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One Shot More....Part 25

Friday 10th July 2020

One Shot More....Part 25

 Picture: JC Hiles A devout sixes player

The Sixes

Two of the 1974 sixes sides

This was the era when North Down played a lot of six-a-side cricket and regularly entered winning teams for the prestigious Ballymena and RUC competitions.  Cricket attributes weren’t always the main criteria for selection, as availability over two evenings and an insatiable appetite for socialising post-event were prime requirements. The ability to hit the ball a long way, bowl straight and field keenly was a bonus. 


1975 RUC sixes Winners of the Jack Newell Shield

Back: Derek McCracken, Billy Dale, Clarence Hiles, Raymond Crosby

Front: Miller O'Prey Denis Artt, Jimmy Galway

Denis Artt captained Derek McCracken, Billy Dale, Clarence Hiles, Jimmy Galway and Miller O’Prey to victory in the RUC Jack Newell Shield in 1975.  The following year, having reached the semi-finals at Ballymena, Miller O’Prey captained the side that won at Newforge again, with Adrian Thompson, Ian Shields and Wesley Graham joining the retained Hiles and Galway.  Adrian Thompson scored 82 runs in his three innings, rated the best effort since its inauguration in 1969.


1976 RUC sixes Winners of the Jack Newell Shields

Back: Jimmy Galway, Wesley Graham, Ian Shields

Front: Adrian Thompson, Miller O'Prey, Clarence Hiles

In 1978 Clarence Hiles captained the side to yet another RUC title but missed out at Ballymena, going down by one run to the RUC in the semi-final. 

Sponsor presents Wesley Graham with his trophy at the RUC sixes. Centre is Jack Newell the driving force behind the annual event and the heart of RUC cricket during the Troubles

 

North Down won the Ballymena title the following year, Clarence Hiles, as captain, picking up a cheque for £150 and Miller O’Prey winning the bat provided by the sponsors for the outstanding performance of the tournament. Denis Artt, Lawrence Hunter, Robin Haire and Ian Shields made up the side that celebrated at Eaton Park into the ‘wee small hours’…and then made off to Scotland on tour with the proceeds, much to the disgust of  ‘Wasim Bari!’

Another great Sixes win at Eaton Park

From Left: Ken Boucher, John Gilliland, Clarence Hiles, Jimmy Boyce  (Sun Life sponsor), Miller O'Prey, Robin Haire, Ian Shields

 

And yet again at Eaton Park as Michael Quinn lifts the prestigious award

Success in the national Sixes competitions generated a lot of interest at the club so it was inevitable that a similar competition should be introduced at The Green. Harp Lager provided the sponsorship and Sydney Elliott’s team won the inaugural North

Down Sixes final in 1974, an event organised to coincide with the opening of the new club bar and annually thereafter the ‘Sixes’ provided great fun for the eight sides involved.

Walter Montgomery’s team won the following year courtesy of two boundaries by Hammie Coulter off the last two balls of the match and, after the early exit by the ‘hockey’ team in 1977, ‘Hunter’s Hoods’ won in the dark. These twilight finals became part of the culture of the early competitions and ensured a packed clubhouse for the presentation of the trophies and the ensuing bragging rights over a few pints.

‘Artt’s Antiques’, ‘Syd’s Sextet’, ‘Donald’s Ducks’, and  ‘The Whizz Kids’ were half of the 1978 line-up, a competition sponsored by local entrepreneur Ivan Adair and the Ards Borough Council, and providing another success for captain Syd Elliott.

By the end of the era David McVeigh, Wesley Graham and Syd had established reputations as ‘Sixes’ winners.

This tremendously successful competition was synonymous with the name of our regular sponsors, Harp Lager, and for that association we thanked Derek Stanbridge, the local executive, who took a keen interest in the event and made himself available each year to present the awards at the end of the tournament

The Hockey Club

The Seventies saw a significant change in the culture of the cricket club and, in particular, a decline in the number of dual members.

The hockey 1st XI had returned to senior hockey in 1968 after winning Qualifying League ‘B’ with Raymond McIlveen, George Harper and Stanley Glover the only cricketers of note.  A few years later it was a distinguished international cricketer that kept the side in the senior league with his goal against Bangor in the last league game of the season.  Unfortunately Simon Corlett played his cricket at North of Ireland!

Floodlighting was established at The Green to enable the hockey players to train, but it proved damaging to the ground and the sessions came to an end. The drive to unite the two clubs socially continued and the refurbishment of the pavilion and the licence to sell alcohol meant that the hockey players could use the premises for after-match relaxation and refreshment to the benefit of the cricket coffers.

To comply with legislation all senior members of the hockey club became associate members of the cricket club and, in so doing, the two sports returned to the original set-up of 1896 when the cricketers established the hockey club.

But the new structure didn’t improve relations between the two clubs and with so many ‘outsiders’ in the hockey ranks, there was no tradition or loyalty to fall back on when the problems got worse. Members of both clubs worked voluntarily behind the bar and the cricket club, in exchange for the help, covered certain hockey expenses, but it was a strained agreement that was full of cracks.

On the playing front Ian Shields and Jimmy Galway scored vital goals at Newry for the 2nd XI as they came back three times to win 4-3 and John Craig, a long time bowler, captained the hockey 3rd XI.

One of North Down’s best post-war cricketers was left-arm slow bowler RM ‘Bobby’ Todd, and while he denied himself the chance to play regular senior cricket, this was not so with his hockey career.  Bobby played for several years with Cliftonville at the highest level and when he returned to Comber, captained the 2nd XI to the league win that took the side into Junior League 1 for the first time.

Long time hockey club member and barman at the club Robert Johnston, captained his 3rd XI to a Mulholland Shield win.  The side included Jimmy Galway, Denis Artt, Stanley Glover, John Craig, Jack McMillan and David McVeigh and had as travelling umpire Robert McVeigh, as enthusiastic and helpful about hockey as he was about cricket.

Towards the end of the Seventies, improvements in the pavilion and on the grass pitch indicated that co-operation could be mutually beneficial between both sporting interests and an uneasy peace was carried into the Eighties.

The Club Tours

The great touring years had long disappeared, so it wasn’t customary for the club to tour regularly during the Seventies. The tours that actually took place amounted to no more than a pre-season trip to play in Dublin.  However, in 1974 that all changed and, reminiscent of the annual tours of the Twenties, a touring party of 13 members flew from Aldergrove for a three-match tour to Lancashire. Ian Shields captained the squad made up of an almost full compliment of 1st XI players.

The first match against Kirkham Prison was rained off, but on Sunday the game against Springfield resulted in an emphatic 78 runs win for the visitors. Ian Shields, Lawrence Hunter and Geoffrey Dempster scored the bulk of the runs with Don Shields, Billy Dale and Lawrence Hunter taking three wickets each.

A confident South Shore side put North Down in to bat in Blackpool the following day and an equally confident Miller O’Prey made them suffer with a belligerent 82, supported by Don Shields with 64.

Billy Dale, Don Shields, Miller O’Prey, Jimmy Galway, Wes Campbell and Peter Allen took the wickets in the 51 runs win.

The lack of Ulster-style hospitality from the hosts meant for nothing, as North Down’s off the field activities more than compensated.

Scotland was the destination for another tour in 1979 with three fixtures planned by tour organiser Denis Artt.  Club chairman Eddie Doherty chaperoned the group captained by Ian Shields and the first fixture was played in Glasgow against Kelvin Academicals.  It was a strange game, as thereafter most of the party suffered from serious hangovers and didn’t give of their best. This condition was largely due to Denis Artt’s maiden century and, in particular, the celebration that he orchestrated in the clubhouse on an evening most will never forget, certainly not Denis! 

Maiden Century for Denis - and how he celebrated!

At 17 for four the visitors were in danger of total embarrassment but Artt, in partnership with Ian Shields took the score to 236 and a 107 runs victory ensued.

Denis set the tone for the celebrations by removing the huge rack of cigars from behind the bar as his initial gesture of merrymaking but the copious glasses of the potent ‘Black-outs’ buried our star wicketkeeper for three days!

Amongst some interesting items returned to The Green were a pick and shovel and a stump to commemorate the ‘ton’.

At the Dunlop CC village ground, outside Kilmarnock, the home side succumbed to five wickets from Clarence Hiles while Jimmy Galway played a star role as an opening bat with a memorable 74 against Glasgow Academicals in a seven run victory.  Noted in that win was a running catch at deep mid-wicket by Davy Donaldson, who picked up his nickname ‘Goffer’ for services rendered in the Railway Hotel in Ayr. Davy was a great tourist and travelled on many occasions with the firsts and was called into the field on several occasions, sometimes to the bowler’s cost!

Played three, won three, and plenty of stories still untold!

Not everyone was happy with the tour, clashing as it did with an important league game against Cregagh and when a telephone call was made to The Green to enquire about the result, the unfortunate caller found a belligerent Jim Barry at the other end of the line.  He told the caller that North Down had won easily, that they didn’t need to come home, and hung up!

 

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