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Ireland Under 19: International Tournaments
1987 International Youth Tournament
Belfast, Northern Ireland

Jimmy Boyce made good on the promise he made in Bermuda two years earlier and brought the tournament to Belfast in 1987, as Ireland hosted the event for the first time.

Accommodating all the sides in the Wellington Park Hotel was certainly a step up from that which had gone before and with an opening reception in Belfast City Hall and a closing dinner in Parliament Buildings he ensured the bar was well and truly set high for future events.

At every venue the local Council had become involved resulting in the Lunch Interval being ‘extended’ every day due to the requirement to hear the Mayor, Government Representatives, Ulster Bank and Club dignitaries all take their turn to say the same, ‘few words of welcome’.

The lunch menu at North Down CCThe lunch menu at North Down

The Wellington Park Hotel was an ideal base, after all it had a night club on site and was only a short ‘dander’ from the bright lights of Shaftesbury Square. Life was going on as normal in Belfast in 1987 and that included bombs, real and imagined. One evening there was a BBQ and Disco at the RUC Club at Newforge. All the teams were safely bussed there and back, but on returning to the Wellington Park found the hotel had been evacuated due to a bomb alert. Not uncommon regretfully as when prospective patrons of the night club were refused entry a call from the nearby phone box was their form of retaliation. The coaches circled the block for half an hour or so until the all-clear was given.

By then the hotel was re-admitting ‘residents only’ and this came as a great disappointment to one of the taller Canadian fast bowlers who answered to the name, ’Big Bird’. He arrived at the hotel with a ‘friend’, having struck it lucky at the disco, but his plea of, “You need her to let in, she’s going to wash my socks!” failed to impress the door staff who pointed out that the hotel itself offered a more than adequate laundry service.

For Ireland on the field following an opening day defeat by England South, there were the expected wins against the Netherlands and Canada.

Against the Netherlands Michael Blair and Mark Clinton scored rapid half-centuries to retrieve a middle order collapse and Dessie Neill, on his home ground of Pollock Park, was the best of the Irish bowlers taking three wickets.

Canada were demolished by a magnificent century by Graeme hunter in a total of 250 and with skipper Conor Hoey spinning his way to figures of 5-12 in only 7 overs the margin of victory was a record 193 runs.

Weather intervened in the Wallace Park meeting with Bermuda and Kevin McCafferty’s 5-14 counted for nothing as no play was possible after the change of innings, and eventually Bermuda would win a bowl-out in ‘sudden death’ and in a torrential downpour.

Against Denmark it was again Mark Clinton (36) and Michael Blair (74) who rebuilt from 44/4 to a final total of 190. Never in the hunt the Danes settled for batting practice to finish 9 down with the Irish spinners Shane Harrison bowling his 10 overs for only 8 runs and Conor Hoey his 10 for 18.

Ireland’s performance against England North was by far their worst of the tournament as they managed only 57, the same score as they had dismissed Canada for earlier in the week. England ran out winners by 131 runs as six Irish wickets tumbled for only sixteen runs.

England North and South contested the low scoring final on a pitch that favoured the spinners. The fancied North side for whom Jeremy Batty took 3-22 collapsed to 73 all out as Nadeem Shahid’s leg spin claimed 4-9 in eight overs.

Two Irish batsmen, Blair and Clinton, came fourth and fifth respectively in the batting averages, followed closely by Graeme Hunter helped by his century against Canada. McCafferty and Hoey were the best of the Irish bowlers, with two claiming ‘fifers’, McCafferty against Bermuda and Hoey against Canada.

“It is now approaching 34 years since I was fortunate enough to represent Ireland at the U19 International Youth Tournament - how time flies!

Whilst at previous & future tournaments the Irish team got to visit such wonderful locations as Bermuda and Canada, when it was my turn, I got Belfast.

Ireland Under 19 squad 1987Ireland Under 19 squad 1987

There were upsides. We got to play at grounds we were familiar with and our friends and families were able to come along to support us. In addition, Michael Blair and Shane Harrison were familiar with the Belfast nightlife and were able to lead the boys astray. In fairness to Michael, he didn't let this affect his performance and he topped the batting averages for our team and was 4th overall for the tournament. Unfortunately, not all the guys managed to deal with the social life so well! Despite this, we had a reasonable tournament overall, only losing to the two England teams in completed matches. These teams included players like Chris Adams and Peter Martin who went on to play Test cricket for England as well as a good number who had successful county careers.We also lost to Bermuda in a bowl-out at a very wet Lisburn, on what was my 18th birthday - not a great way to celebrate!

There was a good bond between the guys in the team and we were well lead by skipper Conor Hoey, who had a great cricket brain as well as drive and determination. We were also well prepared by our coach Ian Johnston who encouraged us to play hard but to also have fun. We were fortunate to have the late Denis Ryan as our Manager. Denis was a lovely man who helped engender a great togetherness within the squad. I made a lot of friends at the time, many of whom I still bump into from time to time. It is great to pick up from where we previously left off - that is one of the best things about this great game we played.

A couple of personal highlights for me were scoring a century against Canada at Comber and playing against Holland at my home ground of Pollock Park, Lurgan.

Looking back, whilst there were some very good individual performances the team probably didn't perform to its full potential - the nightlife probably played it's part in this! I remember speaking with our coach Ian Johnston shortly after the tournament ended and he predicted that only one of the team, Conor Hoey, would go on to achieve senior international honours. Conor did indeed get capped in 1991 and went on to gain 42 caps and it looked as if Ian would be proven right. Although a number of the team went on to have successful senior club and inter-provincial careers it wasn't until 1998 when Mark Olphert of Bready won the cap that made him the second member of the '87 squad to make it to the senior ranks. Ian wasn't too far away with his prediction!

Overall, I look back on my time with the U19 squad with a lot of fondness and great memories and wish I could turn the clock back to do it all again - perhaps in Bermuda next time!”

Mark Olphert recalls his pride at being selected in the squad for the tournament.

“I’d had a good interpro series the year before and was proud to be one of only two NW boys in the squad, the other was Kevin McCafferty of Strabane. The notable NW absentees from the selection were future full internationals Mark Gillespie and Stephen Smyth.

We met up on the Sunday pre-tournament at the Welly Park Hotel and practised together on the Monday at Collegians. I recall also getting some info on fitness-pre tournament and also playing a friendly at Waringstown.

Playing shirts and caps for the competition were handed out along with an itchy bottle green woollen sweater for formal wear. Everyone went to an opening ceremony at the City Hall and that was the first time we clocked the opposition, especially the very colourful Dutch.

We kicked off our games at Ormeau against England South and finished at Stormont against England North. Both had notable future England test players in Chris Martin and Chris Adams plus several who played County Cricket like South skipper Harvey Trump and Matthew Cleal both at Somerset.

The game that sticks out however was against Bermuda at Lisburn on a damp grey day. We bowled them out cheaply and I remember several threats at the interval from their reputed quicks but rain intervened and we lost the bowl out. The guy who won it for them in sudden death was Kyle Lightbourne who ended up playing professional football in England.

I remember a bit of panic one evening with a bomb scare in the hotel adding to the entertainment with Shane Harrison’s and Mark Clinton’s introduction to certain spirits led to some craic.

Our team probably underachieved and I remember a report saying later that there wouldn’t be any future internationals from the group, although Conor Hoey was a serious talent and of course big Ciaran Clarke went on to play rugby for Ireland.

The Tournament finished in some style with a drinks reception and presentation dinner at Parliament Buildings at the end of the week after one of the English sides won.”

Bruce Topping was the first choice wicketkeeper for Ireland and writes:

“Most of my memories are of the first match against England South at North. We really believed that we had a good chance of beating them on home turf.

There is a final line between success and failure and it was such a disappointing day as we had our chances to win. We let them off the hook at about 20 for 3. It was doubly disappointing for me as I missed that difficult stumping chance which turned between bat and pad off Conor Hoey and Malcolm Pooley went on to get 84. We also still should have won that game at 111-3 chasing 180 but a batting collapse meant we fell short.

The other thing I remember that day was that one of the England coaches put his head round the dressing room door to console us after the match. He said that we needed to remember that there were more clubs in Yorkshire alone than in the whole of Ireland. He was met with a deathly silence as we knew we could have won that game.

I felt we had a strong team. Conor Hoey was an excellent confident captain and was a match winning bowler. We also had good opening bowlers with Leon Ellison and Kevin McCafferty who were well supported by a number of seam bowling all rounders.

The batting was sound with solid openers in Graham Hunter and Shane Harrison. The middle order was strong with Michael Blair, Mark Clinton and Ciaran Clarke. Michael in particular showed what he was capable of with a number of fine innings. This did not surprise me as I had already seen his immense talent as a team mate at Friends School and Lisburn. He could easily have made the transition to the Ireland senior ranks.

I think we showed that we were a strong team as we really dominated the matches against Canada, Netherlands and Denmark. We would probably have beaten Bermuda too after bowling them out for 111 at Lisburn before falling to that infamous bowl-out defeat. I still have visions of the Bermuda bowler sprinting and tumbling across Wallace Park followed by his ecstatic team mates.

It was great to play in a home tournament and I remember that all the clubs made a huge effort to prepare excellent pitches and all proved to be wonderful hosts. It was hard to resist all the superb food laid on for lunch and tea at all the venues. I think it is still like this today and the NCU region is very lucky to have so many fine grounds and clubs.”

Throughout the Tournament there had been talk that an Under 19 World Cup was planned for the coming winter in Australia and that the coaches and managers should be on the look out for potential members of an ‘ICC Associates’ squad that would be invited to play in it. Everyone agreed that on his performances, Conor Hoey was a certainty, well that was until the politicians got involved! At the last moment Ireland, who were not members of ICC at that time found that they would be lumped in with England under the TCCB banner. Cricket politics in action!

I’m not sure of the make up of the side in terms of batting, bowling, keeping etc but the ICC squad would eventually be comprised of:

4 Zimbabweans, 2 Bangladeshis, 2 Dutch, 2 Danes, 2 Bermudans and 2 Canadians. Strange that, but after all everyone needs a roommate they can talk to!

So no place in the England squad for Conor but there was room for Atherton, Hussain, Ramprakash and England South skipper Harvey Trump.

Two future England players Alan Mullally and Andy Caddick also played in that World Cup but for other sides, Mullally for Australia and Caddick for New Zealand. Brian Lara would captain the West Indies, Sanath Jayasuriya would play for Sri Lanka and Inzaman-ul-Haq for Pakistan.

The ICC Associates ‘Selection’, as might have been predicted, lost all seven of their games.

England South (194-7) beat Ireland (149) by 45 runs at Ormeau.

England slumped to 7 for 2 with early wickets by Ellison and at 40 for 3 Ireland were in control but a partnership of 112 between Pooley (84) and Steer (54) in 24 overs saw England to a respectable total. Dessie Neill took 3-69 in his ten overs. Ireland were 102 for 3 after 30 overs and it looked as if they might cause an upset but rash stroke play saw a collapse with Clarke (37), Clinton (33) and Harrison (25) the most successful batsmen. Netherlands (165-7) beat Denmark (164-8) by 3 wickets at Woodvale. England North (122-4) beat Canada (118) by 6 wickets at New Forge.

Ireland (256-9) beat Netherlands (162) by 94 runs, at Lurgan.

Ireland were put in and reached 73 without loss after 18 overs. A middle order collapse saw a crisis at 112 for 5 after 31 overs but Blair (78) and Clinton (54) then added 110 in 50 minutes. Blair’s runs came from 51 balls. Netherlands never seriously threatened and O’Neill (3-24), playing on his home ground, was the best Irish bowler. England North (117-6) beat Bermuda (116) by 4 wickets, at Armagh.

Ireland (250) beat Canada (57) by 193 runs, at Comber.

Ireland paced their innings finely to finish all out on the final ball of the innings. Hunter hit 14 fours and a six in his magnificent 105, supported by Harrison (24), Clarke (24) and Clinton (41). Conor Hoey destroyed Canada with 5 for 12 off only seven overs.

Bermuda (111) beat Ireland (did not bat) in a bowl out, at Lisburn.

Weather prevented Ireland from gaining a victory over the defending champions. Ireland put Bermuda in and reduced them to 35 for 6, with McCafferty taking 5 for 14 in his first seven overs. A 47 run partnership then brought the score to 82 and the innings finally stretched to 111. Heavy rain followed and a bowl out took place. Ireland led 3-1 after four deliveries, with Harrison, McCafferty and Ellison hitting. Eventually the score was tied at 3-3. The first delivery of the sudden death saw Neill miss and Bermuda hit. Canada beat Denmark on scoring rate, at Shane Park.

Ireland (190) beat Denmark (143-9) by 47 runs, at Newforge.

Ireland won the toss and batted. As against Netherlands, Clinton (36) and Blair (74) repaired the damage after a score of 44 for 4 in the 19th over. All of the Irish bowlers did well to prevent the Danish batsmen from ever looking like reaching the target.

England North (188-7) beat Ireland (57) by 131 runs, at Ballymena.

This was Ireland’s worst performance. After 117 for 5, England scored 71 off their final ten overs. Only Hoey (2-12) troubled them. Ireland’s innings was a debacle from the dismissal of Hunter and .Clinton without scoring. Only Blair (17) made some resistance and the last six wickets fell for 16 runs.

England South (152) beat England North (73) by 79 runs.

The final, on Tuesday, 4 August, at Ormeau, was a play-off between the two top teams, England North and England South.

The player of the tournament was M.Pooley (England South) who headed the batting averages with 288 runs for an average of 41. He was also ninth in the bowling averages with 13 wickets for an average of 12.

Other articles about this tournament

Ireland squad

  • Conor Hoey, captain
  • Shane Harrison
  • Michael Blair
  • Ciaran Clarke
  • Mark Clinton
  • Leon Ellison
  • Alan Higgins
  • Graeme Hunter
  • Kevin McCafferty
  • Brian McNeice
  • Dessie Neill
  • Mark Olphert
  • Denis Ryan (manager)
  • Ian Johnston (coach)