Pembroke had shown a glimpse of their potential in 1993 when the won the Cup, but in 94 they took the big prize of the league back to Sydney Parade having been pipped by YMCA in that competition the previous year. For a number of years, professionals had been banned in Leinster cricket but that didn't stop a regular influx of overseas players who were either travelling or settling locally. Pembroke benefitted in 1994 when Kiwi, Richard Hastie arrived. A left arm spinner Richard or indeed The Wiz as he became universally known, was a great servant to the club for many years adding a spin option to the predominantly seam/swing attack. A curse for many a batsman on the pitch but a great character off it.
Speaking of travellers, LeBeau Jonker returned with John Lyon to Clontarf for a second season and with him came another young South African. Coming highly rated by John Lyon who had coached him through his formative year, this young player would have a handy career in Leinster cricket scoring over 12000 runs and taking a 464 wickets while he was at it.
It was, of course, the arrival of Andre Botha. He made his mark in his initial season, with 733 runs and 42 wickets. However, if Andre had had his way he would not have taken any wickets. Not that we couldn’t see that he could bowl, it wasn't hard to spot but Andre repeatedly tried to convince us that he was not a bowler but a wicketkeeper. No one had any doubt that he most likely would be a more than capable keeper, indeed I am pretty sure he did keep in some games, if not senior games, but we had bigger plans for him and suspected that this teenager was more likely looking for a slightly easier life behind the stumps than charging in with a ball in hand. Tough luck Andre, we know what your game was and just as well.
Andre Botha in his debut season
Clontarf’s season opened with a game against their nemesis YMCA which ended in a draw. Captain Michael Rea was probably happy enough with that opening result and he would have been even happier with the fact that he gave himself a bowl and, it pains me to report, got some wickets. Oddly, he didnt make a habit of bowling himself during the season, a surprise to all of us. The potential of our young South African batsman/bowler/wicketkeeper was shown in our second game against Phoenix. While we lost, Andre made his debut 50 for the club, there would be a good few more over the years.
While Clontarf’s league position was precisely mid table, we were still a couple of better results away from the top spot. In fact we became Kingmakers. Top spot was been slugged out between Pembroke and CYM. With 2 games left, CYM needed 2 maximum points from their games which would mean that they would win the league by a single point.
They got the max against Malahide who finished third and so it came down to their last game against Clontarf. Batting first, CYM fulfilled the first part of the equation in setting a target of 238 for the home side. Former Leinster mainstay Brian Buttimer top scored with 85 and John Hoey contributed 83 before Botha dismissed both.
There was an interesting name in the CYM line up. Bruce Deans, the All Black scrum half, played for a couple of seasons for the Terenure club while in Dublin to play rugby for Old Belvedere, however it was the local lads who set the game up for CYM. With 58 overs to chase, Clontarf set out with victory in their mind, after all a win would see them finish second (and the prize money that went along with that placing). Michael Rea led the way with 57 while youngster Paddy Lee was left to marshall the middle order.
The chase went on till the last few overs when the shutters came down. A draw left CYM second and Clontarf fourth.
Clontarf captain Michael Rea
First place however went to Pembroke who were on tour in Edinburgh when the news came through. The progress of Pembroke had continued through 94. Brian O’Rouke had a good year and the Davy twins continued to develop. Peter the elegant right hand bat, John the fiery left arm bowler but their player of the season was Stuart McCready. Stu had made the short trip from Claremont road where opportunities were limited. The son of a legend of YMCA cricket and Leinster umpiring (arguably the best??) Stan, Stuart was an aggressive bowler and brought the same aggression into his batting. He finished the year with 679 runs and 41 wickets which left him in third spot in the All Rounders cup but when Andre Botha and Alan Lewis are the two names ahead of you, you can be pretty happy with your contribution to the team effort.
Phoenix were related to Division B and replaced by Railway Union who pipped The Hills and Old Belvedere in a very closely contested league.
Just in case you thought that YMCA had taken a sabbatical, they went and won the Cup beating Malahide in a low scoring thriller in Park Avenue. Malahide totalled only 156 after choosing to bat first. That wonderful servant of the club Brian Gilmore led the way as ever with 53 but the innings never quite got going. And of course the cup final expert Alan Lewis played his part with the ball in taking 5 for 17, the man was made for finals.
The chase didn't quite go to plan with batters getting starts but not continuing. However with the score at 65 for 3, YM were still strong favourites with Lewis still at the crease. The departure of Lewis with the score at 121 gave Malahide hope.
Jamie Whan was outstanding taking the wickets of Burns, Nulty and Garth for a mere 20 runs in his 12 overs and his replacement, Alf Masood continued the excellent work. Whan was an young Aussie medical student who bowled medium pacers and was over for a season. Alf, of course, was best known as a bat but he was no mug with the ball.
The statistics show that he took just under 200 Senior wickets which is certainly respectable but it never seemed that he was a regular bowler. Few oppositions complained. Back in the game, Alf took over where Whan left off, he was the one to get rid of Lewi, caught by Gilly at short leg, imagine, a limited overs game with a short leg. Then Colin Haine, Stu Taylor and Keith Bailey departed. With 24 needed to win, last man Neil Bailey walked out the wicket to partner Martin Ridgeway.
Ringing in his ears were the excited cheerings of the Malahide faithful who did not seem to think that Neil would last long. Suitably motivated Neil and Martin set about getting their team towards the target. A little bit of context is needed here, while the two lads were batting 9 and 11 in the YM order both were well able to bat. Martin hit an unbeaten 50 in the 1992 final and Neil was technically correct.
Playing risk free and with plenty of overs left, they edged towards the target, taking 1s and 2s. Teams like YM won so often that they get used to and expect to succeed, so when Martin pushed one past mid on and scrambled a single perhaps the only people that were surprised were those in yellow and black. Martin Ridgeway’s 18 not out might have won him man of the match on another day but Alan Lewis claimed that award, however, I have no doubt that the YM contingent saw the last wicket partners as the heroes of the day. Neil played just one more game that season before getting married.
A quick diversion in the Irish Senior Cup which was won by Limavady in a North West derby against Strabane. Almost inevitably it was a Decker Curry 100 that saw them home against a team which included no less than 4 Gillespies.
Strabane (and in particular John and Peter Gillespie) had ended Clontarf’s challenge in the third round but the previous round was the one that caused a few heart palpitations. Batting first against Downpatrick we posted a decent score of 226 for 6, Alan McClean hit a flamboyant 66 off 44 and Peter Prendergast contributed 58 to the total. The home team’s replay was dominated by one man. In my era, Downpatrick meant Jim Patterson. Left hand bat and bowler, though by 1994 the bowling was secondary but boy could Jim hit the ball. His 97 got his side to within 15 runs but somehow we held our nerve to advance to the next round and a Gillespie thumping.
We did manage to win the Alan Murray cup, beating CYM in the final despite being somewhat understrength in the big game. Two of our new young players Ronan O’Reilly and Paddy Lee were over in Oxford with the Leinster under 19s on the day and Angus Hancock who had crossed the toll bridge mid season to join us from Merrion was cup tied. Even still it was a comfortable victory after our bowlers restricted CY to 100 for 8 with Bruce Deans and Conor Hoey with 20s the main contributors.While we took 18 overs to reach the total, it was a comfortable 8 wicket win.
Clontarf of 1994 Back l-r John Lyon, Des McCann, LeBeau Jonker, Ronan O’Reilly, Evans Dexter, Johnny Barry, Peter Prendergast, Angus Hancock, Andre Botha, Keith Lewis.
Front l-r Alan McClean, Johnny Fitzpatrick, Michael Rea, Paddy Lee, Deryck Vincent.
And so to the final competition of the year the Wiggins Teape. Clontarf’s fondness for this competition showed again, topping their group and beating Leinster in the semi final to qualify for a final against Pembroke. They had finished second to Clontarf in the group stages but beat Phoenix in their semi final with Stu McCready to the fore with 74 to see them home by 5 wickets.
And so another September final in Malahide beckoned. Well for some it did. My holiday had been long booked. It was never easy to find a date for a holiday with my cricket (and previously rugby) and herself’s hockey commitments to consider. Camping in France is perfectly fine in July and August but there are perils attached as September drifts towards it end. Nevertheless, we had decided to go and the 10th of September saw me enroute to the Brittany Ferries terminal in Cork rather than togging out in Malahide.
So these are not personal recollections of what in some eyes was a final with a touch of controversy. More of that later. Inserted by Michael Rea, Pembroke batsmen totalled 179 for the loss of 5 wickets. Brian O’Rourke was the main contributor with an unbeaten 107.
Now if you have been following this series you will have noted that scores in Malahide in mid September rarely seemed outrageous but this effort may have been a touch shy of what Pembroke would have hoped for. After O’Rourke, the next top score was Ted Williamson’s 16 not out.
The outstanding Clontarf bowler was Johnny Fitzpatrick who bowled 18 overs and conceded just 32 runs while taking the wicket of Ciaran Sharp. The loss of a couple of early wickets meant Michael Rea and Andre Botha had to bat with some caution initially.
However in the eleventh over there was a huge appeal for caught behind against Michael Rea. Now Michael always denied hitting this ball (but then again he always denied such things) and Pembroke was aghast when he was not given out.
It resulted in some heated exchanges at the time but nothing motivated Rea more than a fraught atmosphere and he dominated the reply, falling for 93 with the game just about won. So a major trophy his year of captaincy was a suitable way for Michael to end his season.
In fact it was an end to his time in Leinster Cricket as he relocated to London soon after. For both Dublin University and Clontarf he was an outstanding player. His Clontarf batting average of 47 in just 83 games indicate a superb level of consistency as does his record of 32 half centuries. We were sad to lose him as a player, teammate and a friend but lucky to have had him as such.
Seems that Michael finally found a funny line