1979 was a turbulent period both economically and politically in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The 'Winter of Discontent' saw widespread strike action which eventually would lead to the downfall of Labour in the UK and see Charles Haughey installed as Fianna Fail leader and Taoiseach.

In Ireland there were major bus and postal strikes - the former requiring the intervention of the army to provide a service, and the latter lasting four months caused widespread communication problems.

This led to the then secretary of the Irish Cricket Union Derek Scott having to hand deliver letters of selection for the first-class match between Ireland and Sri Lanka at Eglinton to the Southern based players in the squad, and drive to Northern Ireland to post the rest.

In the pre-internet era, his RSVP noted "As there is no post in Dublin a phone call will be necessary to confirm your availability. The standard of RSVP-ing prior to the Surrey match was not very good!"

The Ireland team that played against Sri Lanka(Back row) Dean Simpson (12th man), Sandy Smyth, Dermott Monteith, John Elder, Ivan Anderson, Ian Johnston
(Front row) Michael Halliday, Michael Reith, Jack Short, Ossie Colhoun, Simon Corlett, Brendan O'Brien.

Also included in the letter were the social engagements surrounding the match which the players were required to attend: "BP will be hosting a dinner for both teams. At this function they will be presenting their Lorry Driver of the Year award.'

In a sign of more relaxed times, the letter also noted that the bar at the function would be open from 8pm. The Northern Irish Sports Council also had a buffet dinner organised to take place at the home of Lord Chief Justice Sir Michael Nicholson, who had been President of the Irish Cricket Union in 1978.

The former Ardmore opener of the 1960s former residence is now the award winning Beech Hill Country House Hotel where USA President Bill Clinton stayed during his visit to celebrate the Northern Ireland peace process in 1998. It was also used as a billeting base for US Marines stationed in the area during the Second World War.

It was against this backdrop that Sri Lanka made their first and only visit to Ireland to play Ireland in a first-class game between July 7-9. The village of Eglinton in the North West was hosting their first major fixture, and true to form in this part of the world, rain blighted the occasion.

Sri Lanka had just beaten India in a World Cup match, and were soon to be awarded Full Member status. Ireland were still some 14 years away from joining the International Cricket Council. Despite this, the Irish team included some of their most legendary names - Dermott Monteith skippered a side which included Simon Corlett, Mike Halliday, Michael Reith, Ossie Colhoun and Ivan Anderson.

Former Irish youth coach and video analyst Ian Johnston played a major role in the fixture, which he remembers well: "We reported to Brigade the evening before for pre-match practice and a team talk when Dermott produced bright green track-suits with his new brand - Trac V. In those days, there was no possibility of the ICU supplying such items so we were grateful - even when that night the friction in the first sliding tackle during a kick-about resulted in the material melting and fusing itself to the skin of your leg!"

Johnston's memories of the game are that "the Sri Lankan pace attack was somewhat sharp", but it was the cultured batting display of Waringstown's Ivan Anderson which lives longest in the memory for Johnston.

"The highlight of the match was an innings by Ivan Anderson which Dermott often described later as the best he had ever seen Ivan play. I shared a partnership of 149 with him, in which I managed to score 34 to his 110."

Anderson struck 20 boundaries in his eye pleasing century, while Johnston's innings occupied 135 balls - much to the chagrin of the locals, who preferred their cricket to be played at a less sedate pace.

"He struck the ball to all parts while I nudged it about as best I could. At one stage a 'fan' at one end shouted - 'Johnston, I'll give you a Fiver if you hit a four!' As luck would have it an inside edge flew down to him at fine leg just as some of our team were lapping the ground. I shouted for them to collect the money but never saw it and was given out shortly afterwards caught behind off my shoulder. Obviously the umpire had seen enough of me!"

The Sri Lankan team contained current ICC Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, who was then only 20 years old. Also in their party was Tony Opatha, who stayed on that season at Eglinton to become one of the first overseas professionals to play North West cricket.

Sudath Pasqual, who at the time was the youngest player to play in a World Cup at just 17, scored a century of his own, while Duleep Mendis hit 82 as Sri Lanka posted 288 for 6 in response to Ireland's 186 for 5.

The game petered out as Ireland in their second innings made 155 for 2, with Jack Short hitting 56 and Ginger O'Brien (father of Niall and Kevin) an unbeaten 45 when the stumps were pulled. Let's hope that the only striking seen this week during the ODI's is on the field rather than off it.

At Eglinton, July 7-9 1979, Ireland 186-5 (Ivan Anderson 110, Ian Johnston 34) and 155-2 (Jack Short 56, Brendan O'Brien 45*) drew with Sri Lanka 288-6 (Sudath Pasqual 101*, Duleep Mendis 82, Dermott Monteith 3-97, Simon Corlett 3-102).

Ireland: JF Short, MS Reith, BA O'Brien, IJ Anderson, RI Johnston, AV Smith, JD Monteith, SC Corlett, M Halliday, JWG Elder, OD Colhoun.

Sri Lanka: R Jayasekhera, ST Jayasinghe, RS Madugalle, SP Pasqual, S Jeganathan, D Mendis, RL Dias, D DeSilva, R Wijesooriya, A DeSilva, TRM Gunatillake.