Episode 48: The man who discovered Eoin Morgan (and other stories)

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

Over twenty years ago an expert watcher predicted that a boy called Eoin Morgan would make his name in world cricket. These and other wonders of Ireland’s rich cricket story are related by author, cricketer, lawyer and all-round man of letters Charles Lysaght, returning by popular demand as guest on the latest cricket-themed podcast by Peter Oborne and Richard Heller.

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Charles downplays with respectful disbelief a new theory that cricket actually has its origins in Ireland, in a local stick-and-ball game called cattie. He notes that no cricket terms have been rendered into Gaelic, with the possible exception of “ciotóg”, a general word for left-hander. Ireland has produced a higher proportion of left-handed batsmen than other countries, which he suggests might reflect the cross-over grip used by right-handers to make shots in hurling.

Charles traces the many links between Irish and Scottish cricket, beginning with the future Duke of Richmond, an early patron of both, who bowled out the future Duke of Wellington (history does not record whether they used a Dukes cricket ball), and continuing with the much-travelled mid-Victorian figure of Charles Lawrence. He took an Irish team to England in 1858 which gained a stunning victory against the MCC.

Charles takes forward the story of Irish cricket before and after Independence, and notes where and with whom it was strongest. Like most sports in Ireland other than association football it remained unified. Apart from one serious incident, cricket was not affected by Ireland’s civil wars. He notes that the revolutionary and IRA chief of staff Cathal Brugha had been a fine cricketer for the Pembroke Club in Dublin under his birth name of Charlie Burgess.

Charles says that the MCC maintained a strong relationship with Irish cricket before and after Independence and there were frequent cricket exchanges between England and Ireland by good players (including Samuel Beckett). However, for many decades Irish-born cricketers did not have much presence in the England team or with English counties. This changed sharply with the big improvement in Irish cricket from the 1990s.  An exodus of Irish cricketers to England has been checked by the arrival of Test and first-class cricket in Ireland, with central contracts for some players. He analyses the economic, social and cricketing factors behind the uplift in Irish cricket, particularly the influence of overseas players and coaches. He tells the vivid story of the discovery of Eoin Morgan, a boy prodigy from the small community of Rush, at around age 11 by the notable Irish wicketkeeper (and many other things), Lingard Goulding.

He picks out highlights from the history of women’s cricket in Ireland, including a major contribution by the sisters of Ed Joyce of Middlesex.

Sporting its magnificent multi-coloured blazer, Charles tells the history of the celebrated Leprechauns cricket club, of which he became President. Its founder, the enigmatic Ted Bowlby, had a fascinating serial life which might have been a subject for a Graham Greene novel. He narrowly escaped prosecution for wartime treachery (with Lord Haw-Haw he broadcast for Hitler) through his Irish and was able to reinvent himself in Ireland as Charles Salvin Bowlby, schoolmaster and cricket loving Anglophile.

He describes his own experience of playing cricket in Ireland and at Cambridge in the 1950s and early 1960s – including an unusual “mutual assistance pact” with Mike Brearley, then Cambridge University captain.

The literary event of the year is imminent: the publication of Wisden Cricketers Almanack.  Peter and Richard invite listeners to submit their nominations for the Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year to obornehellercricket@outlook.com. They will present the results in advance of Wisden’s Please remember that players cannot appear twice in the Wisden Five, to avoid wasting a nomination!

Listen to more episodes of Oborne & Heller

Previous Episode – Episode 47: The great Pakistani fast bowler who nearly became a Hollywood movie star

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Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

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