FAMILY AFFAIR FOR THE GILLESPIES

23 years after winning the Irish Senior Cup with Strabane, Michael, Mark, John and Peter Gillespie took to the field again, helping their side beat Burndennett in the Qualifying League.

All the quartet played interprovincial cricket, as did their father Paddy, with Mark and Peter going on to claim international recognition, the latter winning 124 caps, playing at the 2007 World Cup.

The Gillespie brothers on Saturday

Michael now skippers the second string of the Red Caps and he was delighted that ‘the band was back together’.

“As most people know, the four of us played together in the same team for almost 20 years. During that time, you tend not to realise the significance of what you are doing and tend to take for granted the privilege it is to play in a team with your three brothers.

“I think it’s because you feel that it will go on forever. From memory, the last time we played together in a competitive match was 2007 and it was a few years afterwards that the enormity of what we had achieved started to dawn on me and also, as we all started to wind our playing careers down, there was a feeling of sadness that we may never get to take the field together again.

With the Irish Senior Cup after beating Ballymena in 1998

“Myself and my oldest brother John decided fairly quickly that we wanted to continue playing for as long as possible so we migrated to the 2nd XI. Mark began to explore and indeed thrive in his passion for golf but would still turn out occasionally when the 1st XI or 2nd XI teams needed him to play. Peter continued to play for the 1st XI up until the end of the 2019 season when he announced his retirement.

“With the greatest respect to John, 2nd XI cricket for me and him was always going to be a different proposition than it would be for Mark and Peter. John may disagree but I am of the opinion that International cricketers earn the right to be allowed to retire gracefully, without having to negotiate the minefield of playing lower league cricket. Therefore I was shocked and excited when Peter privately told me that he would like to play a few games with me and John in the 2nds.

The Strabane Intermediate side that beat Burndennett

“When that news sank in, I was always confident that the four of us would get to take the field together again. It wasn’t scripted to take place on Saturday 15 May 2021 and actually only happened because the 2nd team had to release a player to play with the 1st team. In fact, Mark only got called into the second team at 10am on Saturday morning, while he was on the golf course! Thankfully, he answered the call and it genuinely resulted in one of my most special cricketing memories.

“It was a very emotional day and to compound the emotion, John’s son Gary (my Godson) also played in the game and Peter’s son Ruairí and my wife Ciara were the team’s book-markers.

"Results in second XI games are normally irrelevant but it was a bonus to win the game and to also get the news that our firsts won as well. I think my nephew Aaron is a bit too youthful to allow the prospect of six Gillespie’s taking the field together but you just never know!”