White Stick III - 1991 - Venue Merrion - NIACU won by 24 runs (Series 2-1)

Friendly matches rarely start at the appointed time. This was no exception.

The contest did not get under way until the best part of the weather was well out to sea and grey clouds were thickening to the west. McCready won the toss for LCUA and, to the evident disgust of his players, elected to field. Hogan, who was to have captained the side but who stood down when the lCUA - in an unaccustomed excess of efficiency - managed to muster twelve players, kept his own counsel.

The two Peters, Reith and White, opened the innings for NICUA and took the score to 29 before White was bowled by Thew for an enterprising 17. Thew had replaced Hill at the Donnybrook end following the latter's excellent figures of 3-2-2-0 and himself managed the highly creditable return of 3-0-8-1.

Alas, all was desperate disarray at the Ballsbridge end. First, Claffey bowled his three overs for 14 runs, only to be replaced by Tobin who went one worse and conceded 15 - including four wides in his first over. Had there been a second slip, Tobin would probably have brained him. This meant that Reith and McCall were able to apply themselves to the business of a solid second-wicket stand, and so they did, on either side of an interruption for rain which was welcomed by umpires and players alike.

Reith favoured the single backward of point, while McCall's strength was off his legs. LCUA looked in turn to Brennan, Spence and Tuffery to stem the tide, but it was not until the introduction of O'Reilly into the attack that a wicket fell. The victim was Reith, for a spirited 17 scored out of a total of 76 runs made while he was at the crease.

Indeed, McCall should also have fallen to O'Reilly when he dragged him round to the backward square leg boundary where Tiobin promptly dropped a straightforward catch. Meanwhile, Johnston had announced himself with a number of blows which suggested that he had played before. He played a number of sweet shots, mainly on the leg side, off both font and back foot.

His commanding presence caused McCready to call up his most trusted bowlers, viz. himself and Harty. The result was a cool 24 runs off two overs, including a big legside six off McCready. Then it rained and there was another welcome break. Johnston perished off the very first ball after the resumption, caught at backward point by Tobin off Harty. With only a single added, the same bowler had McCall leg before, thus securing the two wickets which took the bad look off his very expensive figures (3-0-27-2).

McCready bowled Adams, Wilson boxed a couple of fours and that was that: NCUA had set LCUA a target of 139 off 28 overs, an asking rate of just under five runs per over. The complication was the weather.

In the nature of the White Stick Trophy, the game had to be played to a decision. It was agreed, therefore, that in the event of less than 15 overs of the LCUA innings being completed, the result would be determined by a bowl-out. Alternatively, if more than 15 but less than 28 overs were bowled, the result would hinge on whether or not LCUA were ahead of the asking rate after the 15th over.

For LCUA, the equation was simple. The unpromising weather conditions held out no certainty of a full innings, so first base meant 75 runs of the first 15 overs. This they achieved with ridiculous ease, thanks mainly to Spence whose 44 off 28 balls was the innings of the day. He hit the unfortunate NICUA openers, Arlow and Wiseman, out of the attack. His last two scoring shots were both sixes, the second a magnificent hit way over the top of the pavilion.

He then dawdled down the wicket to Adams - as if in apology for the two sixes - loitered in no man's land, and was duly stumped. Still, at 64 for 1 off 7 overs, LCUA were in the box seat. From there on, farce followed upon disaster for the southerners.

Only Tobin, Ford and McCready made double figures, while numbers four to 10 inclusive vied with one another in the cow shot stakes. O'Reilly skied the ball to the one NICUA man who was reasonably certain to catch it, Johnston. Hill was bowled by Adams and Claffey was apprehended by Wilson off the same bowler, a "fair cop" if ever there was one and no Probation Act for the accused.

At 91 for 3, LCUA were still winning. At 95 for 7, there were dead in the water. The transformation had been wrought by the mesmeric bowling of Adams, who claimed the wickets of five of the first six batsmen, a performance that deservedly brought him the Man of the Match Trophy. To add to the mess, Brennan and McCready got in a tangle in midwicket with the result that the skipper was run out by a distance. Watch Brennan's future with interest; if he plays next year, it will be a major surprise.

The appropriately-named Harty was riddled first ball by Ross, who now consolidated his excellent record in this fixture by picking up the last three wickets cheaply. Cheaply was, however, about the going rate for batsmen of the calibre of Harty, Thew and Brennan. Johnston also turned his arm, but to no discernible effect. Tuffery, their number 11, was left high and dry without having faced a ball, a disappointment to his many relations.

The game was umpired in the best possible spirit by two of the LCUA's stalwart figures, John Heavey and Gerry O'Neill, both of whom enjoyed their afternoon in the rain. There were no controversial decisions which, on the whole, did no credit to either of them, but at least they ensured that the game was played.

Reports that they were in fact most reluctant to resume after the second interruption for rain and were only dragged out of the bar - uh, dressing room - by a group of militant players determined to get the game finished are quite false. Such defamatory tosh is most regrettable.

There followed the social side of things which, while not on the extravagant style of Armagh last year, were none the less generally regarded as satisfactory by the organisers. Liam and Mella Keegan prepared an Irish stew for all hands under somewhat trying conditions, having earlier offered soup and rolls by way of an early lunch.

It was a pity that the Merrion bar was not open in the morning to welcome our northern guests as the Armagh bar had been for us last year. These shortcomings paled into insignificance, however, against the happy renewal of old acquaintance and the making of new friendships. When at last, late at night, the White Stick began its journey north - following in the footsteps of the Sam Maguire - there were many tearful and sentimental drunks on both sides who just couldn't wait for the next match in the series, this time next year.