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One Shot More...Part 24
Wednesday 8th July 2020
Pictured: Derek Steen epitomised the decade. Cricketing pedigree as he opened the bowling for Irish schools. Chairman of the club. Captained winning sides. Great socialiser and Guinness lover. Much liked by all.
More Agony than Ecstacy in the Senior Challenge Cup
There were more Challenge cup games in the Seventies than any other decade since the war, but the RUC gave us a first round exit in 1970, Comber man Richard Barker causing the damage with five for 18.
Bangor did the same the following year with six wickets to spare and Donacloney successfully chased 184 at the Factory Ground in 1972 to compound the agony.
The team travelled to draughty Mossley in 1974 to play nomads Cliftonville, the outcome being another last ball boundary defeat and further despondency.
It wasn’t until 1974 that some progress was finally made in the Challenge Cup and the old bogey was put to bed.
A total of 160 was good enough against Bangor, Walter Wishart and Derek McCracken the key men, but Lurgan’s Alan Johnston put paid to any hopes of further progress when he took eight for 21 in a comfortable second round win.
Derek (Deek) McCracken
A lengthy cup run seemed years away but in 1975 the team set aside poor league form and played some really good cup cricket. A great eight wickets win at Lurgan Park, chasing 152 courtesy of Billy Dale’s four for 25 and Malcolm Campbell’s unbeaten 88, was followed by a Ken Campbell-inspired 32 runs win against the strong Downpatrick side at the Meadow. A semi-final tie at home to Civil Service was the reward and high hopes of a possible cup final place in early August.
On a glorious day at The Green, North Down’s first six batsmen contributed to a 245 total and Brian Johnston, Ken Campbell and Walter Montgomery shared the wickets to secure a 100 runs semi-final victory.
Walter Montgomery Brian Johnston Ken Campbell
It was a monumental milestone for a club that had lived in the shadow of its great past and finally there was an opportunity for the 1st XI to savour the unique cup final atmosphere and perhaps acquire a taste for more. For the first time in 34 years North Down would contest a Challenge Cup final but, sadly, it turned out to be a huge disappointment. Unlike North Down, Waringstown had won senior league titles and Challenge cups regularly since 1970 and were hot favourites to win again.
On a blistering hot Friday at Ormeau, Waringstown scored 192 for four including a measured century from Jim Harrison and North Down replied with a paltry 56, Bertie McGill taking four for 28.
As a contest the game was over, but Lawrence Hunter’s four for 40 and Jimmy Galway’s three for 21 were fine bowling performances in Waringstown’s 130 for nine in the second innings, which was matched by North Down’s 135 for 6 when Denis Artt hit a defiant 66 runs.
Jimmy Galway Willie Wilson Wesley Graham
Perhaps the cup final appearance rekindled the old competitive cup spirit, because there was another good cup run in 1976 with away victories against RUC, Woodvale and Cregagh setting up a semi-final clash with Waringstown at Comber.
North Down’s batting let the team down on their big day and the 110 total was never going to be good enough to test the best batting line-up in Irish club cricket and we deservedly lost by four wickets.
A year later the visit to Lurgan Park saw defeat defending 213 runs, an impressive total courtesy of a Don Shields’ 76 and Geoffrey Dempster with 56.
Wins over RUC and Muckamore in 1978 set up another semi-final opportunity against Waringstown at The Green but, after so many cup defeats at the hands of the Villagers, there was a severe psychological barrier to overcome. Defending only 143 runs a defeat was almost inevitable, and ‘Snow’ Harrison survived a caught behind and went on to score 78 not out to win the game, much to the chagrin of the locals.
The decade finished with another cup defeat at Waringstown but it was the first round win against Saintfield at the Demesne that produced one of the most exciting games of the season.
David Napier, later to captain North of Ireland to Challenge Cup success, and later still to play at The Green, hit a typical swashbuckling unbeaten 83 in the Saintfield total of 153 with Lawrence Hunter and Clarence Hiles taking four wickets apiece. Was it enough?
The Saintfield ‘critics’ on the bank certainly thought so when North Down slumped to 64 for six and one of our batsmen had packed his bag and headed home. The game looked lost, but Hiles, who had been caught off a ‘no ball’ in his vital 37 runs innings, won support from Robin Haire, Stephen Barry and Hunter. But Jimmy Galway and Hunter still had to scramble 15 runs from 16 balls to pull off an unlikely victory.
Stephen Barry Clarence Hiles Don Shields
Two hours later, in Comber, our bemused opening batsman Adrian Thompson learned that the team had won in his ‘absence’.
It was all part of a new spirit emerging at the club and although we didn’t know it at the time, the decade ended with a scent of a Challenge Cup success that was carried into the Eighties by Sydney Elliott’s team.
1973 Senior League 2 Champions
Back: Raymond Crosby, Geoffrey Dempster, Adrian Thompson, Lawrence Hunter, Miller O'Prey, Dennis Artt, John McDonagh, John Patton
Front: Malcolm Campbell, Don Shields, Ian Shields, Jim Barry (Chairman), Walter Wishart, Billy Artt, Walter Montgomery
Success Down the Teams
Four Proud Captains with Chairman Barry in 1973
Alvin Maginness (Midweek), Ian Shields (1sts), Jimmy Galway (2nds), Derek Steen (3rds)
The top field was turned into a cricket ground almost exclusively by Willie Dempster over a long period as groundsman. It was perfect for junior cricket and from 1971 it provided a wonderful asset to the club. It wasn’t long after it was opened that a 4th XI was formed and used it along with the thirds and the midweek teams.
The pinnacle of success down the club occurred in 1973 when, along with the 1st XI winning Section Two, the seconds, thirds and midweek teams each won their respective leagues. Remarkably, of the 52 league games played, only four were lost throughout the club.
In 1969 the 2nd XI lost to Ards in the Junior Cup with the rugby score of 47 to 28 and had mixed fortunes in their league programme, winning four of the 12 games played.
Sam Wilson and Jack Bennett were the principal run makers, but the strong-room of the team lay with Wesley Graham, Hammie Mills and popular captain, off-spinner Willie Wilson. Indeed has there ever been a more popular captain at the club?
1973 2nd XI with League Trophy
Back: Robert McVeigh (Umpire), Jack McMillan, Wilmer McKibbin, Willie Wilson, David McVeigh, Jimmy Boucher, Sydney Elliott, David O'Prey (Umpire)
Front: Derek McCracken, Peter Artt, Jimmy Galway (Captain), Jim Barry (Chairman) John Armstrong, Walter Montgomery
The following year they were edged out of the Junior Cup by Downpatrick after Roy Thompson and Wesley Campbell had scored thirties in a 137 total. Walter Montgomery and Sydney Elliott between them took seven wickets for 26 runs but the side lost by one wicket. The 2nd XI team that day, in batting order was: James Campbell, Geoffrey Dempster, David McVeigh, Sydney Elliott, Roy Thompson, Wesley Campbell, Walter Montgomery, Rodney Kerr, Wesley Graham, Tudor Hopkins and Willie Wilson.
The 2nd XI had no fewer than eight captains during the seventies and compounded their misery in 1979 with relegation.
John Craig, Wesley Graham, Norman McLeod and Derek Steen captained the 3rd XI throughout the Seventies with varying fortunes, ably supported by Robert McVeigh and David Kirk who loyally scored and umpired. These two great club stalwarts gave sterling service down the club and many aspiring young members found Davy and Robert their first mentors at The Green. Their names are deservedly perpetuated on trophies awarded at the annual dinner.
1973 3rd XI League Champions
Back: David O'Prey (Umpire), Peter Allen, Wesley Graham, James Campbell, Weslay Campbell, Alvin Maginness, Jimmy Boucher, Robert McVeigh (Umpire)
Front: Jimmy Mckittrick, Harry Kyle, Derek Steen (Captain) Eric Dearden, Will Barker, Terry Ritchie
The thirds beat North of Ireland in the Minor Cup when John Craig and Peter Artt bowled out the opposition for 108 and Derek Steen replied with 31 opening the batting. Peter Artt, Charlie Richardson and Derek McCracken all contributed, but Robin Mitchell, noted more for his hockey exploits and making a rare appearance at the crease, made a crucial 15 not out and with Roy Beck saw the team home to a memorable win.
In 1974 the thirds won the Section 3B league with the following formidable squad: Derek Steen, Jack McMillan, David McVeigh, Trevor McMillan, Ivan Dempster, Jimmy McKittrick, Clarence Hiles, Jimmy Boucher, Wesley Graham, Alvin Maginnis, Billy Allen, Colin Campbell, Paul McIlfatrick, Eric Dearden, Peter Allen and James Campbell.
The club had worked hard at establishing a strong 3rd XI and, as the decade ended, they could boast a well-established middle of the league placing, although their one run defeat in the Minor Cup against North of Ireland was very disappointing. Much of the credit should go to Derek Steen and Alvin Maginnis who did much to foster a strong social aspect, and in the process cajole players into the ranks who may otherwise have drifted away from the club. David McVeigh, James Campbell, Wesley Campbell and Hammie Mills scored most of the runs while the bowling honours usually lay with John Craig, James Boucher and Wesley Campbell.
Harry Morrow, Harry Kyle and Jimmy McKittrick captained the 4th XI during the seventies. There were many unsung heroes at this level and plenty of exciting performances to record, with runs coming in great numbers from the bats of Raymond ‘Jumadeen’ McIlveen, Ivan Dempster and Jack McMillan. At Musgrave Park, against Holywood III, the inimitable Billy Allen senior scored an unbeaten 76 and then watched his son David take nine for 44 to secure a memorable ‘family’ win. David was a prolific wicket-taker at this level, ably supported by two great characters in Peter Allen and Jimmy McKittrick. The team on that memorable family outing was: Jimmy McKittrick, Raymond McIlveen, Billy Allen Snr., David Allen, Ivan Dempster, Hammie Coulter, J Graham, A McMorran, Stephen Gibson, Chris Thompsett and Stephen Potter. Against Collegians III the effervescent Will Barker took a hat trick and reversed a losing situation to win by three runs.
In 1971 North Down entered a team into the NCU Belfast and District Midweek League. The format was 20 overs a side with batsmen retiring on reaching 30 runs. This form of cricket was not only to prove successful for the club but was enjoyable to play and created a wonderful social aspect to the working week. Midweek captains like Derek Steen and Alvin Maginnis built the backbone of the club in the Seventies and laid the foundations for its strong social base in the years that followed. For many years selection was by ‘invitation’ and the midweek teams provided platforms for some players to go as high as the 1st XI.
The first year saw a team captained by Derek Steen beat a strong Academy XI in a league play-off final. The next four years saw the Midweek XI win this league again under captains Alvin Maginess, David McVeigh and the McMillan brothers, Trevor and Jack.
Stories of after-match hospitality are part of midweek cricket folklore and some great nights were had at Shane Park or the I.C.I. Social Club. These were the darkest years of the Troubles with little night entertainment in Belfast and it is a sobering thought to remember that one night the North Down team arrived to play Instonians only to see the Shane Park clubhouse had been demolished by an IRA bomb an hour earlier. Relations between the two clubs have remained strong from those years and an annual social evening between North Down and Instonians players from that midweek era is still held.
Every era has its characters but there was something special about the characters down the club in those years. Derek Steen, a former Leinster schools’ opening bowler, was a fiery captain of the 3rd XI, but an endearing socialite in the clubhouse. He was an inspirational leader and a fine chairman who did much to get North Down back to the top of Ulster cricket.
Alvin Maginnis was an excellent motivator who knew his players better than they knew themselves; at least that’s what he kept telling them. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Shockinbowler’ by his colleagues, he was a deep thinker of the game, well informed and a very capable medium pace bowler at 2nd XI standard. As arguably one of the worst number eleven batsmen the club has produced, he nevertheless knew what the requirements were with the bat and when the unfortunate Harry Kyle was struggling to hit the ball off the ‘square’, Alvin ‘invited’ him to retire and give someone else a chance! After his playing days were over, Alvin continued as a valued member within the NCU umpires’ panel.
Midweek cricket was competitive and great fun and all 10 matches were won in 1973 and the final play-off for the trophy against BRAFP was won in great style when Jimmy Boucher, Clarence Hiles and captain Maginnis took the wickets and the 81 runs total was chased down with David McVeigh, Peter Artt, Derek Steen all contributing and big Wesley Campbell finishing it off in some style.
There were major contributions during the season from North Down’s dual sportsmen, the Ards rugby stalwarts Wesley and James Campbell, and Will Barker while Jack McMillan and David McVeigh were a prolific opening partnership and Derek Steen, Clarence Hiles and big Wes scored the bulk of the runs. Maginness, Barker, Peter Allen and Jimmy McKittrick took the wickets with the reliable Norman McLeod as wicketkeeper.
All these personalities were suited to the cavalier approach of the shortened game and there is no doubt that the comradeship generated by these games spread through the club and made it a much stronger social scene.