19th Century Irish visitors well beaten

Between 1898 and 1904 Greenock and North of Ireland Cricket Club (NICC) met each other in matches played over 2 days at each other's ground on alternate years. Travel would have been by steamer and must have been quite daunting for the time. The Irishmen were clearly quite intrepid travellers as earlier games had been played in 1888 and 1891 at Glenpark but these were one-off fixtures.

In 1898, Greenock ventured to Ireland on a short tour, playing and defeating North Down in a one-day match and NICC in a two-day fixture and the latter reciprocated this match the following year with a two-day fixture at Glenpark starting on Friday 7th  July. It seems that this match was supposed to be the start of a tour undertaken by the Irishmen but in the event fixtures with Grange and Dunfermline did not go ahead.

NICC struggle before lunch on first day

NICC won the toss and elected to bat first on a pitch that appeared to be in good condition despite the early morning rain that had fallen. They made a good start as Moran scored quite freely but his dismissal, bowled by Greenock's professional, Thompson Smith, for 22 with the score on 29, heralded a collapse and when lunch was taken, NICC were struggling at 42 for 4. The Greenock Telegraph noted that "the visitors were not feeling at ease with the home trundling".

That unease continued in the afternoon session and when Greenock's skipper, Sam MacDougall, performed the hat-trick, bowling Baines, the visitors' professional, Hamilton and Ferris, the score then stood at 77 for 8. The Glasgow Herald reported that MacDougall's feat "aroused much enthusiasm among the spectators" as well it should have.

Sam MacDougall the all-rounder

MacDougall was a renowned heavy hitter and CD Stuart in the Club's centenary booklet stated "There have been few better drivers. Timing with him was almost an exact science, and it was amazing to see a ball, which had been hit with apparently nonchalant ease, shatter the slates on the house tops in adjacent Fox Street." Stuart also elaborated on MacDougall's skills as a bowler, noting that, despite being self-taught, he was one of the very first Scottish bowlers to perfect the art of swing bowling.

NICC's ninth wicket pairing of J Andrews and Clarke restored some semblance of order to the score, before Clarke was dismissed and the innings terminated on 137 with Andrews unbeaten on 55. Smith and MacDougall did virtually all the bowling, Smith taking 5 for 56 and MacDougall 4 for 62.

Greenock gain first innings lead

Greenock's reply was not encouraging, both openers being back in the pavilion with only 18 on the telegraph, as the scoreboard was described in those days. However, WJ Wright and the skipper righted matters and scored quite freely. MacDougall's dismissal for 45 did not halt the scoring and the brothers Ballantine combined with Wright to give Greenock a reasonable lead. When play finished for the day at 6.30pm, the score stood at 188 for 9 with the Adam brothers at the crease. Wright fell for 47, an innings which the Glasgow Herald said was achieved by "judicious cricket".

Play restarted the next day at noon and Greenock advanced their first innings score to 217 before PBH Adam was dismissed, his brother Robert being unbeaten on 34.

Moran leads NICC fight-back

NICC's openers, Newett and Moran, put on a good stand for the first wicket when NICC set out to erase the arrears of 80 and Moran in particular gave a good display of all-round batting in a knock that contained 19 boundaries. He was accorded a fine ovation by the local spectators when his innings was finally ended by a catch in the slips by Arthur Graham, having made 80 fine runs. Thereafter only Baines was able to give any trouble to the home bowling and the innings ended on 198, leaving Greenock needing 119 for victory and three hours to get the runs.

Smith's figures in the second innings were almost identical to those in the first innings, 5 for 58, giving him match figures of 10 for 114. John Kerr would later describe Smith as a whole-hearted Yorkshireman who loved to bowl all out and who would have met with even more success than he did in his three years at Glenpark with better slip catching. He was tempted to settle in Greenock but ultimately decided not to do so but did return to Greenock in 1922 with Frickley Colliery when his 5 for 15 was instrumental in Greenock being dismissed for just 39.

Greenock win by five wickets

Greenock met with little difficulty in knocking off the runs for victory, each of the first four batsmen making over 20 as they won by five wickets and in so doing recorded their first win of the season. The Scottish Referee summed up the match in splendid fashion. "The two days' match at Greenock provided the Fair holiday folks with ample fare, and the North of Ireland eleven were voted a jolly good set of fellows and capable bats to boot". Patronising or what?

The same paper also remarked on the improvement in Greenock's fielding which they felt was overdue as they had performed poorly in this facet of the game up to this point in the season. They also commented on the attendance at the match which they felt was "scarcely up to the mark" which was a bit harsh given that it was played during the Greenock Fair holidays.

Greenock's struggles in Belfast

The fixtures continued for five more years with Greenock winning and drawing their home fixtures but losing all three away games by an innings and after the last such defeat in 1904 the fixture was discontinued. The clubs met again on four occasions in the 1930s when Greenock toured the Belfast area, the final time being in 1934 when Greenock did manage to bring off a victory.

NICC were a very strong force in cricket in the Northern Cricket Union of Ireland for many years, especially around the turn of the 19th century as Greenock found to their cost. They left their historic Ormeau ground in 2001 after suffering a number of sectarian attacks and after briefly becoming Belfast Harlequins, they joined forces with Civil Service in 2005 to form the CSNI club, playing at the international ground of Stormont, and are again a major force in cricket in Northern Ireland.


North of Ireland
First Innings
FB Newett c Simpson b MacDougall 3
EA Moran   b Smith 22
C Vint c MacDougall b Smith 18
O Andrews c Simpson b Smith 0
JT Wilgar c PBH Adam b Smith 0
Baines   b MacDougall 18
J Andrews, jun not out 55
RP Hamilton   b MacDougall 0
JH Ferris   b MacDougall 0
AF Clarke   b Smyth 10
M Forrester c MacDougall b Smith 3
Extras     8
TOTAL    60.2 overs 137 all out
Bowler O M R W  
Smith 28.2 15 56 5    
S MacDougall 28 11 62 4    
AL Graham 2 1 4 0  
A Smyth 2 0 7 1  
First Innings
AL Graham   b O Andrews 13
WC Simpson run out 1
WJ Wright c Moran b Baines 47
S MacDougall * c Newett b Moran 45
T Ballantine c Forrester b O Andrews 22
A Smyth c Vint b Baines 3
JH Ballantine c J Andrews b Moran 29
RG Adam not out 34
Smith c Moran b Baines 3
C Forster c Vint b Ferris 2
PBH Adam +   b O Andrews 11
Extras     7
TOTAL     73 overs 217 all out
Bowler O M R W  
O Andrews 21 1 76 3    
Baines 31 10 60 3  
EA Moran 7 1 31 2  
JH Ferris 12 2 41 1  
AF Clark 2 1 2 0  
North of Ireland
Second Innings
FB Newett c PBH Adam b Smith 41
EA Moran c Graham b Smith 80
C Vint c PBH Adam b MacDougall 7
O Andrews c and b Smith 11
Baines lbw b Smith 26
J Andrews, jun c JH Ballantine b MacDougall 0
JT Wilgar   b Smith 6
RP Hamilton c MacDougall b Graham 4
AF Clark   b Graham 0
JH Ferris   b Graham 6
M Forrester not out 5
Extras     12
TOTAL    57.3 overs 198 all out
Bowler O M R W  
Smith 25 9 58 5    
S MacDougall 15 1 69 2    
AL Graham 13.3 4 34 3  
A Smyth 3 0 15 0  
WJ Wright 1 0 10 0  
Second Innings
WC Simpson c Wilgar b O Andrews 21
AL Graham c O Andrews b Moran 21
WJ Wright not out 26
S MacDougall c Ferris b Newett 26
T Ballantine c and b Newett 5
RG Adam   b Newett 2
JH Ballantine not out 6
A Smyth      
C Forster      
PBH Adam      
Extras     15
TOTAL     32 overs 122 for 5
Bowler O M R W  
O Andrews 10 1 34 1    
Baines 8 1 24 0  
EA Moran 4 1 22 1  
JH Ferris 4 0 11 0  
FB Newett 6 2 16 3