As a decade ended a new era began. Having been granted senior status in 1983, The Hills came of age in the best way possible, winning not just their first but also their second trophy.
The Belvedere Bond League (the Senior League) and the Senior Cup came back to Milverton in a stunning season. The League wasn't even close, their return of 7 wins and 4 draws in 12 games meant that they were 37 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Clontarf. In only their second game of the season, they made an emphatic statement when they beat the provincial powerhouse YMCA by 151 runs.
The Hills found their feet in Senior cricket pretty much from the get go but they had yet to threaten for the silverware, fourth in 1986 being their best return. Their game was based largely around an outstanding bowling line up and an inability to drop catches. Consistent run scoring though perhaps held them back. But they put that right in 1989.
This year runs came throughout the team, led by their young captain Mark Clinton but with significant contributions came all down the order. Mark was a very classy bat and one of the good guys, he turned out to be a pretty good captain too.
The Cup Final however was a low scoring affair, but don't be mistaken in thinking that that took away from the drama. They met Carlisle in the final, back after winning it the previous year and not just that, they were hosting the game as well. The Cup competition was mired in controversy after disciplinary issues in the semi final between Old Belvedere and Carlisle but in the end that had no impact on the Final.
Clinton won the toss and batted first, however the hurlers on the ditch may have been questioning his wisdom when his side found themselves 8 for 3. Much of the damage had been done by Leon Ellison who blasted out a couple of wickets early on. The repair work was done mainly by Sean Hoare, the captain himself and 17 year old Alan Courell, whose 38 would be comfortably the top score in the game.
The 20 not out by number 10 bat Martin Byrne in a partnership with Mick Dwyer was crucial to getting the total to 138 for 9 after the 60 overs.
Surely, that would not be enough. Carlisle will have been wise enough to know that The Hills love a scrap and with bowlers of the calibre of Noel Harper and Matt Dwyer, nothing could be taken for granted.
Matt is well known throughout Irish cricket, as a high class international cricketer (eventually) and as a coach. Noel, while an interprovincial player was probably most highly rated by those with whom he played, being a very quiet individual. He was medium paced at best, a little shuffle as he set off on his approach, he was accurate, bowled variations before variations were fashionable, or even thought of, and a ferocious competitor. He would bowl all day for you and the quality never wavered. He is the sort of bowler who would be perfect for the modern day limited overs game, but I wouldn’t want to be the one who told him his overs were limited in number.
Despite this pressure, Carlisle started well, putting on 37 for the first wicket. A flurry of wickets followed but at 92 for 4, things looked in control for the home side. Just 23 more runs however and it was all over. Carlisle were bowled out for 115 and victory to the Milverton side.
The Hills Senior cup winning side 1989. (Credit Jim Bennett)
Back when I started this process, I mentioned how Peter O’Reilly introduced me to his son as the one whose teeth he had knocked out. Well that happened in 1989. A league game in Cabra. Cabra was known as a slow and dead wicket, despite being the home of bowlers such as Alec O’Riordan, Owen Butler and O’Reilly himself.
Batting first, we in Clontarf discovered that this wicket had a bit of spice. Early, maybe even the opening over, I played forward to an O’Reilly ball. In my memory the ball took a little edge and smashed into my face.
Back in the 80s we categorised bowlers as slow, medium or quick. Peter was decidedly quick. There were no speed guns back then so I can't tell you just how quick he was but trust me, a ball in the mouth was not a good idea and not to be recommended.
And before you go judging, helmets were not a thing then. A lad in Rush, a Senior 2 team in those days, did actually wear one, but he had good reason since he was a male model. The rest of us had no such concerns about our looks.
Immediately after the incident someone took me down to the Mater Hospital where while waiting in Casualty I was joined by my fellow opener Peter Prendergast. Soon after I left the field, he got a rising ball from O’Reilly which had smacked into his thumb. Robin Waters told Peter that there was nothing wrong with the wicket and maybe he should look at himself if seeking blame. With a broken thumb causing him agony I am sure Prendergast appreciated Robin’s thoughts and concerns for his goodwill.
So there we were, the two of us in Casualty feeling sorry for ourselves when in walks another OB member this time with a hobbling kid. The youngster had been playing in the nets when a ball got caught high in the net. Unfortunately he fell while trying to release it and ended up with a broken leg.
The killing field of Cabra was filling Casualty very quickly that Saturday. My mouth was repaired by my dentist, Richard Lappin, who came off the golf course to fix me up. Although more a rugby and golf man, his niece Naomi was a very good bowler for both Clontarf and Trinity.
His work meant that I was able to travel to Derbyshire with the Irish team for a NatWest game albeit minus a tooth. For once, being 12th man was a good thing, there was no way that I was not in any fit state to take on the likes of Michael Holding and Devon Malcolm from 22 yards. That game was a case of what might have been, after bowling Derbyshire out for 145, Ireland could only manage 82 in reply. Holding and Malcom only shared 3 wickets that day but their pace and hostility were a huge influence allowing Ole Mortensen to capture 6 wickets to wrap up the victory.
The Cabra Oval home of Old Belvedere CC
On the home front, Clontarf’s great record in the Wiggins Teape came to an end. In that comp, Phoenix beat YMCA who unusually had a barren year. There was a win in the 20 over Alan Murray Trophy. These days 20 overs seems to be seen as the present and the future of cricket.
Back then it was a bit of a pain in the ass, to be honest. Games took place on a Tuesday. It was hard to get 11 on the field for a 6 o’clock start (although in later years we will be talking about the day Clontarf ended up fielding with 12 for an innings in one such game) and frankly of all the competitions, this was the one clubs tended to pass on.
On the plus side, Michael Rea had joined us after finishing in Trinity and settling in Dublin permanently. He had a very good 20 over campaign. Scores were nothing like the current game but then it was all a bit different.
Bats were smaller, wickets not as good to start with. Also, captains could put the fielders wherever they wanted and bowlers could bowl 5 rather than 4. In that run, Clontarf scored 123 in the 1st round against the Midland League, chased 113 in the 2nd against YM and chased 124 to beat Leinster in the semi final. These scores are higher than I remember the norm, to be honest.
In the final, we were up against CYM who were a very good side in this competition. It was always felt that the mat encouraged shot making and with the likes of Sean Moore in their line up, CYM played an aggressive brand of 20 overs cricket. In the wide open spaces of Sydney PArade, they set us a target of 121, losing 6 wickets along the way. We managed to get off to a flyer, more in keeping with the modern game and despite a couple of wickets for left arm slowey Chris Macey, Michael Rea with 41 not out and Enda McDermott saw us home for a comfortable 8 wicket win.
Something to comfort us over a long winter.
1990, a new decade starts with some lows and one high.