Saturday 23rd September saw the first cricket match between the umpires of the Northern Cricket Umpires' Association and the Leinster Cricket Umpires' Association. The match was 35 overs per side and played for the White Stick, a handsome mounted walking stick with, appropriately, a brass duck's head handle, which was presented by Paddy O'Hara of NICUA. LCUA got home in a well-contested match by 2 wickets.
The match was in Clontarf and a total of 18 came down with NICUA. Among the non-players were Billy Williams, with over 30 years' umpiring experience, Joe Vaughan and the most venerable Dai Jones, resplendent in Pedagogues' tie.
In contrast, the LCUA were two men short on the day (not to mention an umpire) so NICUA lent them D. Adams and provided a series of substitute fielders. The only "ringer" - sorry, guest player - was S. Pender for LCUA, who brought off two stupendous catches. Unfortunately, both were in the pre-match warm up. However, he did open the bowling at the start of the match, which began in bright, warm sunshine in complete contrast to the downpour of the previous day. An important tradition was established for this series when the umpires were the last to take the field.
NICUA got off to a slow start on a very damp pitch. Stanley Long successfully negotiated Pender's guileful first over, but early in A. Tuffery's first over, a ball deviated enough to hit W. Russell's leg stump. Pender concluded his spell of three overs, two of them maidens, for six runs and no wicket. Tuffery also accounted for J. McCullough before being banished to the boundary by that astute tactician J. Connolly.
Stanley Long watched this awkward start, took on the anchor role and held the innings together. P. Lunney contributed a few lusty blows before holing out at deep midwicket off J. Connolly's difficult off-breaks, which also claimed the wicket of the adhesive Long.
Now came a considerable recovery as NICUA's captain, P. O'Hara and D. McCullough (no relation) set about the bowling finishing up with 53 and 26, respectivey, before being stumped off the flighted leg-breaks and googlies of J. Neville. McKee, Reith and that famous all-round cricketer, P. White all contributed useful runs and B. Arlow did not bat. But it was agreed that he would be permitted to bat for LCUA, if required. The final total off the 35 overs, bowled in an exemplary 11/2 hours, was 144 for 7.
Of the other bowlers it must be said that they disappointed on the day and did not live up to their reputations, although D. Geraghty could be said to be unlucky since twice or three times batsmen could have been caught on the boundary, if only the fielder concerned had been fifteen feet or so taller.
The fielding defied description. D. Brennan's gazelle-like dives and leaps were pure fantasy and the protests of the much-abused knees of the more senior players almost drowned out the roar of passing aircraft. S. Pender's fielding was as dependable as ever.
After tea, which, like all the refreshments was ample and provided by the inestimable firm of Keegan & Co., the LCUA innings was opened by S. Pender and J. Neville who faced the mean opening attack of Arlow and J Mc Cullough. Disaster soon struck as Pender ran the best part of three runs while Neville ran only one. If Pender were as good a communicator in his profession as he was on that occasion, the Irish Times would be down to a single A4 sheet by now.
However, a solid recovery was made as Neville, who was striking the ball cleanly was joined by the veteran, if not evergreen, J. Behan whose running between the wickets, when all else failed, was a sight to behold.
Eventually Behan failed to clear the field with a heave and was caught off the bowling of Ross, the first of his four victims. D. Adams came in and played a well-controlled innings to make 35 excellent runs before he too succumbed to Ross.
D. Condon was perhaps a little fatigued after keeping wicket to a remarkable variety of intricate bowling and being struck by the ball of about the limbs and body for his pains as well as bowling the fastest of anybody and did not trouble the scorers. Geraghty, like so many, certainly a veteran and possibly a stalwart, contributed a doughty 11 while Tuffery played up to his full potential with the bat and added a streaky single before being comprehensively bowled.
Brennan, most definitely a stalwart and hoping to last long enough to be come a veteran, clubbed a useful 4 before being spectacularly caught in the deep by Russell, who had bought a new pacemaker especially for the match.
The bowling was still tight and P. Reith was giving an exhibition of steady wicket keeping. At this stage the faint-hearted among the crowd feared the worst for LCUA who had only 98 runs on the board for the loss of eight wickets But they reckoned without those two old warhorses, Connolly and McCready. It is reported that when Connolly joined McCready at the wicket the latter murmured "We'll get them in singles, Wilfred"; and so for the most part they did, apart from a cracking almost straight six from McCready.
These two whittled the deficit down steadily until 25 were needed from 8 overs, and those two old heads were going to make no mistake from that position. Nor did they, and they saw their side home with nine balls to spare. B. Arlow did not bat.
The day was rounded off by a splendid Irish Stew liberally washed down with the wines of the country. The return match is expected to be in Armagh and both Associations said they would be fielding their first teams next time.