Steve and Mark Waugh may be twins but are certainly not identical, neither in looks nor disposition.

But they did have one thing in common which I found to my delight while looking after their public relations during separate stints playing for Ireland: they were fascinating company.

They had both come to Ireland within two years of each other under sponsorship from Sir Tony O'Reilly's Independent Newspapers to promote the game north and south of the border.

Steve was first in 1998 and his three week visit was no sinecure. He lined up no fewer than six times against an Australian "A" XI some of whom were vying for places in the World Cup squad the following year.

Steve Waugh batting at Beechgrove

When the Australian one day captain came to the middle in his Irish sweater there was serious intent from the likes of Jason Gillespie and Colin Millar. Steve scored 246 runs, two half centuries and averaged 31.14. He was to tell me that the Irish player who caught his eye was Stephen Smyth, the North West left hander.

Two years later Mark (batting below) wore his Irish sweater in two ODIs against Zimbabwe at Clontarf. He scored 55 for an average of 27.5. It was a far cry from his only other game at Castle Avenue six years earlier, unheard of at the age of just 21. On that occasion he'd worn an MCC sweater to smash 239 not out and 101 not out, the highest total of runs ever scored against Ireland in a single match.

Ireland v Australia 1993: Mark Waugh batting and Brian Millar keeping wicket

As we drove together to matches and coaching sessions I was to find in Steve Waugh a man with a real sense of place and purpose: after all, was he not the patron of a lepers' colony in India. His visit was one of serious curiosity.

On our first trip he asked me to explain the Northern Ireland situation. I tried to give him a factual history and update, devoid of opinion. It was a particularly significant time only days after the Omagh bombing by dissident republicans in protest against the Good Friday peace accord signed just three months before.

On his last day my wife Dorothy and I took Steve, his wife Lynette and young daughter Rosie on a tour of the troubled areas of Belfast. He explained the initials on the gable walls to the family without prompting. I lost count of the stops to allow this seriously talented photographer to add to his considerable collection.

But it was, of course, talk of cricket that shortened most of our journeys. I was surprised to learn he was a pretty strong advocate of "sledging" which in some people's view was somewhat contrary to the spirit of cricket.

Not so for the man who was to become one of Australia's greatest captains: it was all part of testing a batsman's concentration and mental strength. I was even more surprised when it came to life after cricket. I suggested that come retirement any commentary box in the world would throw open its doors to him.

He was emphatic that he would never consider it: it would be like touring all over again and there had to be more time for the family. And so it's been to this day for the father of daughters Rosie and Lillian and son Austin. A man of purpose.

Roll on two years and enter Mark Waugh: no matches to be played north of the border, rather coaching and spreading the gospel. He was to be the more laid back of the twins. A man not to be rushed, such that he had to be convinced that the best way to judge the Club Turf Cup final man-of-the-match in Eglinton was to be there from the start of play.

His views on cricket were as fascinating if not altogether the same as his brother's. No "sledging", no "high fives" even after the most spectacular of slip catches. And never an appeal unless he had good cause.

Of all my memories of two fine men by far the most poignant was to be found in Donemana with Mark. Along with the then Irish coach Ken Rutherford and ICU President Roy Torrens, he was sampling the grass roots of Irish cricket in that compact, sloping Co. Tyrone ground.

Before leaving the village there was to be a visit to the nearby home of Alex McBrine - a legend of local cricket; father of twins and former internationals Junior and James; grandfather of current international Andy.

Alex McBrine with his sons Junior, Hames and Roy

Alex was confined to his home suffering from cancer as he approached his 80th year. The meeting between the Test batsman and the man who had given so much to the local game was not to be forgotten.

Alex said how much he had admired the Australian's stylish ways which he had often seen on television . Mark said he understood there would not have been much cricket in the village but for the McBrine family. It was to be a memorable moment in what was to be Alex McBrine's first and last summer of the millennium. He died three months later.

Steve and Mark were due to join forces in a return to Belfast in 2001 with Steve captaining the Australians against Ireland in the final international at Ormeau. But it wasn't the trip they had hoped.

Steve didn't travel from England so he could nurse an injury and there was no time for Mark to sparkle once more against Ireland. The game was abandoned in torrential rain after 90 minutes.

I've been fortunate to meet the twins on a number of occasions since those promotional visits.

Their memories have been warm as has their praise for the development of Irish cricket.