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One Shot More....Part 26
Thursday 16th July 2020
Two Major Contributors
Lawrence with wife Maureen and Clarence Hiles
After his marriage to Maureen in 1971, Lawrence Hunter moved to live in Comber and joined North Down from Lisburn. He was to make a huge impact at the club during the Seventies. At the time, the big strapping pace bowler had already established a reputation as one of the best bowlers in the country and was also a rugby international. In many ways he followed in the footsteps of his older brother Raymond who had made the same short journey from Dunmurry to Wallace Park and became an instant hit. Big Ray went on to win both cricket and rugby international honours and Lawrence came painfully close. Many cricket followers deemed him very unlucky not to have won a place in the Ireland cricket team, having been the bowling reserve on several occasions. It would have been a fitting reward as Lawrence was an exceptional sportsman and if rugby was his first love then cricket came a very close second. He was the mainstay of the Ulster Country and Ulster Town interprovincial teams for almost a decade and a prolific wicket-taker who conceded few runs. He was tailor-made for the limited overs game and in tandem with the aggressive wicket-keeping of Denis Artt, they were a fearsome combination.
Lawrence played in four Challenge Cup and one Junior Cup finals, but lost on each occasion! However, his eight for 76 in the 1966 final against Downpatrick is one of the all-time great cup bowling records and if senior cup success eluded him, then he had the satisfaction of being a senior league winner on several occasions in Lisburn's fine team of the Sixties. His last cup final appearance was against Waringstown for North Down in the 1975 final and although by that time some of the speed had disappeared from his game, he tactfully sacrificed it for accuracy. There were few better bowlers around for line and length, and when swing bowling and Artt were added to his armoury then big Lawrence was a formidable bowler against any opposition. In the days when there were no limitations on the number of overs a bowler could bowl, he could effectively tie up one end, and in 1980 when North Down recruited Michael Reith from Waringstown, it appeared that they had the 'dream' attack for limited overs cricket. Alas it was not to be, and although Lawrence took a full part in the secret negotiations with Reith, he was struck down with illness at the start of the season and they never had the opportunity to bowl together at North Down. Unfortunately Lawrence never played again and it was a travesty for such a fine athlete to end his sporting career on such a negative.
Lawrence Hunter was the epitome of sportsmanship in both his favourite sporting codes. He was an inspirational captain, 100% committed to the cause and as gracious in defeat as in victory. He played a full part in North Down's development on and off the field during the Seventies and served the club well as both captain and committee member. He was a role model to the younger players and if his North Down career was short on quantity it was blessed with quality. That's the legacy he left at The Green.
1977 Winning Captain
Sons of Billy and nephews of Jackie, Ian and Don Shields were born with a North Down cricket and hockey pedigree second to none. It was a mantle they bore with great pride and a credit to them that in 2007 they continued to serve the club with such distinction. Ian's son Peter has followed in father's footsteps and it seems likely the Shields dynasty will be preserved for many years to come.
Ian with the great Raman Lamba. A successful opening duo
Although he successfully played tennis in his teens, Ian Shields had a natural ability at cricket that was nurtured at Regent House School under the watchful eye of the legendary James Macdonald and at The Green under the even more watchful eye of Willie Andrews. Both played significant roles in the development of Ian's cricket career and his evolvement into the 1st XI in the mid-Sixties was almost seamless and predictable, given the reputation he had built as a solid if cautious opening batsman. Ian's greatest cricket attribute was his ability to build an innings, an ability built around a solid technique and total focus. He had great powers of concentration, perhaps better suited to the longer game, but those that felt his game was often pedestrian usually overlooked the free-flowing broad bat that was much in evidence when he switched to fast mode later in the innings. In truth, Ian's cautious approach to opening was more a reflection of the times in which he played, and his team's requirements, as there were fewer better strikers of the ball when he was on a run chase. Not surprisingly this was highlighted in his performances in Sixes competitions.
Sweeping at Upritchard Park with Chris Harte behind stumps
Ian played in the North Down teams of the challenging Sixties and Seventies but like all great club players his career had longevity and that brought much more satisfaction and success in the twilight of his career.
He was an ideal 1st XI captain because of his dedication and commitment to the team and he carried the club through some tough years. He was a prolific runs accumulator, his name a standing order on the 1st XI batting rose bowl, an award that he has won more than any other batsman since 1857. He played for both Ulster Country and Ulster Town interprovincial teams and in another era, when batting was not as strong at the highest level, he would surely have won full international honours. He was the prize wicket for opponents but rarely gave his wicket cheaply, and if he practised religiously it was just another facet of his dedication and focus. Off the field he was a 100% committed club member and in just under five decades he has served the club in a wide variety of roles that embraced President, team captain, fund-raiser, PRO, team manager, coach, groundsman, archivist, historian, and, in more recent times, the tireless webmaster of the North Down website. He has meticulously preserved club records and memorabilia, and when it came to writing this history there was none better equipped to do the job. His passion and commitment to the task are strikingly similar to the way he opens an innings!
By his own admission Ian's most rewarding cricket experiences were playing with the great Raman Lamba. In many ways he was the perfect foil, the team player that fully understood his part and played the supporting role to its fullest for the overall benefit of the team. At the height of their prowess they were probably the best opening partnership in local cricket.
Ian's status as a player and as a sportsman stretches far beyond The Green and there are few more popular cricket personalities in the Province. He was elected vice-president of the Northern Cricket Union in 2005, but other commitments prevented him from accepting the presidency, an accolade that surely sits in waiting. If and when that happens, it will be a fitting honour and one richly deserved.
No appreciation of Ian Shields would be complete without mention of his family, all of whom made huge contributions to his development as a cricketer and a sportsman. The legacy left by his dad and uncle Jackie, the support and encouragement from a proud mum, the endless ‘back yard’ matches with sister Christine and brother Don, the fulfilment provided from seeing Kevin and Peter evolve, and finally the long-suffering Brenda who has given him the love and support to follow his passion.
In any North Down Roll of Honour Ian Shields would be one of the first names on the list. JCH
A Phoenix Rises
The 1970s was a great era for the club because our teams started winning again and there was a great buzz in the clubhouse built around a strong social culture that had developed from the junior teams. Ironically, the Troubles was the catalyst that made the club bar such a social focal point, as teams stopped staying behind on away games and retuned immediately to The Green. This built a wonderful club spirit that was enhanced by a visionary committee that encouraged the organization of a wide variety of social events.
The playing success down the club fired the ambition further up the club and the determination to regain full senior status on a more permanent and competitive basis gathered momentum during the winter of 1979 when several of North Down’s senior administrators hatched a plot that would change the face of Ulster cricket forever.
The Seventies at North Down were characterised by relegation and promotion peaks and troughs for the 1st XI, but entering the Eighties in the premier section the club was not only determined to stay at the top, it was about to guarantee that status in a way nobody could have envisaged. The good times were just around the corner.
Roll in the eighties.