CricketEurope, June 2020
Our ever popular series paying tribute to figures of Irish cricket continues with Joe Doherty, who has fulfilled a variety of roles at club, regional and national level.
The Strabane native started his senior career following success completion of his degree at Queens, capturing three wickets on debut at The Rectory against Glendermott. A steady batsman and wily off-spinner, he claimed nine wickets twice in a innings, just one short of the magical full set against Waterside and Drummond. He came close to a senior cup final appearance in 197y when an unbeaten 41 from John Watson saw Brigade prevail in a tense encounter.
There was glory in the 1979 Intermediate final beating Ardmore, and also in 1986 when he skippered Strabane to their first Junior Cup win.
It was off the field though, that Doherty, was to make his indelible mark on the game. He was Chairman of Strabane in 1987, when a Jerry Kirton inspired performance saw them upset the odds against Donemana, and he was President of the Tyrone side when they beat Ballymena to capture the biggest prize in Irish cricket in 1998.
He along with Michael Gillespie was instrumental in the signing of Shoaib Akhtar as the club's overseas professional, although injury and the Irish weather meant that the club rarely saw the 'Rawalpindi Express' at full steam.
His talents as an administrator and shrewd negotiator saw him become more heavily involved with first the NWCU, and then the Irish Cricket Union. The club, to its credit, allowed him space to do those things while allowing him to continue as a Committee member without holding any of the more onerous positions in the club hierarchy. In 1999 he was elected NW Chairman in succession to Bertie Faulkner, leap-frogging Bobby Brolly, who had stood aside, feeling the role was a job for a younger man.
He served as member and chair of the Northern Ireland Cricket Association (NICA) which helped to run the inter-union club competitions in pre-Cricket Ireland days.
After sitting on the ICU Executive under Bob Kerr and then John Caldwell, he was elected vice-chair then Chairman in 2005, in succession to Derek Brennan, in time for the ICC Trophy where Ireland qualified for the 2007 World Cup and won many friends and admirers for the organisation of the tournament.
"An outstanding achievement by a crack squad of volunteer experts and it was my privilege to chair the main meetings while the engine purred all around Ireland for a month", said Doherty reflecting on the tournament. The ICC President of the day, Ehsan Mani of Pakistan was most impressed and he has remained a firm friend of Irish cricket (and of the Doherty family) to this very day.
Similarly, Malcolm Speed of ICC was bowled over by the Irish treatment of competitors and visitors and that experience played out in their favour many times in the years to come. It was fitting that our first Test match was against Pakistan and that Ehsan and Frances Mani were honoured guests at Malahide when history was made.
Highlights of his time at Irish level for 'Wee Joe" included attending the 2007 World Cup with friends old and new and "the tie against Zimbabwe and the St. Patrick's Day victory over a star-studded Pakistan side will live with me forever".
Doherty was also instrumental in bringing some high profile cricketers into the squad for Ireland clashes against county opposition in the C&G Trophy in 2006.
"Treasurer Ian Gourley rang me to say we had some scope to strengthen the Irish squad in the competition and I immediately rang our coach Adi Birrell and asked him who would he like if he had a choice.
He said,'Seriously?' When I replied 'Yes', he said without hesitation, 'Afridi and Bravo!' I said, 'leave it with me.'
"We were like kids in a sweet shop, the pair of us. A day later, I had established that Bravo would have come but was due to tour elsewhere whereas Afridi was totally up for it and bowled us to victory against Gloucestershire. I enjoyed that episode and rubbing shoulders with one of the world's greats.
"Other highlights included accompanying the Ireland team to Holland in the match where Peter Connell got a hat-trick, and deputising for John Caldwell in Kenya when we won a last-gasp ICup match thanks to 'the three centurions'."
In all he was retained on the new Cricket Ireland board for eight years and was awarded the Presidency in 2014-15. What a year that turned out to be for Doherty both at home and abroad.
"I took a President's XI to Sion Mills for the club's 150th birthday celebrations and then to Cork County for their 140th. Both teams captained by John Mooney and both included Phil Simmons as a player. Both unforgettable occasions.
"The massive layer of icing on the Presidential cake was the Cricket World Cup adventure to Australia and New Zealand where we again set the world alight by winning three matches against West Indies, UAE and Zimbabwe. That was a fabulous experience and definitely six weeks to remember."
He is still very much involved in cricket, serving the NWCU as Chair of the Disciplinary Committee, and sitting on three Committees for Cricket Ireland; Cricket, Governance and Nominations.
Despite all his achievements, like everyone, he is very keen for the return of cricket next month.
"All of these milestones have given me great pleasure and I look forward to appearing as near to the various boundaries as I can get, as soon as the regulations and protocols allow!"
And so say all of us.