The Early Years
Merrion Cricket Club – TheEarly Years.
In the absence of any club records prior to1945, the research for this article depended largely on reports in the The IrishTimes, Sunday Independent and Irish Field. Although much of the junior cricketplayed in those days went unreported in detail, most of the fixtures weredocumented, providing the nucleus of each season’s span.
Merrion Cricket Club was founded in 1906 byseveral members of the defunct Land Commission Cricket team, who had played at Lansdowne Road from1892-1900.
Research indicates that many members ofthis Land Commission team were graduates of the Blackrock College Civil ServiceTraining College.
The 1st report of a cricket match beingplayed by Merrion Cricket Club was on Saturday, May 5th, 1906. The writerstates: ‘This match, which was to havebeen played as a league match on Saturday, was, owing to a late start, playedas a friendly instead, and resulted in a win for Malahide by 25 runs and 9wickets.’ So began the story of Merrion cricket, born of enthusiasticparents from the old Land Commission Club and bolstered by members of othergovernment departments in the Upper Merrion Streetarea, such as the Board Of Public Works, the Church Property Department and theDepartment of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.
This 1st match was played on Merrion’s homeground at Mulally Fields, Dolphin’s Barn, behind the site of the formerImperial Tobacco Company, where they were to remain until the move to Anglesea Road in1908. In those days the Land Commission was under the auspices of Dublin City,so the players brought with them the old club colours of gold, maroon andlincoln green, and the city Coat of Arms, part of which features the threecastles with the burning towers, symbolising the power of its citizens todefend the city against all attackers.
Of the 26 players who participated in the1906 season, 17 worked in the Land Commission. Of those 17, only J. A. Swaine,E. J. Gilligan, E. V. Kearney and J. H. Brennan had played for the LandCommission cricket team 6 years earlier. These 4 players were the founders of Merrion,with John Aloysius Swaine as its main architect.
Merrion’s early years as a junior club werenot successful. The 1sts and 2nds struggled in the Junior and Minor Leagues,with occasional years when they opted out of the league structure altogether,possibly due to a lack of organisation within the club.
1906 – MERRIONCRICKET CLUB BEGINS
J. A. Swaine purchases the lease from RyanEstates on a field between two country houses – Hazeldene and Dunluce – in Anglesea Road,which is to become the club’s home ground after two years’ preparation. TheJunior League is split on merit into 2 divisions, each of which is split intotwo tables – A and B. Merrion 1sts are in Division 1B; Merrion 2nds are inDivision 2B. Of 12 reported fixtures, 3 are won and 9 are lost. Neither teamwins anything. M. Martin and A. W. Ball emerge as stars of the new club.
1907 – MERRIONWITHDRAW FROM LEAGUES
Merrion is not mentioned in either theJunior or Minor League tables, suggesting a temporary withdrawal from leaguecricket by the club. During a limited season, they play only friendlies,winning most of them, including a close game against the Royal HibernianMilitary School (RHMS), a strong cricketing force at that time.
1908 – MERRIONMOVE TO ANGLESEA ROAD
Merrion’s 1st season at Anglesea Road is inauspicious. In theJunior League, Merrion 1sts finish last, with a 100% record – played 16, lost16. No points. The club lowlight is a defeat for the 2nds by the Railway &Steam Packet Union (Railway Union) 2nds by 249 runs to 9. Only 8 players turnup. Bradshaw stars with 4 not out, Jago gets 3 runs, and there are 2 extras. Ofthe 43 players used this season, only 15 work in the Land Commission. Despitethe change of name and expanded pool of players, the team is still regarded bymany as the Land Commission. The Cricket Chatter column in the Irish Field ofAugust 1st, 1908 reports: ‘The LandCommission team is but a shadow of what it was some years ago, and unless a fewenthusiastic members bestir themselves and others the club will soon becomeextinct. They have a nice little ground at Anglesea Road, near Donnybrook,which only needs some levelling and rolling to make it quite presentable.’
1909 – MERRIONWITHDRAW FROM LEAGUES AGAIN
Apparently nobody does bestir themselves,as Merrion withdraw from all leagues again to lick their wounds. They play onlyfriendlies and win most of those. A Merrion Associated Football Club playssoccer at Anglesea Road,and there are plans for a Merrion Rugby Club, with 3 teams, to move from Rutland Avenue to Anglesea Road thefollowing winter, where they will continue to play until 1921. All 3 sportsinvolve members of the Land Commission. A few years later, the ground will beused to play soccer by Dublin United, Shelbourne and Cafolla’s, makers of icecream.
1910 – IRISHCRICKET UNION FORMED
The Leinster Cricket Union is dissolved andthe Leinster Branch of the Irish Cricket Union replaces it. A recovery of sortsis underway, although Merrion 1sts fail to win Division B of the Junior League.J. Anstead scores 50 against Dickeson and F. S. Irvine takes 9 wickets againstthe same team. On May 14th, future president E. T. Cochrane (Uncle tosubsequent Merrion schoolboy player, Michael Halliday) makes his 1st appearancein Merrion colours against Pembroke 2nds.
1911 – MERRION3RD IN JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION A
Merrion have a tendency to win matches whenbatting first, and fall apart when batting last, suggesting a somewhat lessthan satisfactory level of fitness in their players. Merrion 1sts are moresettled this year, and finish 3rd in Division A of the Junior League, with 12points, having played 12, won 4, lost 4, drawn 4. Worrall, McConnell andFitzpatrick score 50s, while Dix, Drummond and Irvine take most of the wickets.
1912 – MERRION4TH IN JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION A
This year only 12 of the 20 players work inthe Land Commission. J. Dix scores 45 runs, batting at number 11. F. S. Irvinetakes 8 wickets against Railway Union. Despite some low scores, a decentall-round junior team is emerging. Merrion 1sts finish 4th in Division A of the Junior League, with 4points, having played 7, won 2, lost 5.
1913 – RELEGATIONTO JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION 2
Of the 40 players used this year, 13 areknown to be employed in the Land Commission. J. A. Harrison scores 68 againstRichmond Asylum. E. T. Cochrane scores 53 against Clontarf 2nds and 51 againstRailway Union. S. Kirkpatrick takes 8 wickets against Richmond Asylum. Successcontinues to elude the club. By now the Junior League has been split into twodivisions, with promotion and relegation of 1 team between Divisions 1 and 2.Merrion 1sts are relegated, finishing 10/10, with 4 points, having played 18,won 2, lost 16. Merrion 2nds finish 7th in the Minor League, with 8 points,having played 14, won 4, lost 10. Players of note include: F. S. Irvine, V. Harkness,W. Marlow, M. Daly, J. G. Cooke, F. Moore, F. Worrall, C. Phillips, T. Kenny,J. Coughlan.
1914 – JUNIORLEAGUE, DIVISION 2 WINNERS
Merrion lose 6 players during World War W1– J. H. Brennan, I. J. Smith, A. V. Lea, M. A. Hill, V. Jeeves and D. Drummond.This year J. Anstead and A. P. Hunter move to Civil Service. Nevertheless, itis a good season for Merrion 1sts, who win Division 2 of the Junior League, andare promoted back to Division 1. They gain 16 points, having played 10, won 8,lost 2. It is the 1st competition win for Merrion Cricket Club. The 2nds finish4/6 in the Minor League, with 14 points, having played 14, won 7, lost 7. Yet agame against Clontarf 3rds is cancelled due to Merrion 2nds not turning up. Ofthe 38 players used this season, only 10 are known members of the LandCommission. 1st appearance of a 14-year-old Cecil Little. On June 13th, Littlemakes 1 not out for Merrion 2nds against R&SPU. As he is a boarder in Kilkenny College at the time, it seems that theclub has started coaching younger players with no links to the Land Commissionand Upper Merrion Street.J. Smyth scores 50s against Leinster 3rds andSandymount 2nds. Hill, Smyth and Fryer take the wickets.
1915 – THEMERRION ALLOTMENTS
Another dismal season. In the true sense ofthe word, Merrion are out of their league this year. The 1sts play in Division1 of the Junior League, and finish a bad last, with 2 points, having played 15,won 1, lost 14. Merrion 2nds also trudge along the bottom of Division 2, with 2points, having played 13, won 1, lost 12. On July 31st, the 2nds are dismissedfor 8 runs, possibly a record low score for a Merrion team, with 8 of thebatsmen failing to trouble the scorer. F. S. Irvine (Captain) and M. A. Hill are easily the best players in a season that sees the 1st appearance of futurecaptain and president, Jack (Geke) O’Donnell. He takes all 8 wickets againstR&SPU 2nds, while Irvinetakes 9 wickets against Palmerstown. The Irish Field reports that for manyclubs, members serving with the colours are to be granted honorary membershipfor the season. As did most of the Dublinclubs, Merrion makes its own contribution to the war effort by growingvegetables in allotments along the Dunluce side of the ground.
1916 – JUNIORLEAGUE, DIVISION B RUNNERS-UP
Because of the Easter Rising, the season isshortened. The Junior League is split into 2 divisions of 5 teams each, withMerrion in Division B. A play-off is planned for August 19th. There is no MinorLeague. Irish Field: ‘The AGM of the Leinster Junior & Minor League was held in theImperial Hotel on April 22nd. It was unanimously decided that no cup or caps beawarded to the team winning the Junior League title this season.’ OneMerrion victim of the Rising was W. J. O’Gara, who met with a sad accident. Whilein bed one night a bullet came through the window, hitting him in the leg.Owing to not being able to be taken to hospital immediately, he lost a lot ofblood, and his leg had to be amputated below the knee. Years later, CecilLittle would tell the story of playing cricket in Anglesea Road towards the end of theRising and noticing the flames of the GPO rising above the trees in HerbertPark, causing a hasty retreat to the nearest pub.
Of the 21 Merrion players this year, only 4work in the Land Commission. Merrion play with 7 men against Sackville Hall. M.A. Hill, J. I. Cook and P. Devaney are the best performers. Hill scores 65against Kingstown.P. McAteer scores 50 against R&SPU. Merrion finish 2nd in Division B with 6points, having played 9, won 3, lost 5, drawn 1.
1917 – MERRION9TH IN JUNIOR LEAGUE
Of the 35 players used this year, only 3are current or ex-employees of the Land Commission. The see-saw nature ofMerrion’s junior cricket tenure continues with yet another abysmal season.There is only one Leinster Junior League division, with 10 teams in it. Despitesome close games, Merrion finish the season in 9th place, with 6 points, havingplayed 17, won 3, lost 13, drawn 1. J. O’Donnell scores 65 not out againstRichmond Asylum, the eventual league winners. M. A. Hill takes 41 wickets.Hill, O’Donnell and Phillips carry the rest of the team for most of the year.
1918 – JUNIORLEAGUE RUNNERS-UP
This is the season that Merrion turns thecorner in junior cricket. Thanks to E. T. Cochrane (Captain) and J. O’Donnell(Vice-Captain), the newly-organised club is in contention to win the JuniorLeague for the first time. However, they falter at the final hurdle againstR&SPU, to give the Railway Union team the title by 1 point. Merrion finish2/11, with 28 points, having played 20, won 14, lost 5, drawn 1. Firstappearance of future legend, Roland Henry (Rollie) Shortt. T. Kenny takes 65wickets. C. Phillips makes 76 not out against Pembroke Wanderers and C. Littleblasts 77 against CYM.
The Leinster League structure wasreorganised after the war, with the introduction of a formal Senior League, anIntermediate League, and a Junior League. Most of the top teams, such as CivilService, Pembroke and Leinster embracedcompetitive cricket in the Senior League. Phoenixalso joined the party after some deliberation. Other teams at this levelincluded R&SPU, Trinity, University College (UCD) and the Royal Hibernian Military School.Clontarf joined in 1920, after their ground had recovered from growingvegetables during the war. County Kildare joined in 1921.But it would take another 4 years before the presentation of an actual SeniorLeague Cup in 1923.
1919 – MERRIONBECOMES AN OPEN CLUB
Merrion 1sts are in Division B of thenewly-formed Intermediate League. The 2nds are in the Junior League. For thefirst time, the club becomes open and accepts members from outside the CivilService. J. O’Donnell is Secretary of the Junior Section within the ExecutiveCommittee of the Leinster Cricket Union (LCU), thereby commencing a period ofservice that will continue into the 1950s. The 1sts finish the season 4/7, with14 points, having played 12, won 7, lost 5. J. O’Donnell scores 102 against OldBelvedere and C. Little scores 56 against YMCA. R. Shortt takes 51 wickets,while Kenny and Little complete a formidable bowling trio, who take 95 wicketsbetween them.
1920 – JUNIORLEAGUE WINNERS
The 1sts finish 3/6 in Division B of theIntermediate League, with 10 points, having played 10, won 5, drawn orabandoned 2, lost 3. The 2nds tie for 1st place with Sandymount 2nds at the endof the season, and win a play-off to win the Junior League. C. Little scores 50for the 2nds against Ordnance Survey. Fryer, Little, Kenny and Shortt continueto share the wickets, with Little taking 7 for 29 in the play-off.
1921 – INTERMEDIATEB LEAGUE RUNNERS-UP
A short, rainy season, with mixed results.Merrion 1sts finish 2/6 in Division B of the Intermediate League, with 20points, having played 10, won 7, lost 2, tied 1. The 2nds are 6/9 in the Junior League, with15 points, having played 14, won 5, lost 9. There is a hint of a Merrion 3rdsfixture this year, although no matches are reported. F. Glanville makes 33 outof a total score of 46 against Civil Service. Broderick, Rumney, Irvine and O’Donnellscore 50s, while Fryer, Shortt and Sheppard share the wickets.
1922 – CIVILWAR
An unsettled season, with bad weather andan inconvenient civil war erupting in the background. Sandymount win theIntermediate League. Merrion are depleted by the early departure of R. H.Shortt to Pembroke, the 1st of several huffy mood swings by the temperamentalopening bowler. There is no sign of a 2nds team this year. Merrion start toplay local schools. J. O’Donnell (Captain) and C. Little feature in a LeinsterJunior Interprovincial against Ulster,which Ulsterwin. There are 50s from J. O’Donnell, E. W. Morris, F. Fryer. Little, O’Donnelland Fryer dominate the bowling:
1923 – INTERMEDIATELEAGUE RUNNERS-UP
Merrion 1sts lose the final of theIntermediate League to Sandymount. A single 2nds fixture is mentioned, but notreported. J. O’Donnell, C. Little and F. Fryer represent Merrion on a JuniorInterprovincial Leinster team, which beats Ulster by 29 runs, Little scoring 40out of a total of 92. Rollie Shortt starts off the season with Pembroke, butreturns to Anglesea Roadfrom Sydney Parade after the first Pembroke fixture. In a year of continuingbad weather, the civil war comes to an end and J. O’Donnell departs for America.Irish Field, Aug 25th: ‘J. A. O’Donnellplayed his last league match for Merrion on Sat, Aug 18th, as he leaves to takeup an appointment in America.Blackrock College will also suffer by his absence, as he was a very usefulcentre three-quarter.’ C. Little takes a hat-trick against Leinster 2nds. F. Fryer repeats the trick againstPembroke 2nds. Little scores over 500 runs, including 1 century, 3 fifties.Fryer takes 44 wickets.
1924 – INTERMEDIATELEAGUE WINNERS
E. T. Cochrane captains Merrion 1sts, withC. Little as vice-captain. After years of being beaten by teams such asLeinster 2nds, Civil Service 2nds and Pembroke 2nds, the wheel begins to turn,and Merrion start trouncing them, dismissing Leinster 2nds for 7 runs on oneoccasion. New knockout competitions are introduced for the Intermediate andJunior Cups, with the League winners earning only caps. Merrion are forced toyield a walk-over to Sandymount in the semi-final of the Intermediate Cup,having failed to complete the rain-affected fixture in time. During yet anotherwet summer, Merrion 1sts win the Intermediate League for the 1st time, breakingSandymount’s 3-year stranglehold. Merrion 2nds start in the Junior League, butfail to turn up for certain matches and are forced to pull out. Little andFryer represent Leinster in an Junior Interprovincial match against Ulster. Shorttgets 65 not out against Leinster 2nds and D.Moran scores 51 against Civil Service 2nds, while Fryer and Shortt get most ofthe wickets.
1925 – INTERMEDIATELEAGUE WINNERS
In their last season in Junior cricket,Merrion 1sts win the Intermediate League again, captained by one R. T. Jones, apseudonym for the ever-present E. T. Cochrane. A strong 2nds re-emerges tofinish 4th in Division B of the Junior League. The Minor League restarts, with just5 teams. Merrion are not represented. Merrion 1sts beat a Phoenix side – including several Gentlemen OfIreland players – in a friendly match, dismissing that year’s Senior Leaguewinners for 14 runs, a result that influences their efforts to join the ranksof Senior cricketers. J. O’Donnell returns from America to play the last few games,while Shortt takes 52 and Fryer 46 scalps. Little scores 474 runs, including 4fifties and 1 century. At the end of another wet season Merrion’s applicationto join the Leinster Senior League is accepted, provided the club undertakes improvementsto the wickets and outfield. The club has remained in the Senior League eversince, despite many vicissitudes along the way.