The books written about - or the ghosted ones "by" WG Grace - are numerous and would fill several shelves of a cricket library. Nor does there seem any end to them, four more having appeared this year, one semi fictional, to mark the centenary of The Champion's death.

However in none of them is there to be found more than a passing reference - if that - to the Doctor's not infrequent incursions into Irish cricket.

It all began in late September 1873 when he, accompanied by his younger brother Fred, led a strong United South of England XI against XXII of Leinster CC at Rathmines. The USE, the third of the great Travelling XIs to be founded had been intended to make money for a group of English professionals, but had, by this time, been more or less hijacked by the Grace brothers, WG earning what were then vast sums for his appearances, though it is true that leading pros such as the USE Secretary Jim Lillywhite and master bowler James Southerton were not exactly poor either.

At Observatory Lane the visitors batted first but were dismissed for 95, thanks to the bowling of David Neill who took 6 wickets. WG was in top form that season but was a comparative failure in this match. Dropped, badly, at mid off while still in single figures, he top scored with 32, scoring runs being no easy task with 22 in the field.

The XXII made 212, with Southerton and Lillywhite taking 6 and 9 wickets respectively. Grace did not bowl at all, perhaps deciding to save himself for the second innings. The hosts again showed to good advantage dismissing the USE for 159, getting rid of WG for 40. He did however share in what proved to be a match saving third wicket partnership with Fred (54). Needing 42 to win the hosts foundered and finished on13-6.

The following July saw Grace back at Leinster again, evidently determined to make the Dubliners pay - in both senses of the word - for what had happened the previous September. He had spent the winter leading his XI through Australia making himself highly unpopular because of his relentless pursuit of money and his attitude to his professionals.

The hosts batted first on this occasion and ;posted a useful 245 with WG, mixing medium pace with his slow leg breaks, all delivered with a low arm, taking 8 wickets., Fred had another 5 and Lillywhite 6. Only Army surgeon Tom Cox with 50 looked in any way confident. USE lost 3 quick wickets, before the Grace duo came together in a six hour partnership. WG, somewhat grinding things out made 153 - which was to remain his highest score in Ireland- and Fred 103 in an innings of similar style. No declarations then being allowed, the visitors batted on to a total of 431, Leinster then finishing on 34-2.

Grace and the USE were next to visit Ireland in 1875 when they broke new ground, playing at Ormeau and College Park. 10 May 1875 saw a large crowd assembled at Ormeau as USE were hosted by an NICC XXII. North began by totalling 220, WG whose tactics were seen as masterful, taking 6 wickets. He then opened the batting with his cousin WR Gilbert but fell to a slip catch off the Leicestershire professional Arnold Rylott for 28. The visitors never really recovered and were dismissed for 121. Rylott, who was a very good slow bowler, was later to accompany the Irish team to USA in 1879 as an umpire, though the Philadelphians, who had objected to him playing as he was not " a gentleman" had a low opinion of his impartiality.

Gilbert, who was a fine forcing batsman, later ran into financial difficulties which caused him to steal from his team-mates. The Graces packed him off to Canada, where his cricket career flourished. Back at Ormeau USE made 182 in the follow on with WG making 41. He then staged a master class in delaying tactics in the field to leave North and agonising six runs short of a well deserved victory.

USE then travelled south to College Park to play XVIII of the University Past and Present, the crowd being the largest ever seen at a match in Dublin. Batting first the visitors had made 246-7 by the close, Grace had not disappointed. Helped by being missed at slip on 18 and point on 44, he went on to make 112 in four hours, before he skyed a ball to the on side and was caught by the wicket keeper - Tom Casey - running towards square leg, off the bowling of future judge Harry Jackson. He and Gilbert (73) had put on 189 for the first wicket. The innings folded the following morning but with WG taking 9-61 and 9-81, the hosts were only able to leave USE 71 to win, which accomplished for the loss of 2 wickets, the Star attraction not batting.

WG and the USE were back in College Park the following year to field out while the University XVIII totalled 315 built around a fine hundred from David Trotter, who had made a half century the previous year. These performances caused Grace to invite him to play in the North v South match that summer, then one of the major matches in the English season. Trotter whose batting resembled the Doctor's was not outclassed. USE were dismissed for 159 with Grace falling to fast roundarmer Horace Hamilton for 32. However in the follow on they easily saved the game with WG making a pugnacious 88 before being run out, a decision which did not please him.

He returned to College Park, again with USE in May 1878 against a University side now playing as a XV. They bowled their visitors out for 173, slow roundarmer Arthur Exham taking 7-92. WG was once more run out, this time for 11. He got some of his own back with the ball taking 9-43, but the match was badly rain affected which was a pity as the USE included several players of great interest in the Australian Charles Bannerman, who just over a year earlier had scored Test Cricket's first hundred, and Billy Midwinter, the only man to play for Australia v England and vice versa.

Also in 1878 the newspaper "Saunders Irish Daily News" published what purported to be an account of a meeting of the Field Sports Section of the British Association, which was devoted to cricket. As well as several prominent Irish cricketers, all three Grace brothers were also reported as having taken part. For many years this was seen as a genuine account with historians such as Pat Hone, Trevor West and- if he may rank himself in the same company - this writer, accepting it as verbatim. However recent research by Gerard Siggins (who else?) has established that the Graces cricketing commitments in England would have made it impossible for them to have been there. Reading the entire report it's obviously a hoax, an elaborate Victorian joke which others than the indefatigable Mr Siggins should surely have spotted