Michael Halliday
I was playing a match for Trinity against Queens at Upper Malone in 1970 when I got a phone call from Jimmy Boucher telling me I had been subbed into the Irish team to play Scotland the following weekend to replace Gerry Duffy. Another debutant, Ray Moan, replaced Dermot Monteith who had heavy commitments making funny ties and being hit unto the cycle track at Wallace Park. In fact Dermot only played intermittently in those days and I had never met him until we both played against Holland at the Hague that same summer. We roomed together, at least for a small proportion of the morning and shared a double bed. The secretary had interesting ideas on the encouragement and initiation of the new players in the team.

Monty would have to be top of the list in terms of characters and cricketers I have played with. He was talented, astute, outrageous and arrogant. But his arrogance was the main reason that he was so successful. Without it he would have been an ordinary mortal and without his incredible energy and staying power he would have been an ordinary club player. The best conversations I have listened to have included Dermot, Hamish More and Scott Weir, two Scotsmen who don’t blush easily.

That team in 1970 was a good one, but Ireland didn’t play as much serious cricket then or even much cricket. Alec O’Riordan, Michael Reith, Ivan Anderson, Dougie Goodwin were class players and we lack players of their calibre today. In particular, our bowling resources have become thinner year by year. What other way could I have kept going playing at this level? I have lasted so long because I was brought up under a different system, when taking wickets was the objective, and when a ball on the leg stump was as rare as a half volley from Joel Gamer. When we were to play our first serious one-day overs match in 19801 asked Monty whom we should pick. “I wouldn’t pick you!”, was the retort He was right. I had to adapt and change length, line, pace and attitude to bowl at professionals. My normal style, useful enough against Scotland or Denmark on helpful wickets would be murdered. This difference of style that one-day cricket has forced on slow bowlers is one of the biggest changes in modem cricket and much to be deplored. There are now no off-spinners in county cricket who purvey anything approaching the methodology of say, Jim Laker, except perhaps Eddie Hemmings, who, significantly, is forty years old.

Although our approach today is more professional, we are not as good players. However it must be remembered that the Irish programme today is much more difficult and demanding and that in the ’70s we had a good chance of winning every match we played, such was the opposition. One thing that hasn’t changed is the crack. The memories and stories that are held in the mind concern the characters and from rather more than the onfield activities. Ossie Colhoun, who frequently introduced himself as “Dermot Monteith, a dentist from Derry”, was already legendary when I first met him. He was a superb, athletic keeper who never missed a trick but when he missed a chance he had a magical way of returning the ball immediately to the bowler with such panache that nobody else would realise a mistake had been made. The dressing room was the scene for his best theatre. He once filled up Sandy Smith’s cricket bag with empty bottles. When Sandy went to pick it up the clanking was deafening and the unfortunate Pembroke man was accused of collecting empties to reclaim the 2ps at the comer shop.

Batting against the West IndiesBatting against the West Indies
Dougie Goodwin was captain in the early ’70s and takes a lot of credit for moulding that Irish side. Previously the team was very much a collection of individuals, worried about their own places and team spin: was something Archie McQuilken kept in his holdall. The highlight for that group of players was the American tour of 1973. The experiences on that trip were immense. Some people’s attitudes to life were to change The climax came in Los Angeles when Pat Dineen (apparently gout- ridden) made his awards for the tour. David Pigot was presented with two non-walking sticks, Chris Harte with a toy monkey with an extremely large mouth and Ivan Anderson won $1000, in Monopoly money.

Also on that tour was Roy Torrens who was later to blossom as the funniest man I came across in cricket. He was also a good cricketer and didn’t play as much as he should have. There are many classics to his name but his performance in a game against Surrey at the Oval in 1981 was superb. He went into the wicket with the instructions to “throw the bat". This he did, literally, first ball, towards square leg, where he hoped to hit Geoff Howarth who had not been particularly friendly during the game. Earlier in the same game he was receiving quite a pasting from the Surrey openers, Alan Butcher and Duncan Pauline. We were standing in the middle of the wicket, (I was captain) despatching the slips to far flung areas of Kennington when Roy turned to the keeper, Paul Jackson, and said, “Hey Jacko, you go out to extra cover, will ye?”. Having been hit for 5 fours in his first over he announced “He won’t hit me for 5 fours in the next over, 5 sixes maybe but not 5 fours.”

Michael Halliday was no mean performer with the bat for Ireland - his greatest moment at the crease was his magnificent defiance of the West Indian pace attack at Rathmines in 1984. Modesty didn't allow him to mention his 62 in his recollections!

The biennial tour of the UK has always provided the setting for memorable incidents and on the first one, in 1977, Ireland achieved their best result in my time, a 3-day victory over Sussex. We bowled them out twice. Jack Short made 99 and Imran Khan, playing his first game for Sussex, provided us with great amusement as he tried to pin Podge Hughes, who was doing an impersonation of Zorro from somewhere near the square leg umpire. There were no fielders in front of the wicket and Podge won the duel, scoring 40, mainly over the wicketkeeper’s head Imran was warned by the umpire and was taken off. He did, however, score a century, and despatched me over the road, onto the roof of the pub. I have one of the slates he broke on my mantelpiece, with his autograph on it. Other memorable incidents from that famous match were Chris Harte’s dismissal (caught off his thigh pad) and the length of time it took him to get off the field. Another over had been bowled before he got to deep midwicket. Alec made him apologise to the umpire. Quite right! John Elder was also playing, and to everyone’s delight, while running for a boundary catch, he tripped over a deck chair. For the next minute or so he seemed to be indulging in some unusual acts of intimacy with the unfortunate female incumbent of the multicoloured chair. Happily, John, and the deck chair, were undamaged.

Bowling against the West Indies in 1984Bowling against the West Indies in 1984
Jack Short, who would have won over 100 caps if he had remained in Ireland, was always the best of company during Irish matches. I loved playing with him, especially as he was the best short-leg fielder I ever had He was very much a non-conformist, a radical who had no time for the bull that sportsmen so often hear from the alickadoo class. He has been a great loss to the current Irish team but he has done very well in Paris, professionally and on the cricket pitch. Having captained France to victory over MCC, he has something that will keep him in bull for good.

The great privilege I have had in playing for so long is in meeting so many of the great players and characters on the world stage. I would say that “Big Bird”, Joel Garner, Desmond Haynes and Collis King were three of the most extraordinary. The West Indies teams seemed to be a mixture of arrogance, shyness and lunacy. “Big Bird” was amazing, a sort of Pied Piper-like character, literally larger than life, who attracted hundreds of fans to his giant frame at every break from the game. He also went out of his way to come into our dressing room for a chat, being photographed with Derek Harrison, who was about two feet smaller than him. The most pleasant of the tourists I met were the Indians, who are full of humility and graciousness. They did get a bit excited when we nearly pulled off a one- day win against them in Downpatrick in 1986 but a great memory I will cherish was sharing a table in a very good Indian restaurant in Belfast with Dilip Vengsarkar and the whole Indian party treated us as if we had been invited into their own homes.

The Aussies were Aussies and Allan Border’s success in 1989 has been hard won. The difference in professionalism and dedication between his side in 1985 and in 1989 was extraordinary and his own captaincy superb. If he had been English he would have been sacked after 1985. Now look at him! If you go back to the 1977 Aussie side the contrast is even more striking.

The closest ties made by any Irish player would be with the Scots and these matches have always been played in the best competitive spirit. It is most important that an unacceptable side of modem day professional cricket is not allowed to sour these games. Sledging, complaining, and acting are part and parcel of much professional cricket and we must resist it. It is not worth playing any game if the spirit is not upheld. No one has to antagonize the opposition to compete effectively.

This short discourse has been rather hurriedly thrown together and must seem to have little structure to it. Too bad! However I will finish with my favourite piece of name dropping. I will pick a team of celebrities that I have had the good fortune to dismiss over the last twenty years. Batsmen proliferate. That is because Ireland rarely got down the order far enough for us to bowl at bowlers.

It reads: Geoffrey Boycott, Sunil Gavaskar, Desmond Haynes, Mike Gatting, Colin Cowdrey, Allan Lamb, Collis King, Deryck Murray, Dermot Monteith, Simon Corlett, Michael Holding, 12th Man Graeme Hick. It’s not a bad side, including the second best slow left arm bowler in the world and Simon Corlett who will be willing to bowl unchanged day in day out, especially as the XI includes Michael Holding, who may refuse to bowl if the wicket is dangerous. The squad also includes a promising 12th man, Graeme Hick. I have picked him as 12th man so that he can sit and watch everybody else bat, for a change. Geoffrey Boycott sneaks in ahead of David Pigot senior and Sunil Gavaskar just shades out one Mark Nulty.

Were this team to tour next season, John Elder would be our manager, but we would avoid playing in some of my most unforgettable venues - Welshpool, Menai Bridge and Washington Park, Chicago.