Edward Liddle (CricketEurope),
In recent weeks we have been regaled with XIs of Ireland's "Great and Good", as correspondents have chosen their All Time Ireland XIs. This set me thinking, what would be the best XI chosen from those who were picked only once to represent the national side. I would add that in this selection, I have ignored any current players.
There should be few quibbles about the opening pair HARRY MULHOLLAND and JIMMY GILL, as both scored hundreds on their only appearance. Mulholland, an Old Etonian and Cambridge Blue, he captained the XI in 1913, was a tall upstanding batsman who delighted in lofted drives. He came into the side against Scotland in 1911 as a late replacement and struck a blistering 149. Business claims, politics and war, meant that he never played again.
Gill was a more prosaic bat, who scored only one senior hundred in a long career in Leinster cricket. Selected against MCC at Rathmines in 1948, he was dropped on 0 but proceeded to make 106, highly praised by Wisden. He was, however out for a second innings duck to complete a unique appearance in first class cricket,
Our first drop batsman is BRIAN GILMORE, surely the unluckiest player to have missed out on further selection. A very good right hander he scored 12939 runs in senior cricket, mostly for Malahide and was also a handy off spinner. He made 20 on his sole appearance at Arundel. He was thought by some to lack the technique for international cricket, his figures surely give the lie to that.
At 4 comes our captain - or he would know the reason why! - the legendary WILLIE ANDREWS of North Down. With a bat as broad as a barn door", he led the Comber side in all but one season between 1910 and 1949. He then continued in minor cricket until he was 76. Though he failed on his only appearance - making only 5 - he was a consistent scorer in senior cricket and, though he was sometimes unavailable, was certainly worthy of more than a solitary cap.
I had considerable trouble trouble in filling the No 5 spot but eventually decided on DONOUGH O'BRIEN who made 58 when he came into the Irish side as a late substitute against Oxford University on the inaugural first class tour of 1902. An antiquarian who was more interested in ancient Egypt than cricket, he was, nonetheless, a stylish batsman who certainly did not let the side down, He also played several matches for MCC.
At 6 we have the first of two all rounders Woodvale's BILLY McCLEERY. A stylish right hander and hostile fast medium bowler, he was, perhaps, better known as a footballer gaining 9 Northern Ireland caps and playing several seasons for Blackburn Rovers. Billy was however an excellent cricketer who was on the winning side in nine of the fourteen NCU Challenge Cup Finals he played in. His solitary cap came against Sir Julien Cahn's XI at Ormeau in 1930. Unfortunately, batting at 3 he made only 10 and 0 besides taking only one wicket. However his overall form suggests that he should have had several more chances.
At 7 comes the redoubtable and legendary JOHN FLOOD of Sion Mills. AS a slow left armer he was so highly regarded in the North West that some, who saw them both, ranked him superior to Scott Huey. He was also a very good middle order batsman. Unfortunately his only appearance for Ireland came in a rain ruined draw with Yorkshire at Ormeau in 1948.He had also not been given a bowl when playing for Ulster v Derbyshire at Ormeau the previous season. Ireland certainly has several fine spin bowlers at this time but it remains a shame that he was never given a proper chance to show his worth.
At 8 comes the keeper. I was very tempted to pick Joe Hopkins of Merrion. However my choice has gone, on superior batting ability, to VICTOR CRAIG of Strabane. A very good keeper, Victor, who was later to manage Ireland's first show band, was also a really good batsman who scored 3 senior hundreds, besides, at the age of 57, hitting 6 sixes in an over. He was, in fact, selected for Ireland on three further occasions but was unable to get time off work.
At 9 comes our main opening bowler, IVOR COPE of Dublin University. He bowled a lively fast medium, sometimes being genuinely fast. Unfortunately he tended to send down one or two "4 balls" an over so did not always trouble class batsmen. Nevertheless he took 157 wickets for the University in competitive cricket, besides having 9 wicket hauls against Queen's and NICC. His one match for Ireland was against MCC at Sion Mills in 1934 but he took only one wicket. He became a doctor in London and so was lost to Irish cricket.
At 10 we have medium pacer JOHN SHIRES, a Yorkshireman, who had two highly successful seasons with Leinster CC in 1930 and 1931, heading the LCU averages both years. A successful bowler in the Bradford League who also appeared for Yorkshire 2nd XI,his one match for Ireland came against MCC in College Park in 1930. He took 1/69 in the match but, in making 12 he shared in a first innings last wicket stand of 32 which was, as Derek Scott noted, " the only saving grace of the match."
Lastly at 11 we have leg spinning artist ROBERT GREGORY, better known as WB Yeats' Irish Airman than a cricketer. However he was a good bowler who mixed leg spin and leg cutters at around medium pace. On his solitary appearance he had a fist innings haul of 8/80 against Scotland in 1912. He also appeared with some success for Co Galway and Phoenix. There are other challengers for his spot in this side but as the great Sir Neville Cardus would surely have agreed, cricket is nothing without a bit of romance and Gregory's life and death provides that and so earns him his place.