History of the Leprechauns CC

This page is under construction, but in the meantime, here's a story of an early Leprechauns fixture.....
or click here to read Morgan Dockrell's poem to commemorate 60 years of fixtures in St Columba's College




Godfrey Graham

Jimmy Boucher had started to invite me to play in some festival matches. I was sixteen and had done well as a result of coaching by Joe Pigot – the best coach I ever had. The Schoolboy Cricket at Blackrock College had also helped me. I joined Pembroke Cricket Club where most of the Rock boys went and was playing by then on the first eleven. Boucher asked me to play for the Leprechauns against Lord Dunsany’s Team on his estate in County Meath. I was excited because it would give me a chance to bowl my slow leg breaks against batsmen who had not seen my bowling and to play with some International big name cricketers.

It was a glorious June day. I was travelling in a red MG Sportscar, the model with the long bonnet and the sparkling chrome radiator. Jimmy Gill of Leinster was in the front passenger seat – no belts in those days. I was stuck in the back seat with the other two cricket bags. I had Alan Murray’s ‘old leather’ bag, the Alan Murray who originated the twenty overs idea. Murray had bequeathed his bag to me after he played his last club game for Pembroke the previous Saturday. In the dressing room he threw his bag over to me saying, ‘I won’t need this anymore – here kid you take it’. I had it for the next fifty years and my wife said it was like an old leather coffin. In the MG my problem was I could hardly see out. I was badly crushed looking through a little chink in the hood, it was lucky we weren’t going to Kerry. I could see through the leather gap hedges and gates and high grass swaying just by the side of the road in the draught created by our car. There were beautiful cattle in slow motion in the heat of the summer day and the meadows were full of butterflies and bees. Rolston, who was driving, was in Trinity and telling us how he had brought off a diving one handed catch the previous Sunday in a game against Phoenix in the Park. Unfortunately, he destroyed his brand new flannels and when he got to his feet the umpire at the bowlers end told him that the batsman was not out because Rolston had overstepped the line, the frustration of the game we love.

In 1952 Ireland had not changed much since the ‘30’s. The rhythm of life in the cities and towns was beginning to anticipate the modern Ireland of Sean Lemass’ early ‘60’s period. The country areas and villages were still in a kind of twilight zone. Suddenly the gleaming radiator of the MG swept through the great gates of Lord Dunsany’s castle, a drive of about 200 yards brought us to the castle. Jimmy Gill, a man of the world in his thirties, had explained to us that since it was nearly noon Lord Dunsany would have cocktail and maybe finger food, if not a spot of lunch, to welcome us. As our three cars stopped at the great door it was flung open mysteriously by a footman, a tall dark haired man, about seventy, emerged in regimental blazer with crest, grey flannels, moustache and hair swept back rather like the Denis Compton Brylcreem luck and wearing brown and cream patent leather shoes. Jimmy Gill told us he had seen action in the Great War. Lord Dunsany said, `you are all welcome’. Our Captain, Michael Brennan, stepped forward, they shook hands. We anticipated an invitation to enter the castle, instead Dunsany said, `my chaps are waiting for you in the village and I shall join you later’ and he turned on his heel and he was gone. The great door of the castle slammed shut with a thud.

The Leprechauns were speechless! Brennan said, `follow me men’ as if he was mounting his tank to race off to fight the next skirmish. Ten minutes later we were in Dunsany village. We got out of our tanks and we noticed there was a group of men and boys standing under an oak tree. We approached them led by our captain. Their skipper stepped forward, a man with a large handlebar moustache and said, `welcome to Dunsany, the field is near by, follow us in your cars’. We drove behind our hosts at walking pace. It felt like we were accompanying a bereaved family. The field was ringed with high chestnut trees in full summer blossom, there were also some copper beeches which cradled the ground beautifully. The grass was emerald green and about four inches long. Our skipper, Brennan, looked all around the ground with a puzzled expression on his face and said to their skipper, `where do me disgarb?’ in a rather pompous tone. Their skipper did not answer for what seemed a long time and finally said, ‘they usually put their working clothes on the hedges and bushes around the place’.

Brennan’s face went quite pale as he looked at his team of Leprechauns. Next to him was Jimmy Boucher who had hundreds of wickets for Ireland and in 1938 had bowled against the Australian Touring Team with his quickish off breaks. Bill Haughton, who the West Indian Test Batsman, Sir Learie Constantine, had said was the hardest hitting young batsman he had ever seen and other players present who had trod the green swathe of Lords had now nowhere to change. Ciaran O’Malley, Frank Miller and Jimmy Gill just shrugged. For me as a kid of sixteen it was certainly a first. The group of us gradually and very very slowly began like a bunch of snails to take off jackets and sweaters and hang them on the less prickly adjacent bushes. Frank Miller was our wicket keeper and clapped his gloves together and said, ‘we’ve got to make the best of this chaps.’ The two teams stood and eyed each other. Some of our team were hanging handmade shirts on prickly bushes that had been crafted by Tyson’s of Grafton Street who also made the racing colours for the British Royal family at that time. It began to dawn on us as we stepped into immaculate cream flannels, Leprechaun sweaters and cricket boots - a sweater that had cost me three weeks pay at thirty shillings a week in Tyson’s, that the local team were going to play in what they stood up in, black and blue trousers, immaculate white shirts and hobnail boots. This was not cricket. Bill Haughton, who was a realist and a Men’s Hockey International, who was known not to take prisoners said, `let’s get on with the job, let’s get at them’.

There was no toss of a coin. Dunsany’s captain said, `you can bat first’. It sounded more like an order but we obeyed. It was the first thing we had been given all day. Some of us went out to look at the wicket. We had noticed that the grass was quite long. The wicket was rolled and had a muddy sticky look about it. When we came nearer we realised it smelt a bit like cowdung which apparently had been used to bind the surface. David Pigot and Jimmy Gill opened the batting for the Leprechauns. Both players scored hundreds of runs for Leinster and Phoenix season after season. I watched the local captain set the field. I noticed he had a mid-on and mid-off twenty five yards from the batsman for defence against the on and off drive. He then set two men, one at silly mid-off and silly mid-on. These two players were three yards from the bat. He had a first slip and a gully, a fine leg twenty five yards from the bat, a deep square leg and the rest of the fielders were in the covers. The Dunsany opening bowler was a man in his thirties, wearing a big thick leather belt with a gold buckle. Later we found out that he was the village blacksmith. His arms and shoulders were very muscular. He carefully measured his run which was all of four paces, so we assumed that he was a slow bowler but when he got to the crease a round arm delivery fired more like a discus thrower that flew directly at David Pigot’s head at lightning speed and this was long before helmets. David ducked; the wicket keeper took the ball which nearly knocked him over. The remaining deliveries in the over were even faster. David played a cover drive for one which on a normal ground, with the grass cut tight, would have gone for four.

David suffered from hay fever and I often saw him before batting wash his eyes out with a well known liquid, which had a little purple thimble which seemed to help him in the warm sultry summer air full of pollen. Jimmy Gill was very orthodox in style and was ready to face the other opening bowler who took a fifteen yard run, very fast up to the popping crease, but at the last moment stopped dead and the batsman got a slow donkey drop which was very unsettling for Jimmy because he had time to almost play two shots at the ball. The next delivery Jimmy hooked to leg which should have gone for four but stopped dead in the long grass. Players who have been coached sometimes play in too technical a style. What was needed was to attack the bowling, hitting the ball in the air. Pigot was beginning to do this but every few minutes he seemed to have a sneezing fit and it struck me that maybe the smell from the wicket was literally getting up David’s nose which complicated things a bit. David Pigot was one of the most stylish batsmen in Dublin cricket in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. He should have been selected to play for Ireland ten years before he got his first cap. When he did get international honours he went on to score hundreds of runs for Ireland.

David was hitting the ball in the air now but we had only scored twenty five runs – something had to be done to attack the two close fielders at silly mid-on and silly mid-off who were making terrific stops and were glaring straight into the eyes of our two batsmen. They were like cats ready to pounce. David and Jimmy were being watched by our captain who was trying to convey to them the importance of attacking the bowling. The crablike action approach of their bowler was causing a lot of difficulty. David was trying to decide how best to cope with the situation. He managed to hook the crabman for six into the high chestnut trees, disturbing three woodpigeons who had the calm of the afternoon explode in their faces causing a lot of blossom to fall from the high tree, giving a sort of freak summer snow flurry. Tempers were up by now. The important thing in all sport is not to lose the head. The blacksmith eyed David for much longer before he began to start the over, like a rhino about to charge. The first delivery was a full toss and David drove the ball straight at the silly mid-off fielder who was one of the older players on the local team. He did not move anything except his right arm and hand and caught the ball in front of his face as if he was doing this kind of thing every day of his life. I hadn’t seen a cricket ball hit harder. David was flabbergasted and left the field. When David got in to our little bush camp surrounded by hedges he was heard to say to Jimmy Boucher ‘it was miserable out there, I never saw such a wicket in my life, the strange smell out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were using a form of germ warfare against us’.

We were now thirty for one. The whole bowling attack was so unconventional our batsmen just could not settle. Ciaran O’Malley was next. He had a diminutive build, just like Ricky Ponting. Small players seem to make good batsmen, golfers and hurlers, being close to the ground seems to make a difference. The six foot two opening bowler looked more like a basketball player with the long fast run and a slow delivery. Ciaran had no difficulty waiting and cutting him past cover point for four, then Ciaran pulled him to the square leg boundary for six. Our total was now forty four. Brennan was beginning to feel a little better now. The Dunsany fielders were very very fast and it was difficult to get the ball past them. Jimmy Gill was facing the blacksmith whose arm was getting lower and lower. It didn’t help when he was bowling out of a black oak tree in a darker part of the ground. Jimmy pushed a couple of singles. The next ball was a Yorker which hit Jimmy on the boot. There was a massive appeal from all the fielders. It was his back foot. The Umpire slowly raised his finger out leg before wicket. Two wickets down Gill limped off and had a bruised toe for the next month. Jimmy was the man who scored a hundred for Ireland on his debut but never played again for his country. The next batsman was Bill Haughton. Bill could win a match on his own. His Achilles heel was that he was a very poor starter. Right from the first ball he would try to attack the bowling. If he clicked, you won the match. We prayed that this would be one of his good days.

A change of bowling, a school boy, like a Huckleberry Finn character, was handed the ball. He wore a short scarf round his neck. We were not sure if it was the Dunsany colours. It was knotted around his neck and it was about three feet long so it flowed as he ran before letting the ball ago. He was quickish. Ciaran O’Malley took the first over which was quite accurate. He scored three runs. Bill Haughton was facing the blacksmith who had gone to bowl around the wicket. Bill had been watching him for quite a while before he came in and had decided how he was going to attack him. Haughton chased four paces down the wicket and took the ball on the full toss hitting it straight out of the ground. It was still going upwards as it crossed the boundary line in mid air between the chestnut and the copper beech trees into a corn field. The local captain advised not to go into the field that we might damage the corn crop which was about a foot and a half high. Another ball was provided. Bill looked at the ball, it was much newer. His attitude was that if it was harder it would travel further when he hit it so he wasn’t much bothered. It was not as simple as that. The new cherry started to swing; the school boy was bowling inswingers out of his flying scarf. Bill was six not out and continued to hit everything he could. Ciaran O’Malley objected to the umpire saying that the school boy with the flying scarf was affecting his vision of the ball and the scarf would have to go. This request was ignored by the boy who said he couldn’t get it loose, it was too tight so he would continue wearing it. The umpire said he would send for a scissors if necessary. Hey presto! The scarf was unattached with great difficulty by the school boy, with helpers.

Now at this stage Bill was running short runs in order to push the scoring on. The boy bowler bowled an out swinger which Ciaran O’Malley late cut passed gully and Bill running to the other end lost his footing on the sticky wicket and fell and was run out. What a disaster! Our next man was the great Jimmy Boucher who had played for Ireland many times and was a quickish off break bowler. He had been to Belvedere and over the years had developed into a very good middle order batsman and at this level of cricket would be a quality performer with a bat. The school boy bowler, now without scarf, bowled his first ball to Jimmy which was an inswinger. Jimmy was hit on the front pad but was deemed not out. The next ball was very good and was on the off stump. Jimmy was watching this young bowler very carefully. Jimmy and Ciaran brought the score to sixty six before Ciaran played the ball onto his stumps and left the scene. Our skipper, Michael Brennan, was next. He never really settled. The discus throwing round arm bowler caused him great difficulty and hit him on his thigh and in the stomach. The final misfortune was he took a beamer on the shoulder and had to retire hurt. The next man was Frank Miller of Railway Union, one of the best wicket keepers Ireland ever had. I had the good fortune of bowling when Frank was keeping wicket and he got a number of stumpings for me. However, he did not have quite as fast a left hand as Harry Hill of Pembroke – God be good to him. Jimmy and Frank moved the score on to eighty five with some short runs. The blacksmith was given a rest and the tall opening bowler returned with a long run and no pace. However, a donkey dropper accounted for Frank Miller landing on top of the stumps almost impossible to play. I was next.

I had batted for Pembroke seconds and firsts at number nine so not much was expected of me with the bat. When I got to the middle Boucher came down to talk to me. He said, ‘we have to stay together kid. You hold up your end and I’ll get the runs at the other’. But he said to me, ‘no short singles. I’m forty six and you’re only sixteen’. We managed to put on fifteen runs and I got an inswinger that knocked my off stump out of the ground. We could not make out whether the school boy knew how he was swinging the ball. Did he know what he was doing or was it a complete accident? But he was beginning to cause havoc with this new cherry. It was a very sultry day, only the sound of the woodpigeons cooing and our wickets tumbling. Rolston was next in. He bowled fast but was rather erratic, very like his temperament, a bit like how he drove his MG and could not bat. Another ten runs were scored before Rolston, trying to hook smashed his bat into his own stumps. One bail flew and was caught by the silly mid-on fieldsman. He put the bail in his pocket for safe keeping. Our fast bowler, Burke, from Merrion hit the first ball he received for six and tried to do the same with the next delivery and was clean bowled. We were all out for one hundred and twelve runs. The local team were very very alert and seemed to have great reflexes; they knew what had to be done and how to ‘do it’. I suppose it was because of working on the land in all seasons, in all weathers. We waited and then their skipper said, ‘back to the village for tea’.

I remember very well the sound of our cricket boots on the roadway and the metallic clicks of the Dunsany men and the hobnail boots. About thirty of us walked down under the trees that arched over the little roadway. It was like walking through a tunnel of lush green summer. Two tables had been set up in front of the village hall near a big chestnut tree full of blossoms and covered with bumble bees, two great black teapots, scones and jam sandwiches and a bowl of Dunsany honey which seemed to attract some of the bees from overhead who must have recognised their own home honey. The tea was black and strong and boy did we need it then. The whole experience to date had been something of a shock. Suddenly we were aware of Dunsany himself who said, ‘you are all very welcome’, and we mingled together with dogs and cats and even some hens as we enjoyed the hospitality. Michael Brennan whispered in my ear, ‘you know the only way we’re going to win this match is that you and Jimmy will have to spin them out’. I could not have realised that in another lifetime thirty years from then, I would meet another Dunsany again. Odran Walsh, Brian Cleeve and Denis O’Callaghan would return again to Dunsany Castle. This time we were allowed in. Dunsany’s son had agreed to give us his family’s memories of the Slane poet Francis Ledwidge and he reminisced to us how his father tried to encourage the young poet who sent little poems in his exercise school book to Lord Dunsany who was so impressed gave the young boy access to the extensive library at Dunsany Castle. We would travel on to Ypres in Belgium and film the trenches of the First World War which remain there to this day as a grim reminder, where so many of our Irish men from north and south gave their lives. Ledwidge would never come home to his beautiful County Meath.

The blacksmith and the school boy opened the batting. Our fast bowlers, Rolston and Burke, went into full attack. This didn’t seem to make the slightest difference to the local batsman who were moving their feet very well and hitting balls high in the air, out of the ground into the trees. They had scored thirty runs in a twinkling. Jimmy Boucher was brought into the attack. He had taken over three hundred wickets for Ireland. Jimmy was bowling downhill. I was fielding at short square leg. Jimmy was bowling at the blacksmith and he dropped straight on to a length and was getting six to eight inches of turn. The third ball was hit out of the ground for six. As people will know the art of bowling is the control of line and length and flight. Jimmy varied his off-spin, turning some balls and then the famous arm ball which does not turn and continues straight on and is generally quicker. This is how he caused the end of the blacksmith, knocking his off stump out of the ground. One down for thirty six runs, Brennan handed me the ball.

I can’t tell you what this meant to me at the time. To bowl in tandem with the great Boucher was quite a thrill. The master craftsman bowling off-spin at one end and the kid leg spinner of sixteen at the other end. I pitched my first leg break on the off stump. It turned eight inches. The batsman looked at it as it went by into Frank Miller’s gloves. Frank nodded at me and smiled as much to say we have spin. My next delivery was a top spinner which went straight on and hit the front foot of the batsman but was too far forward for LBW. My next ball was a leg-spin which was over pitched and was hit by the batsman for six over mid wicket. I worried as a young bowler if you become expensive the captain may take you off. My next ball was hit for four so I was becoming worried. I changed to bowling around the wicket for my next ball and I pitched a leg- break outside the batsman’s legs. It bowled him right around his back and hit leg stump. What happiness that moment gave me! Frank Miller the wicket keeper was overjoyed. That was two wickets down for fifty eight runs.

As the late afternoon faded into warm evening light, sending shafts of light through the big trees, I was now fielding in the deep about seventy yards away from the batsman. Jimmy took another two wickets. The lovely thing about cricket is that when you’re fielding in the deep away from the bat, you look at the batsman play the ball and provided it is not coming at you, you can completely relax, your mind may wander. On this lovely ground with the high trees I remembered the lovely girl I had seen at the dance in the Pembroke Pavilion the previous Sunday. I was also thinking will I be able to hold my place on the Pembroke Firsts. Suddenly I realised the ball was coming straight at me at chest height. I lunged forward and completely missed the ball which went for four. I picked it up and threw it back to Frank Miller over the bails. I was really upset, I had completely lost my concentration. Our Skipper, Michael Brennan, was standing at mid off with his hands on his hips stared right at me. He was not pleased!

What I couldn’t know at the time was that within a season or so, Boucher would ask me to join Phoenix where I would bowl in tandum with him over the next glorious ten seasons, playing with the great Quinn brothers and Michael Dargan. I had been capped for Ireland during my Pembroke days where I had been lucky enough to be captained by Ciaran O’Malley, Stanley Bergin and Bill Haughton. At seventeen I would play with Boucher in his last appearance for Ireland against Scotland in 1954 and have the great adventure of being coached at Lords with Middlesex and got the chance to bowl at the great Denis Compton.

Within a short time the Dunsany team passed our miserable total and they still had three batsmen to spare. We simply had not adapted to the country conditions. We were under the impression that we were superior cricketers and we were totally outplayed by our country cousins. In the pub after the game we were told by some locals that we had been playing a team who were very skilled hurlers who also played cricket and had adapted certain techniques which they had learned from the ancient Irish game. Many years later when I was working with R.T.E. Sports Department I was lucky enough to film a practice match in the town of Kilkenny. Our Director asked Brian Cody to let me take a position with the camera on the halfway line in the centre of the field with my sound colleague Pat Johns. D.J. Carey and the whole Kilkenny team were involved in a practice match. Now I always knew that hurling was one of the most skilled games in the world and in the middle of the field I finally grasped the sheer speed of the travelling sliotar, the hard tackling and above all the single handed catching of the slider which I immediately remembered how the Dunsany men had shown such courage and skill in that department.

With the passage of over fifty years where have our lives gone? Michael Brennan, our captain, went on the join the MCC Club and was a regular fixture in the long room at Lords. He could be observed occupying his favourite high stool at most Test Matches just at the door where the players passed through to take the field of play and where batsmen returned after the very long walk dismissed for a duck. Michael would say, ‘bad luck Sir’. When a batsman had made a hundred Michael was the first person to greet the hero with ‘well played sir’ and would shake the hand of the centurion. Michael passed through another door a couple of years ago. He is now in the great long room in the sky where his memories touch on how he managed a touring team from India playing cricket in Ireland. His memories of playing at Railway Union, that visit in flaming June 1952 to the village of Dunsany must linger in Michael’s consciousness, like the happy moments we all have who love sport of any kind.

The visit to Dunsany. Did it really happen? It’s like a mirage now. How could a country team beat the Leprechauns who had Jimmy Boucher, Bill Haughton, Jimmy Gill, Frank Miller, Ciaran O’Malley and David Pigot?

The trouble is for Michael, memory has a habit of playing tricks, especially when you are in the great long room of cricket in the sky.




Morgan Dockrell

Come, gather round, Columbans/Leprechauns,
Stifle, or else conceal, your ripening yawns,
While I reactivate my verse-ignition
To celebrate our Sixty Year Tradition;
For we, in friendly rivalry combine
Since June the 15th 1949.
Flash-back:- December 16th , '48,
Ignoring which would brand me an ingrate.
Within the precincts of a bank, in Bray,
The Leprechauns were launched upon their way:
Chief Architect, C.Bowlby, man of mystery,
Furnished the format for our future history.
Others deserving gratitude/attention,
Meriting more than one mere line of mention:-
Sir Stanley Cochrane, President, (OC);
The Sowbys, Warden, David; George McVeagh;
Lord Rugby; CP's Founder, 'W.P.T.'
(Apologies for shaky scansion here!-
I sacrifice it for a friend most dear.)
With missionary zeal, Faith, Hope, unbounded,
A Common Wealth, for Irish sport, was founded...
Today, in grim Recessionary Times,
This Happy Theme to stimulate my rhymes!
Respite from "Banksters", Child-Abuse Reports,
To celebrate the King of Summer Sports.
Come Muse! Inspire me now with lines succinct
To honour Names with this Tradition linked;
Names who stand out in our six-decade span;
Though some pose problems for a Rhyming Man:-
Jacobson, Mahony, Graham, (foes to rhyming),
Dineen, the blazered Lysaght (famed for timing);
Skeffington, Amoroso (gifts for scanning);
College Supremos N.H.Lush, L.Canning;
McCaw (G.), born both brush and bat to wield,
Whose strokes adorned the Canvas and the Field:
Goulding, behind the stumps an agile leaper,
Quick-scoring batsman, zestful wicket-keeper.
These, plus so many more, become alive
While memory makes "the burnt-out Junes revive".

Six Decades On: Prized Sporting Link unswerving;
Proud Joint-Tradition, worth our Joint-Preserving.

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