Eoin McCann, 1989
The deliberations of the selectorial room are obviously under the official secrets act but some general comments can be made. Despite what many followers may believe horse trading was unknown. The best team for the job in hand was always selected irrespective of the geographical location of the players. Certainly, at various times players would be championed by individual selectors but always for sound cricketing reasons.
On this point, a selector who once actively campaigned over-zealously for a player from his area before the meeting, was greeted with blank stares and an inquiry as to whom he was talking about. If this gives the impression that selection was taken lightly this was not so, it is just illustrative of some of the lighter moments in many protracted meetings. A typical meeting could last three hours because, besides the actual team, the substitutes were very important and often took longer to lick than the team as all possible contingencies had to catered for. Throughout my eight years I do not think that very many, if any, disastrous selections were made.
I began under the expert tutelage of Kevin O’Riordan, ably abetted by Ken Kirkpatrick (right, the other ‘terrible twin’), the venerable Gerry Duffy, Victor Craig and the quiet spoken Tom McCloy. Much serious debate ensued, leavened with a sense of fun. To illustrate, I remember an incident in the bowling pavilion at Leinster concerning Kevin, who was leaning back in his chair eyes closed against the evening sun as the meeting drew to a close, when someone mischievously suggested that X might be a suitable manager for the Irish team. The reaction from Kevin was immediate he shot bolt upright the words ‘ over my dead body framed on his lips’. However, the laws of gravity coupled with his violent reaction combined to ensure that before he could get the words out, his not inconsiderable bulk and the chair parted company and he landed in an untidy heap on the floor to overall merriment. Needless to say, the suggestion was made in jest or was it? We shall never know.
Kevin (right) was a delightful companion to travel with. However, there were certain rules one had to learn from practical experience. The first was to secrete a towel for one’s own purposes on entering a hotel room as Kevin took at minimum three baths a day, and quickly used up all available bath towels. While his education at Belvedere was nicely rounded his knowledge of physics was minimal and he never mastered Archimedes Principle. Therefore, he filled the bath to the brim and then inserted himself. The result was invariably the same and therefore a pair of flippers was added to my bag on away trips. The establishment of territorial rights was also necessary as the contents of his case very quickly occupied every spare cubic metre of the room and the contents of his personal medical bag covered the top of every dressing table. What he required malaria tablets for in Wales is still beyond my comprehension.
There were many other delightful moments in the company of the affable Jackie Semple, sadly deceased, Victor Craig who had a fund of stories on dance bands and coursing, Alfie Linehan who seemed to be in the conservation business as everything including rooming lists was written on tiny scraps of paper; Gerry Duffy who delighted In demonstrating cricket shots with an imaginary bat as we made many laps around various grounds, (on one such lap Jack Short appeared dragging a reluctant sheep to introduce to Gerry amid much merriment); Ken Kirkpatrick, who gave up cigarettes at least ten times during our tenure; Tom McCloy who among other things explained to me the deep significance of black Saturday and who also described the inner sanctum of a famous cricket who admit lady members to the pavilion, as ‘the poor man’s Lord’s’. Then there was the acerbic Conn McCall (right) of few but pointed words, the meticulous Denzil Tipping and the quiet-spoken Alec O’Riordan.
Interspersed with these were brief tenures from Podge Hughes and the mighty atom Enda McDermott with whom I managed to get lost one famous night within sight of Arundel Castle, which huge edifice we were trying to find. A night to remember indeed which included an incident involving an Irish captain, his upper body jammed in a serving hatch which was being sprayed with a soda syphon, while a laconic spin bowler from the North West inquired as to what the unfortunate player was having to drink.
Many hours were spent in the company of Dermott Monteith (both during and after official pub opening hours) even if the conversations tended to be a trifle one-sided as Monty tended to propound his own theories and viewpoints to the exclusion of all others. Roy Torrens, a man of infinite wit, was another splendid companion who was never short of a comment on many diverse subjects, with his constant companion Ossie Colhoun, who crooning with his back to the audience, was a strange sight.
There were many memorable games, those that particularly stand out include the first Gillette Cup game at Lord’s when, standing on the balcony, I nearly fell over same, when it was announced that Dermott Monteith had won the toss and elected to bat. What a fright Ireland gave Middlesex that day largely due to a magnificent spell of bowling from Michael Halliday.
There was a marvellous win at Arundel, that most delightful of grounds, with the shouts of Tommy Harpur to ‘wait on’ disturbing the slumbers of spectators in their deck chairs. In the same game Stephen Warke was asked to field for Colin Cowdrey “just for a few overs old chap while I make a phone call", and was still fielding 40 overs later.
Another nail-biting win against Wales at Coleraine and an Under 23 win away to Scotland, a near win at Gloucester when Dermott Monteith fell agonisingly short of his 100, and John Prior took a brilliant running catch, also stand out.
The afore-mentioned John Prior’s first knock against Scotland which began 6,4,6,4 or was it 4,6,4,6, who cares! and his superb 100 against Warwickshire as Gladstone Small was dispatched to all parts of Rathmines were memorable, as were a superb catch by Michael Halliday at Arundel, by Michael Shannon at Malahide, and one by John Prior against Zimbabwe Schools; the fielding of Davy Dennison and Ivan Anderson, and a superb run out by Junior McBrine against Yorkshire. Graeme Hick making nearly 500 runs against us in Zimbabwe, during which one member of the party slept peacefully as projectiles from Hick sprayed around him, and his adding a club hundred on the Sunday to round out the week, was another outstanding memory, as was my first sight of Malcolm Marshall at Clontarf, a frightening prospect even then. I was also very fortunate to have visited some delightful grounds, Arundel and Lord’s, of course, being the outstanding examples.
Finally, it is customary to pick one’s best team on these occasions, restrictedto the players I was involved in picking. So, here goes:
- Dermott Monteith (captain)
- Jack Short
- Alf Masood
- Mark Cohen
- Ivan Anderson
- Brendan O’Brien
- John Prior
- Simon Corlett
- Michael Halliday
- Paul Jackson
- John Elder
- 12th man: D Dennison
I have not specified what type of game to avoid, shouts of ‘where’s your third seamer’. However, I am quite sure that this team would acquit itself well in any company and I’m only sorry I cannot find room for players like Stephen Warke, Hugh Milling, Roy Torrens, Jonathan Garth, Alan Lewis, Garfield Harrison, Michael Reith and Robert Wills.
I will conclude with a teaser who was first sub for Ireland at both cricket and rugby in successive seasons and was most unfortunate never to be capped at either sport? Answers on a postcard please.