors and Skerries Visitors in the Drogheda Argus and Leader Journal, 30 August 1890 ended with a note of appreciation for the station master: As usual the Railway company stopped the 8.10 p.m. train to take up the Skerries cricket team. The Company always kindly stopped trains at Laytown to take up or set down cricket teams at the request of the hon. sec. of the Laytown Cricket Club, Mr Thos. JA Wall.
Irish society was very highly stratified at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th Centuries. While cricket was played by all classes, it also appeared to have been important for people to play with those with whom there was a perceived social compatibility, whether that was in relation to religious affiliations, political beliefs, or employment status.
During this period there were seven cricket clubs in the Holmpatrick and Skerries districts, and they were Holmpatrick CC, Emmet CC, Workmen’s CC, Crescent CC, The Shamrocks CC, Balcunnin CC and Arondales, Ballykea. The Workmen’s Cricket Club, Skerries appears to have been in existence for just three years, 1899 to 1901 inclusive. During this period, it played most of its games in Fingal or Meath. In 1901, the Workmen’s CC lost to the Naul CC on 30 June, and lost the return game which was played at the Naul on 4 August. There are no further references to the Workmen’s CC in the local papers from that date onwards, but some of its players transferred their allegiance to other clubs in the area.
A team called Arondales, Ballykea played cricket during the 1904 and 1905 seasons. In 1904, Ballykea played Man-O-War at Ballykea and won handsomely. It featured in a local derby against Skerries Emmets in May 1905 but was beaten comfortably by the Skerries team. Many of the clubs of this era could more correctly be called teams rather than clubs because they were simply groups of like-minded individuals who came together to play cricket, but Holmpatrick CC applied to have the club registered under the Registration of Clubs, Ireland Act 1904. The first application was made to the Balbriggan Petty Sessions in February 1905 and renewed in 1906, 1907 and 1908.
The report on the proceedings gave details of the facilities at the club, and its reason for applying for registration. The only building on the grounds was a “wooden shed with a corrugated iron roof without any furniture in it”. D.I. Routledge believed that within the meaning of The Act, Holmpatrick CC should not be called a club at all. He expressed the view that the premises were unsuitable but that it would only be open for a few months of the year. The Chairman, Mr W. St Leger Woods, thought that club was under the impression that a licence was necessary because it was intended to get in a few dozen of beer for the “entertainment of their friends at a cricket match”. It was never intended to sell liquor, and, on that basis, the State would not oppose the club being registered.
The Holmpatrick cricket team was comprised of members of the sizeable Anglican population in the district, summer residents and visitors to the area. In the game against Pembroke in 1900, only one player, Edward Bailey, later Secretary of Skerries Golf Club, lived full-time in Skerries. The Holmpatrick team which played against Balbriggan in 1901 contained 2 residents of Skerries, Rev. R. W. Shegog, the Rector, and Edward Bailey, the other nine players as far as can be ascertained from a search of the 1901 Census appeared to have had their main residences in Dublin.
In the team which played Malahide on 24 June 1905, there are only 2 players Shegog and Bailey whose names appear on the 1901 Census as being resident in Holmpatrick. Even within a season, there is a significant turnover of players and when Holmpatrick played Emmets CC on 1 July 1905, only 6 of the players from the previous week featured in this game. In the games against Pembroke Wanderers on 13 July 1907 and against Richmond on 3 August 1907, only two players Wellington Shegog, Club Secretary and son of the Rector, and F. Milligan played in both games.
Over a period of three seasons, only 1 player, W. Shegog, played in the games which have been analysed. On 10 July 1909, Holmpatrick CC played Drumcondra with the final score being Drumcondra 69, Holmpatrick CC 11 runs. There is no overlap between the team which played Drumcondra in 1909 and the team which played in 1907. The team sheet only gave initials for the forenames of the players, but it appears, based on the available evidence that only one of the players WJ McClenaghan was resident in Holmpatrick or Skerries on a full-time basis. He was a solicitor and acted for the club when the licence was being renewed in 1907. The Irish Times of 24 July 1909 contained a reference to the cricketer “being well provided for by the Holmpatrick Club”, and that is the final reference to cricket at Holmpatrick CC.
Reasons for the disappearance of Holmpatrick CC from the cricketing calendar can only be based on conjecture. The opening of Skerries Golf Club in 1906 is one possible reason because many of the leading players the Shegogs and Mr Bailey became involved very heavily in the activities of the golf club. By 1910, many of the teams from Dublin which had played against Holmpatrick were playing junior and minor league cricket, and this had an obvious impact on the willingness of teams to play friendlies. Also, for a team to function efficiently, it is essential to have a committed nucleus of players available for all games. Holmpatrick CC with its blend of local players and visitors struggled to have any form of continuity in its team selections.
In the period between 1900 and 1909, based on the team sheets which were published, it appears that over 60 players played with Holmpatrick CC. This turnover of players makes it difficult for a team to continue especially if the locally based players who were the backbone of the club had other commitments. The full name for the club was the Holmpatrick Cricket and Tennis Club, but it did not confine its activities to sport. It was involved in the community and concerts were an integral element of its annual programme.
According to the Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal, the concert in 1904 promised to be “a very great success” because its “admirable programme” included the names of several very prominent Metropolitan artistes”. A concert was held in the Recreation Hall on 4 August, and it was deemed to be “most enjoyable”. Some of the names which featured on the team sheets were seen to good effect, and the female members of the club such as Miss Ina Shegog, Mrs Briscoe, Miss Dunham and Miss Blood-Smyth made very valuable contributions to the successful staging of the concerts. After the concert, the floor was cleared, and “the free of movement were able to indulge in the practice of Terpischorean art to their hearts’ content.” The success of the concerts which were staged between 1904 and 1908 is illustrated by the provision of a special train at 12.15 p.m. to enable concert-goers to return to Dublin.
In 1904, there is a reference to a team called Crescent CC, Skerries which indicated that it was available to play matches against junior teams from July to the end of September, and it appeared to have access to a ground because it was willing to play games in Skerries or away, but no further details are available regarding this team. By way of contrast with Holmpatrick CC, the members of Emmet CC were Catholic, nationalists and permanent residents of the town. Emmets CC played some away games in the Phoenix Park, but most of its games were against “country clubs” because for the Fingal Cricketer, the modus operandi was to cycle to the game, use communal playing equipment, have a drink during the innings break, drain a half-keg of beer dry at the end of a game, and cycle home.”
In addition to the differences already identified between the two clubs, Holmpatrick CC had security of tenure, the Emmet Cricket Club did not, but it depended on the goodwill of landowners for access to a field. For example, in a report on a game against Oldtown, the landowner, Mr William Healy was thanked for giving the field for the occasion. At its AGM in 1904, there is a reference to the handicap of operating without “a proper ground”, and the main reason given was the fact that land in Skerries was valuable. The landlord, Lord Holmpatrick, was seen as the chief obstacle to procuring a field, and the passing of the recent Land Act had exacerbated the situation because it had estranged “the sympathy of Lord Holmpatrick, or to be more accurate of his trustees.”
Details of fixtures for The Emmet’s CC are available from 1899 onwards. Between 1899 and 1902, games were played against Gormanstown, Tredagh CC, the Naul and Knockbrack. There is a photograph extant of the Skerries team from the 1902 season but there are no reports for the 1902 and 1903 seasons. The impression is given from the 1904 AGM that this meeting constituted an attempt to revive cricket in Skerries: The proceedings made it pretty evident that cricket is in by no means a moribund state in Skerries, indeed it is the intention of the club to prove that the very reverse is the case. The Emmet’s CC made strenuous efforts during the 1904 season to ensure that the game survived. The initial fixture list consisted of 8 games, but the club managed to arrange at least 5 additional fixtures, and to turn the games into major social events. For example, after the game versus Garristown, “there were songs rendered by both teams suitable for the occasion”. St Patrick’s Brass and Reed Band was present at two of the games, 10 July 1904, and 24 July 1904. In a report on the game on 10 July 1904, the Knockbrack correspondent was fulsome in his praise of the hospitality received and “the inspiriting strains of the Skerries Brass and Reed Band contributed not a little to make the visit a thoroughly enjoyable one”. Knockbrack won by 61 runs so this made the occasion even more enjoyable for him.
Many of the members of Emmets CC being nationalists did not prevent them from being excoriated in 1905 by “Fir Bolg” in the Drogheda Independent, and his comments were reflective of an attitude among Irish-Irelanders to those who played cricket: It is with sorrow he has recently noticed that honoured name Emmet appended to a club organised for the express purpose of fostering seoininism in Ireland. The writer refers to a cricket club named after Robert Emmet. Cricket is a foreign game and men who play such have no right to use the name of dead patriots as titles for their clubs…. I might hazard the opinion that the name of the club be changed to a more appropriate one. Or better why not change the game. We are long enough under the laws of the foreigner. Must we be under their intellectual genius as well? The Emmets did not become involved in this exchange of views, other than to continue to use the name and to play cricket.
Inspection of the team-sheets for the game on 14 May 1905, the next game versus Gormanstown on 21 May 1905 and the game versus Holmpatrick CC on 1 July at Holmpatrick’s ground demonstrates a continuity in team selection which was lacking for the Holmpatrick CC. The Emmets won the local derby by 36 runs, and a noteworthy feature of this game was that the Holmpatrick team included the Rector, Mr Shegog and his two sons. While the games were promoted as family events, it did not follow that the cricket was uncompetitive.
A great premium was placed on the accurate reporting of the results, and the practice was for the Secretary of one of the teams to submit the results to the Drogheda Independent. On 15 July 1905, a report of a game between Knockbrack and Emmets mentioned that Knockbrack would have had an “easy win”, but for “the excited element that prevailed amongst the spectators when the home team had but one wicket to fall by over-ruling the umpire’s decision and refusing to let the last man bat. Score: Knockbrack: 35; Skerries 21 and one wicket to fall. The Secretary of the Emmets CC, Mr M. Armstrong, may have decided against responding to the Irish-Ireland critics, but he was not going to allow a perceived inaccurate report to go unchallenged: I wish to remind the honorary secretary that he was absolutely wrong in his report. The match was broken off through a wrong decision of the umpire. Therefore, the score stood: Knockbrack, all out: 35 runs; Skerries, 2 wickets to fall, 21 runs. I fail to see where an easy win could be judged on either side.
Notwithstanding this contretemps, the Emmet’s season continued unabated, with games against Corduff, Avoca, Myra and the return fixture against Holmpatrick CC. Emmet CC was again involved in cricket in 1906 and 1907 but there is a paucity of information regarding fixtures and results. However, there is no reason to doubt that games were played during these seasons, and in 1908, Michael Armstrong, Secretary, announced that the “club is once again in the ranks and are open for fixtures for the following season. There is a lyrical account of a game between Emmet CC and Mullafin which Mullafin won by 14 runs, but the “rivals displayed great skill in all its intricacies, good batting, bowling and fielding being the order of the day”. In addition to the wonderful cricket, “that famous musical body, the Skerries Brass Band was in attendance, … and it is no exaggeration to say that it held all those who were fortunate in being listeners fairly spell bound by the splendid manner in which it discoursed all the latest selections and also those stirring National airs so dear to the hearts of all lovers of our own green Isle.” The report ended by declaring that the bandsmen and cricketers were a “credit to the stirring seaside town.”
The auguries for the 1909 season were positive. A strong committee was appointed, many new members were enrolled, “the popular Johnny Duff” was appointed captain, and the “worthy coadjutor to him” was Willie McLoughlin, “the genial veteran of the bat”. There was still a warm glow resulting from the previous year’s encounter with Mullafin; the Press and the different clubs were thanked for their “courtesy and kindness”, and it was hoped that future visits to Skerries by invited clubs would “contribute to the friendly feelings of the past”. Unfortunately, the Emmet’s hopes for the season do not appear to have been realised, and there are no further reports on cricket in Skerries in 1909.
In the period from 1910 to 1924, out of 289 references to cricket in the Drogheda Independent, there is only 1 mention of cricket in Skerries, and that comment is of a critical nature. At a Recruiting Rally in Skerries on 29 August 1915, Lieutenant M. F. Healy asserted that “they were fighting to keep the Germans from Ireland and yet they in Skerries could keep on playing golf and cricket and would not go into training and help the fighting men.” In the absence of evidence, it is only possible to engage in conjecture regarding the fate of Emmets CC during the period 1909 to 1924.
Local, national, and international events dominated, and minimal space was available in the local papers for reporting on cricket. For example, there was agitation during 1911 regarding rents and the sale of the Holmpatrick estate. Relations between farm labourers and landowners were particularly strained during the farm labourers’ strike in 1913 when an ultimatum was given to the farm labourers to leave the union or be dismissed, a tomb belonging to the Woods’ family was desecrated and cattle were released on to the road. In October 1914, the Skerries Branch of the Town Tenants’ League organised a protest meeting to condemn evictions, the increased demands for rent and charges for seaweed by Lord Holmpatrick and his agents. Some of people on the platform such as Wm Healy, Wm McLoughlin, P. Grimes and Walter Collins had also been involved in playing cricket with the Emmets CC and the Blackhills.
Skerries Cricket Club was re-organised at a meeting on 4 July 1925. There were 40 people present, and Richard Mc Loughlin, nephew of William McLoughlin became acting Secretary. An emphasis was placed on the inclusive nature of the club, and each sports club in Skerries was adjudged to have “added materially to the progress of sport in this progressive seaside resort.” Evidence of games played by this team in 1925 has been difficult to access, but the other clubs in the area around this time were Knockbrack re-formed in 1925, Ring Commons CC and Balbriggan. There was definitely cricket played in Skerries in 1926 because a person from Dunboyne was charged with using a commercial vehicle for “char-a-banc purposes”. He had brought 7 passengers to play cricket in Skerries and the solicitor for the defendant argued that the man just wanted to see the game. The passengers accompanied him, but he had not received any payment for this service.
For clubs such as Skerries CC which left cricket for a period and re-formed, the whole process of arranging challenge games was time-consuming and difficult because other clubs already had regular fixtures in place which meant that new fixtures could not be accommodated too readily. There is no doubt that the establishment of the Fingal League was the major contributory factor in the preservation of cricket in the area because structures were put in place for fixture-making, and teams could opt in and out of cricket depending on their circumstances each season.
There is a certain amount of confusion regarding the exact year in which the Fingal League was established. A report in the Drogheda Independent on 23 October 1926 indicated that a meeting was due to be held shortly in connection with forming a league for clubs in North County Dublin, and that the promoters were confident of having the league in “full working order” before the opening of the new season. However a report on a game in 1929 referred to Skerries CC as having won the Fingal League “three years in a row” , and this implies that the League started in 1926. The Fingal League was definitely in operation in 1927, and the seven teams that played in it were Knockbrack 1, Macraidh Knockbrack 11, Ballymadun, Ring Commons, Knightstown, Black Hills and Skerries.
Skerries won the Fingal League and received a cheque to buy a cricket set. Knockbrack came second and Ballymadun were in third place. The victory for Skerries was not greeted with universal acclaim because of the prevalence of “outsiders on the team.” According to the Secretary of the League “Knockbrack and Ballymadun are to be congratulated as they played in a clean and sportsmanlike manner and had no one on their teams but Fingallians.” The report on that game from a Skerries’ perspective provides an interesting comparison: Over 1,000 spectators were present at the final in Skerries on the 18th inst. A cocoanut matting provided a perfect pitch…. Knockbrack batted first and a splendid innings by J. Ennis added 33 runs to the score…. He played a delightful straight bat, … and was caught by a clever catch by R. McLoughlin, bowled by M. Moles. A feature of the Skerries innings was the splendid batsmanship of D. Moran who by drives, cuts, and slips made the handsome and useful score of 61 runs. Crawford came next with 18 runs. The final score was Skerries: 125 and Knockbrack: 63.
At the AGM of Skerries Cricket Club in 1927, it was decided to enter one team in the Fingal League and the Firsts would play in the Dublin League. In 1928, there were 10 teams in the Fingal League, and the new teams were Barnageeragh, Balrothery and Baldwinstown. Skerries retained the League title by beating Barnageeragh on a score of 29 runs to 21. By 1929, Skerries CC had 2 teams in the Fingal League, but its quest for four in a row was stymied by Knockbrack.
According to the report in the Drogheda Independent, the game between Skerries and Knockbrack was “the finest exhibition of cricket ever witnessed in Fingal…. The game was up to test match standard.” It comes as something of a surprise to read that Knockbrack scored 14 runs but managed to defend this score with Skerries’ losing its last man when the score was 13. Skerries CC was involved in a “unique situation” according to the Drogheda Independent of 14 June 1930 when “Baldwinstown received a walk over” in a Fingal Cricket League match on Tuesday. Baldwinstown’s eleven arrived for the match in an 1.0. C . omnibus, and the captain of Skerries CC refused to allow his players to take the pitch against “strike-breakers”. The outcome of this dispute was awaited with interest, and based on the league tables, it appears that the game was voided, with no points being awarded.
Skerries CC won the Fingal League in 1931 when it beat Ballymadun in the final on a score of 78 to 30. Skerries CC continued to play Fingal League cricket in 1932 and 1933, but in 1934, the team dropped out of the Fingal League nor did it play in 1935 or 1936. However, in 1936, Mr J. Duff requested that the Health Board erect pavilion and sanitary conveniences at the Sports Park so that the ground could be used for cricket and football. During the subsequent discussion, it was revealed that the park had become a dumping ground and was not yielding any revenue to the Health Board. It was decided to refer the matter to the County Engineer so that a report might be prepared. Skerries CC was back in Fingal League cricket in 1937, but the person writing the Skerries News was a little bit late with his story because he only heard that Skerries CC was back in cricket in 1938: “we are pleased to hear that the cricket team has been revived and have entered the Fingal League”.
An illustration of the extent to which cricket was mainstream in Skerries is shown by the fact that a challenge match was played between a Fingal Selection and Pembroke 1st X1 in aid of the New Church Building Fund on 27 August 1939: Sunday last’s game was sponsored by Mr G. L. Mc Gowan, solicitor, an ardent cricketer and all-round sportsman himself who infuses some of his own tremendous enthusiasm into every venture he touches…. Why not keep on? With no tennis facilities at Skerries and a pitch, which though not yet groomed to perfection, would respond well to good treatment, Skerries would benefit from and keenly appreciate a series of good weekly matches in the season. No one is more competent to promote these successfully that Mr G. L. Mc Gowan so here’s throwing out the suggestion.
In 1940, there are 10 teams in Fingal League and Skerries are still there, but they are not in evidence in 1941, 1942 or 1943. Skerries CC was back in Fingal Cricket in 1944, and M. Gosson and AJ Mc Donnell from Skerries CC are mentioned as being on a Fingal League panel which played Phoenix on 17 June 1944. In addition to league cricket, friendly games were also organised during this period, and one of the most hotly contested in terms of bragging rights, was between Skerries Cricket Club and Skerries Rugby Club. In June 1944, Skerries Cricket Club won by 14 runs after a game played in the Park on a score of 75 runs to 61.
Skerries CC played again in the Fingal League in 1945 and there is a report on a game versus Walshestown which Skerries won on a score of 68 to 29. The players who starred for Skerries were M. Gosson 31 and R. Byrne 11*. The best for Walshestown was Tom Murphy 12. The same teams met in the semi-final of the league, but on this occasion, Walshestown won with Tom and Kevin Murphy starring.
The major development in 1946 was that Skerries played in Leinster League cricket in addition to the Fingal League. In its first game in the Leinster League, Skerries beat Clontarf in front of a “very large attendance”. The best players for Skerries were J. Curry, M. Gosson and G. Walsh while Caprani and Dexter were best for Clontarf. It appeared that Skerries’ first year in Leinster League cricket was going to be very successful, but in a complete reversal of an earlier result, Skerries lost the cup final to Clontarf 111 on a score of 145 to 45.
Skerries CC is in the Leinster League again in 1947, and it is noticeable that players from other Fingal League clubs played Leinster League cricket with Skerries. Just as the Rush team contained cricketers from other Fingal clubs, players gravitated to Skerries for Leinster League games because playing against established clubs in Dublin provided an opportunity for Fingal cricketers to encounter better facilities and to play on better pitches. While 1947 was a quiet year, in 1948, things went awry again.
The Drogheda Independent gave an indication in its issue of 22 May that the cricket club was in bother. The report started positively enough: Skerries Cricket Club, another of our splendid institutions, is still very much to the forefront. They defeated James’s Gate at the Iveagh Grounds last Saturday…. We are in grave doubt about the Recreation Park being ready for next Saturday’s important game. The local sports clubs are complaining that the delay in re-sodding the ground is retarding a big programme of sporting events. It is time that the Council authorities used proper vision and foresight.
Matters came to a head in June 1948 when Skerries CC was forced to withdraw from the Leinster Cricket League nor did it play in the Fingal League owing to a lack of ground facilities. The reporter didn’t spare the Council: The club which has been an institution for many years, has had the bottom knocked out of its activities this year. The same fate has befallen other clubs here – Hockey, Gaelic, Rugby, Soccer – no ground. The Co. Dublin Commissioner should earnestly tackle this irritating problem of a playing field and remedy this state of affairs without delay.
Richard Mc Loughlin kept up the pressure regarding the lack of sports facilities in Skerries. He sympathised with Skerries Harps GAA club in having to play all their games away, and he contacted the Land Commission in 1946 and again in 1948. Other than a formal reply, no action was taken. He urged the Land Commission to acquire sites for sports fields, and he reported that a committee had been appointed in Skerries to “press forward for the remedying of this grievance.” The situation with regard to playing facilities in Skerries was addressed by the Dublin County Council in December 1948, but it was simply decided to advertise the park for letting when the clubs in the town were looking for the park to be sold, and a bigger park provided.
Skerries Cricket Club played in the Fingal League in 1949 and used the Recreation Park for their matches . Its first game of the new season was against Knockbrack on Sunday, 29 May 1949, and Skerries lost on a score of 36 runs to 19, but the reporter was reasonably optimistic about the team’s prospects for the season: “The Skerries X1 is quite new to league cricket but will be able to produce a good side before the end of the current season. Moles had top score for Skerries.”
In 1950, a reporter was under the impression that Skerries CC was a new club: The newly-formed clubs will mostly be led by well-known players: Skerries by D. Cashell of Holmpatrick, and Bettystown by B. Hardy of Dundalk and ex-Laytown. A Skerries newcomer, Kevin McArdle, is reported to be the find of the season. There was a move away from the Recreation Park, and Skerries CC intended to play its home games at Red Island Holiday Camp. 1951 was a very difficult year for cricket in Fingal with only 4 teams competing for the Challenge Cup. The Honorary Secretary of the Fingal League, Eddie Dunne, hoped that “old, established clubs” such as Skerries, Rush, Naul, Oldtown and perhaps, Malahide would take part in the League in the following season. He would also welcome teams from the 3 holiday camps – Mosney, Red Island and Mr Gents. This was a complete reversal of an earlier policy when only true-blue Fingallians were welcome to play in the League.
His words bore fruit because Skerries CC returned to the Fingal League in 1952 and competed very successfully until losing the final to Walshestown. As an indication of its place in mainstream society, the cricket club commenced the 1953 season by organising a dance at Red Island. From 1954 to 1958, Skerries CC was missing from Fingal League Cricket, but the club was re-organised in 1959, with many of the old stalwarts such as Eddie Dunne, Paddy Hughes, Basil Costello and Willie Beggs still involved. The club had also acquired use of a ground belonging to the De La Salle school.
Martin Russell receives presentation from Barry Chambers
In 1960, the club was on the crest of the wave. Its first annual dance at the Holmpatrick Hotel was “an outstanding success”, and it had been given access to a different ground, the Ballast Pit. The club intended to play in the Leinster League, (if possible), the Fingal League and the Meath League, and it had a credit balance of £18. Between 1961 and 1965, nothing untoward appeared to have happened, although there must have been a level of uncertainty regarding plans for the 1965 season because the club was late with its application to play in the Fingal League. However, its entry was accepted, and the team was now playing its home games at Holmpatrick. In addition to league cricket, friendly games involving the boys’ clubs that came over from England to stay at Gents’ Camp were arranged on an ad-hoc basis. There was also the annual festival match between the local side and a Visitors team, and the competed for a trophy called The Young at Hearts Cup.
In 1961, the Visitors’ team was captained by Paddy Quinn of Phoenix, an Irish international cricketer, but the local team captained by Paddy Hughes won on a score of 86 runs to 82. In 1966, the Chairman, Mr Fethersonhaugh, reported that the club had secured a ground from Messrs Roadstone for the season. The ground when developed should make one of the “best pitches” in the county. “The late Richard Mc Loughlin, the father of cricket in the town always had the Ballast Pit in mind and was the first to secure it from GNR so it is good to see his wish come true and also to see two of his grandchildren playing for the club”.
Again, there was an aspiration to enter the Leinster League in addition to playing Fingal League cricket. In 1966 in the annual challenge, the Visitors batted first, and made 22 runs. Jim Walsh took 6 wickets for 5 runs, and Skerries passed the score for the loss of 2 wickets. In 1967, the never-say-die attitude of the Committee was very much in evidence, and its first annual dinner dance at the Windmill in August was so successful, that it was intended to hold another dinner dance at Christmas. The Visitors were victorious in the annual challenge game and were presented with the trophy at a function in the Windmill. The use of the Ballast Pit as a cricket ground was short-lived and the issue of a suitable place to play cricket reared its head again in 1967. The Honorary Secretary, Mrs Hirrell, asked the “cricket-minded” people in the town to come forward to help the club in its quest for a pitch, because the club was playing on a public park which was too dangerous to play on when there were children present.
In 1968, Skerries played its first game of the season against Knockbrack, but the writing was on the wall for the club. “The Skerries club has always been very popular but membership has fallen off somewhat in recent years.” A special appeal was made to anyone interested to come along and attend at the park on Tuesday evenings. At the AGM of the Fingal League in 1969,
Eddie Dunne of Skerries was elected to the committee, but there is no reference to Fingal League cricket being played in Skerries in 1969, and the constant struggle to obtain a ground appears to have taken its toll on the members, especially when there were opportunities to play cricket at neighbouring clubs. Being without a permanent base meant that there was no elaborate winding-up process, Skerries Cricket Club just ceased to exist.
For well over seventy years, people in each generation had sought to ensure that cricket survived in Skerries, and the contribution of Skerries’ people to the Fingal League cricket was especially commendable.
At the start of the 20th century, cricket in Skerries reflected a stratified society, but as the century unfolded, cricket served a valuable function in breaking down divisions and uniting people of different creeds.
In the late 1960s, with clubs in the hinterland of Skerries thriving, and recurring difficulties in obtaining a suitable ground, it was an opportune time to leave the stage and pass on the torch to other clubs in the area.
Again I am indebted to Joe Curtis and Martin Russell for their help in researching this article.