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One Shot More...Part 21

Saturday 27th June 2020

One Shot More...Part 21

Pictured: Malcolm Campbell, destined to make an impression.

 

The Swinging Sixties

The 1960s started poorly for the 1st XI, with a seventh position out of eight in the 1960 Senior League.  They played 27 games winning only five and marginally improved on the situation the following year, with 10 wins from 25 starts. The 12 sides in the league in 1961 were reduced to eight in 1962 and although the team finished fifth in 1961, on the basis of percentage wins over the previous two seasons, they were relegated again to Senior Qualifying cricket.

The 2nd XI, in contrast, won their Second Division Section B title in 1960 on a wet day play-off against Downpatrick II. Under the captaincy of Raymond Crosby, veteran of many games at the higher level, the experienced side also contained two young players, Malcolm Campbell and Don Shields, who would become regulars at the top. 

1960 Second Division Section B League Winners

 Back: A Gregg, M O’Prey, D O’Prey, S Glover, J Craig, J Maxwell, D Kirk

Middle: L Thompson, W Watt, R Crosby, D Murray, J Boucher

Front: D Shields, M Campbell

There were a lot of cry-offs on the 2nd XI in 1962, and the selected side on a Monday evening rarely appeared on the Saturday.  The situation became acute when as many as six cry-offs became habitual and the lack of team spirit that ensued became the main factor in the fight to stave off relegation.  The 3rd XI suffered to the point where an abandonment of the side in 1962 looked imminent as they ‘scratched’ four games and the club was penalised by the union for the first time in its history.

Wallace Boyce left for New York in 1965, but there was some compensation in having Stanley Glover back in the ranks after a two years absence. Times had changed dramatically in 20 years and the senior team was, in effect, playing third division cricket against Dungannon, Portadown, Milford, Collegians, Donacloney, Bangor and Civil Service. Worse still, they were having little success.

The first match of the 1965 season with Donacloney was a two-innings affair, as only 44 overs were used to dismiss both sides in the 100 overs match. The bowlers’ paradise saw Walter Wishart take six for 14 for North Down before Carson (eight for 40) and Poots (eight for 51) gave Donacloney an easy win.

Defeats against Portadown and Civil Service indicated that it was going to be a struggle, but wins against Dungannon, Bangor, Milford and Collegians was enough to stop the slide to an even lower standard.

It was difficult to find a batsman who hit a ‘fifty’ during the season and when he did, bowler Jack Dalzell’s 67 against Civil Service wasn’t good enough to avoid a seven wickets defeat.

But throughout these tough times the bowlers could not be faulted and turned in fine performances week in week out, with Willie Dempster, Walter Wishart and paceman Dalzell all regular wicket-takers.

One of the more significant ‘signings’ of the period was that of Queen’s University graduate Sydney Elliott in 1967, a year that saw Billy Artt return to the game after a lay-off. Sydney was one of the most promising batsmen of the day and he was to serve the club with great distinction on and off the field for almost 40 years.

Another positive development was the ability to turn out three elevens with every prospect of a fourth. The 3rd XI under Jimmy Boucher won their league in 1967, a rare success for the club at this time.

The inability to score runs at the club was painful and had been for twenty years, so the introduction of the Rothmans Cup was warmly welcomed. It was a midweek 20 overs thrash and designed to bring out the aggression in the batsmen. As noted cricket journalist Carl Anderson said at the time;

‘the game should appeal to the players’ brighter cricketing instincts’

Holywood, Donaghadee, North Down, Ards, Bangor and Berkshire contested the inaugural tournament, which was won by Holywood.

Boys' XI - So Near

Back row: Coach Jimmy Boucher, T McMillen, G Crosby, unknown, G Dempster, Mrs Campbell

Front row: D McVeigh, D McCracken, N Beck, W Campbell, J Campbell, M O'Prey

unknown and K. Campbell

The Boys XI held the potential for the future, although they lost to Bangor in the Graham Cup in 1965. Norman Beck hit 68 runs in a side that included Miller O’Prey, Geoffrey Dempster, David McVeigh and Derek McCracken, all promising young players who would later experience senior cricket.  The following year, under coach Jimmy Boucher and captain Norman Beck, they defeated Drumaness in the semi-final thanks to a brilliant 76 from Miller O’Prey and a supporting 27 from Wesley Campbell. David McVeigh’s six for 21 ensured a final place. But was the Graham Cup, a trophy that had not been won by North Down since its inauguration, coming to The Green at last? 

The final against Donacloney was bitterly disappointing, as the side crumbled to 54 all out against the pace of mighty Michael Lumb, an aggressive bowler who would cause plenty of problems for many senior cricketers in later years. His seven for 22 destroyed our batting, despite some spirited resistance from Wesley Campbell and Derek McCracken. It would take another 29 years for the club to achieve that unique Graham Cup victory.

Party time win,lose or draw

As the 1960s drew to a close the 1st XI was denied a league title in a decider at home to Collegians. The Collegians total of 129 looked vulnerable, Des Sterritt scoring 84 of the runs, but Ernie Rea’s seven for 37 ruined the party. Nevertheless, 1968 had been a good season, runners-up in the league and Challenge Cup semi-finalists, but the real bonus was that, in the reshuffle of the leagues, North Down was placed in a new 12-team Senior League 2.

The ‘Sixties’ Challenge Cup runs were limited to 1963 and 1968, both admirable in that North Down was playing Qualifying League cricket.  In the preliminary round in 1963 St Mary’s fell victim to the spin and accuracy of Willie Dempster and Walter Wishart, Warwick Dalzell having posted 61, but North Down were sensationally disqualified as Dempster was deemed a ‘professional’ for his full time work on the ground. With North Down subsequently reinstated to the first round proper, Jackie McBurney’s century in a 234 total against Cregagh still needed eight wickets from Dempster and Wishart to ensure a 27 runs victory.  Harry Blair, who tragically lost his life during the ‘Troubles’ of the Seventies, batted down the order for the visitors but his brilliant 87 wasn’t good enough on the day.  Sparkling cricket was not on show at Shane Park in June when North Down scored 156 off 97 overs in the second round. Patience was not evident in the reply as Dempster’s six for 37 showed.  So, despite losing league games every week, North Down surprisingly had a semi-final place against Muckamore at Wallace Park. Wishart’s four for 16 and Jack Dalzell’s four for 23 reducing the opposition to a meagre 83 all out and a shock was on the cards.  But hopes of a first final in 24 years were dashed by Jimmy Reid’s five for 15 in 20 overs and the dream disappeared in a dramatic eight runs defeat. 

The batting order in that semi final was: - Malcolm Campbell, Billy Artt, Jackie McBurney, Warwick Dalzell, Walter Wishart, Rev. Hamilton Leckey, Willie Dempster, Artie Coey, Rev. Paddy Craig, Jack Dalzell and wicketkeeper Bert Jordan.

Only five of the 1963 team remained for the 1968 semi final.  New and younger players had made their mark and wins against YMCA, Instonians and Muckamore set up a semi- final with Waringstown, the giants of Ulster cricket, at The Green.

On this occasion North Down had an ace up their sleeve in a confident Regent House schoolboy, George Norris, who hailed from the Ballystockart area. George threatened to lower the Waringstown ‘colours’ with his confidence and self-belief, in much the same way as his fiery left-arm bowling and big hitting had already accounted for some Qualifying League sides but, although he scored a defiant 34, it was clear that George and North Down weren’t ready for the big stage yet. Adrian Thompson and Ian Shields made valuable contributions in the cup run, and the ‘Sixties’ ended with a lot more promise than they had begun with signs that, perhaps, better days lay ahead.

 

The Dundonald League

Back row: R McIlveen, R Crosby, M O'Prey, B Jordan, W Watt, G Spence

Front row: R McBurney, D Shields, J Caughey, W Shields, I Shields, S Alexander

In the days when the highs of the 1930s had long gone and the struggle to keep afloat was real, with falling membership and few trophies in the cabinet, a new adventure for the enthusiasts was born. Great fun was had in the late 1950s when teams like Ballydrain, Ballystockart, Cherryhill and Millmount played in the summer evenings for sheer enjoyment.  These teams featured players who had played at the highest level, those who had never been affiliated to any club and much younger ones who later went on to greater things under the NCU umbrella, when they left the precarious cowpat dappled fields to play at Ards, Shorts or The Green.  They mostly featured enthusiastic players who did not aspire to any dizzy heights, or elder statesmen who had played their part in the good times, but all brought a great charisma to the game.  Charlie Wilson, Orr Morrow, James Caughey, Ray Gibson and David Shannon epitomised these keen cricketers, from all walks of life, willing to devote their evenings to clearing a field and organising a game. The league was not short of ‘characters’ like the eccentric Francie McLaughlin who, with Caribbean demeanour and running commentary, bowled his flighted leg- spin. His ‘trial’ at North Down didn’t run the full term!

Captain of the victorious Ballydrain side, James Caughey, receives the cup

When Ballydrain won the league the team was feted in the British Legion Hall in Dundonald where they were presented with commemorative ties. James B Caughey, an enthusiast and headmaster of Ballydrain Primary School, led the side, with Billy Shields, Raymond Crosby, Gerry Spence, Willie Watt, John Shields, and Miller O’Prey as the experienced cricketers in the ranks.  Raymond McIlveen and wicket- keeper Bert Jordan were joined by youngsters Wilmer McKibben, Don Shields, Sammy Alexander, Ronnie McBurney and Ian Shields who learned the game playing beside their illustrious seniors.

North Down’s scorer for many years, John Patton, had close connections with the Ballystockart team and had many tales to tell of the intriguing personalities who did battle in the fields around the countryside in the summer evenings.

After the construction of Moat Park, all games were switched to Dundonald, although facing quickies like North Down’s erratic Ronnie McBurney or Jack Dalzell at this venue was a frightening experience.

The Hockey Connection

The close relationship between the cricket and hockey clubs continued during the war and after it, with many members playing both codes. The hockey club celebrated its 50th birthday with barely a whimper in 1946. Its fortunes had obviously taken a knock during the war years, as there was no return to the halcyon years of the 1930s. But they were still in good shape and when Raymond Crosby returned from Scotland in 1947 both clubs benefited. Raymond was the star hockey player of the era and cricketers Walter Fawcett, Willie Dempster, Walter Wishart, Neville Petts, and Bobby Rowan joined him in the hockey 1st XI. Down the teams were Roy Maxwell, Davy O’Prey, Wally Boyce, William Shields, Jack Maxwell and many others, as these were years when players from both clubs mixed their sports comfortably. In the 1950s Wally Boyce played for Ulster and JLO ‘Jack” Andrews became president, a role he also held with the cricket club for many years.

In 1957 the hockey club celebrated their Jubilee as the cricket club celebrated its Centenary, and guest of honour was Mr. Willie in his guise of NCU chairman, cricket club chairman, and strong supporter of the hockey club.

In truth, both clubs were celebrating 60 years of sporting friendship and camaraderie. 

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