The 5th ICC Trophy was Ireland's first major step into the ‘big time’. For the Irish Cricket Union to decide that a selection of sixteen amateur cricketers, could/would commit to at least three weeks and perhaps more, in the middle of winter, and leave their day jobs to go and play cricket in Africa, was a brave call indeed. But the commitment was made by the players and the adventure began.

Of course a tournament requires umpires, and I was pleased to receive an invitation to join the panel. When I approached my employers, I got a very cool reaction! How long would I be away? Oh, a couple of weeks at most, I replied (in the event it turned out to be five weeks – February 4 to March 7). I extracted a reluctant agreement, but on the understanding that I would not be paid during my absence.

This was – in terms of numbers – a huge tournament. Possibly one of the largest ever staged in cricket. Twenty countries from across the globe, from Argentina and USA on the one side, to Fiji and Papua New Guinea on the other, and sixteen more in between. The umpires' panel was fourteen strong, representing Argentina, Bangladesh, Bermuda,Canada, Denmark, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kenya, Malaysia, Namibia, Netherlands and USA. Such is the camaraderie of the game of cricket that some twenty seven years later I still have correspondence with half a dozen of these guys.

‘Suited and booted’ by the ICU we departed Dublin on February 4 – that was my first stroke of good fortune - as my wife's birthday was February 3.! The Irish squad, captained by Stephen Warke, with John Wills as coach, Craig Mahoney sports psychologist, and headed up by the ICU President at the time Evans Dexter, accompanied by the two ever presents, Hon. Sec. Derek Scott and Hon. Treasurer/scorer Murray Power, we arrived safely in a very hot and steamy Nairobi airport in the early evening.

Group Photo

Prior to our departure the squad suffered a significant setback, when Steven Smith, that wonderfully talented N.W. batsman, opted to play an important rugby match for City of Derry against orders from ICU and found himself de-selected and replaced by Lisburn's Uel Graham. Ireland's misfortunes did not end there, as in the very early stages of the trip Decker Curry who had just scored a typically belligerent 70 odd in a warm up match against Canada, received the dreadful news that his father had died, and returned home.

Following that, skipper Warke came off very much second best in a collision with a pitch roller during fielding practice and broke a bone in his arm, thus ending his participation in the tournament, and Alan Lewis assumed the captain's armband. Ireland was granted a replacement player and another Lisburn man, Neil Doak, was drafted in. You might well have got short odds that these three batsmen could have finished as Ireland's top run scorers in this tournament and these misfortunes may have contributed to Ireland's disappointing performance and exit from the tournament after only the second group stage – Played 3 Lost 3. losing decisively to UAE, Bermuda and Canada. The players were buoyed up by the arrival of a small but intrepid group of Irish supporters from across the island - a forerunner of the “Blarney Army”, perhaps?. Amongst them was Jim McMorran, whom - I think – was the first NCU President to come from a junior club in the Union. The catalogue of misfortunes continued when Jim was rushed into hospital with a heart attack. Fortunately, after a few days of care and attention he was discharged, ‘shaken but not stirred’!

The tournament was well organised by the ICC and the Kenyan Cricket Association. All the players and the ICC secretariat were installed into the Panafric Hotel about two miles from the city centre, with the umpires in the nearby and aptly named Fairview Hotel. This was a lovely spot with colourful gardens surrounding it. The mosquito net hanging over my bed was a surprise at first, but I was soon happy to be tucked in safely at night as I heard the dreaded high pitched whine.

I also struck up a great friendship with a little gecko who used to visit my window sill of an evening. He and I made a deal that if I let him in to my room, he would consume the mosquitos – it seemed to work and we eventually parted as best friends. Our boss - the Chair of the Umpires Tournament Committee - was a military man from Denmark Jurgen Holmen. The usual pre-tournament meetings ensued. Mr Holmen left us in no doubt as to what was expected from us. We were advised that if we were out and about in the evenings or days off, that it would be sensible to do so in small groups, rather than singly and not to sport watches, bracelets, necklaces or cameras, and that we should be very conscious of the amount of begging we might encounter. Sage advice indeed when later in the tournament we heard that a USA player, travelling on the local transport with his arm out of the bus window had a watch with an expandable gold strap expertly stripped from his arm!

Tournament Certificate

It was recommended that under no circumstances should we give out any cash, and we were given a supply of food vouchers instead which could be used in any of several charitable ‘soup kitchens’ in downtown Nairobi. I was quite shocked at the level of poverty and by the number of disadvantaged people. Two particular memories have stuck with me. One was of two children no more than 10 or 12 years old with little babies strapped to their backs like rucksacks, by bindings of cloth. They walked alongside me tugging gently at my arm and holding out their hands. Strangely they seemed obsessed with footwear and kept pointing down at my shoes and saying “You give”. Needless to say they were barefoot. The second was of a man with no legs. He had what looked like a piece of old carpet under his body fastened in place by two straps over his shoulder like braces. He had two primitive crutches - tree branches I think, and he manoeuvred himself along the street, as if he was a swing.

When one saw the luxury and opulence of the nearby hotels, we were left with the very uncomfortable realisation of the huge chasm there was between the haves and the have nots in this country.

The week before the tournament officially started was time well spent. Familiarising ourselves with our surroundings, establishing friendships with our colleagues and umpiring some warm up matches. We had a great day out on a 1-day safari to the Kenya National Park. We were also pointed in the direction of Nairobi's Sunday market where the Masai people came to town to sell their wares. It was a great place for souvenirs. The craftsmanship was top class – wooden carvings, jewellery and batik paintings. I would have happily brought home more stuff, if only I had had the room in my luggage to do so. Some of us found our way, one evening, to a restaurant called the Carnivore. There was a standard charge and you sat at your table and were served cuts of meat. Each diner had a little flag at his place setting and as long as you kept the flag standing the waiter returned and offered you a different choice. I gave up after about four. I don't remember the full menu selection, but I did try Alligator and Ostrich! The Kenyan Umpires' Association hosted a welcoming cocktail party for us where we met the panel of local umpires who were to be our escorts to and from the grounds, and also a youthful and enthusiastic team of scorers.

In one of my warm up matches – 13 a side, 11 fielding, batsmen scoring 30 or 40 before retiring to ensure everyone had time in the middle, and nearly everyone having a bowl – an off spinner was brought on about 7th change and I was at striker's end. I watched six deliveries which I can only describe as 3 twenty's, 2 treble twenty's and the bull! I walked over to my Kenyan colleague and he just smiled knowingly. Needless to say a quick word with the coaching staff confirmed that the said individual would not bowl in the tournament proper!


On the eve of the tournament a splendid cocktail party and barbecue was held at the old colonial Nairobi club with a tremendous programme of entertainment, music and dance and the scene was set for the ICC Trophy to begin. And guess what? The next day as six pieces of wood were stuck into the ground at a selection of Nairobi cricket grounds, the rain came!! Fortunately, it was for one day only and the rest of the tournament was played in hot and sunny conditions.

As the tournament progressed and teams were eliminated the numbers decreased. When Ireland headed for the exit gate I was pleased when Bangor's Brian Millar kindly bequeathed me his sun hat, which I wore for the remainder of the tournament – the only time, before or since, that I ever wore any headgear when officiating. I was pleased to be retained until the end, and on three consecutive days stood in a semi-final, the 3rd/4th place play - off, and then the final.

Group Photo

That final was a splendid game of cricket - Kenya 281 for 6, UAE 282 for 8 in the last over. With the home side reaching the final, a bumper crowd was expected and so it proved with over 10,000 packed into the Ruaraka Stadium. This caused some problems for us at the start, as some exuberant spectators began to encroach beyond the boundary and on one occasion fielded the ball before it reached the line. Our match referee Jurgen Holmen was radioed for help and unsurprisingly he came up trumps. Within 15 or 20 minutes, half a dozen Kenyan(armed) soldiers arrived and marched round to the congested area of the ground and strategically took up ‘defensive positions’ - problem solved!!

At the presentation ceremony the four umpires stood dutifully at the side of the dais as the medals and awards, M-o- M, and the trophy were all given and accepted and speeches made. Us four? Not a mention. One wag beside us said “Don't worry, when you get home there will probably be a pink Cadillac parked in your respective driveways, from the Sultan”. Alas, no Cadillacs materialised, pink or otherwise. But we did get a ‘Certificate of Appreciation ‘ from ICC in the post a fortnight later.

All in all a great experience on and off the field of play, an exciting tournament and many enduring friendships made.