The Early Years
In the absence of any club records prior to1945, the research for this article depended largely on reports in the The Irish Times, Sunday Independent and Irish Field. Although much of the junior cricket played in those days went unreported in detail, most of the fixtures were documented, providing the nucleus of each season’s span.
Merrion Cricket Club was founded in 1906 by several members of the defunct Land Commission Cricket team, who had played at Lansdowne Road from1892-1900.
Research indicates that many members of this Land Commission team were graduates of the Blackrock College Civil Service Training College.
The 1st report of a cricket match being played by Merrion Cricket Club was on Saturday, May 5th, 1906. The writer states: ‘This match, which was to have been played as a league match on Saturday, was, owing to a late start, played as a friendly instead, and resulted in a win for Malahide by 25 runs and 9 wickets.’
So began the story of Merrion cricket, born of enthusiastic parents from the old Land Commission Club and bolstered by members of other government departments in the Upper Merrion Street area, 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 home ground at Mulally Fields, Dolphin’s Barn, behind the site of the former Imperial Tobacco Company, where they were to remain until the move to Anglesea Road in 1908. 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 and lincoln green, and the city Coat of Arms, part of which features the three castles with the burning towers, symbolising the power of its citizens to defend 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 Land Commission 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 were not 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.
MERRION CRICKET CLUB BEGINS
J. A. Swaine purchases the lease from Ryan Estates 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. The Junior League is split on merit into 2 divisions, each of which is split into two tables – A and B. Merrion 1sts are in Division 1B; Merrion 2nds are in Division 2B. Of 12 reported fixtures, 3 are won and 9 are lost. Neither team won anything. M. Martin and A. W. Ball emerge as stars of the new club.
MERRION WITHDRAW FROM LEAGUES
Merrion is not mentioned in either the Junior or Minor League tables, suggesting a temporary withdrawal from league cricket by the club. During a limited season, they play only friendlies, winning most of them, including a close game against the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS), a strong cricketing force at that time.
MERRION MOVE TO ANGLESEA ROAD
Merrion’s 1st season at Anglesea Road is inauspicious. In the Junior 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. Of the 43 players used this season, only 15 work in the Land Commission. Despite the change of name and expanded pool of players, the team is still regarded by many as the Land Commission. The Cricket Chatter column in the Irish Field of August 1st, 1908 reports: ‘The Land Commission team is but a shadow of what it was some years ago, and unless a few enthusiastic members bestir themselves and others the club will soon become extinct. They have a nice little ground at Anglesea Road, near Donnybrook, which only needs some levelling and rolling to make it quite presentable.’
MERRION WITHDRAW FROM LEAGUES AGAIN
Apparently nobody does bestir themselves, as Merrion withdraw from all leagues again to lick their wounds. They play only friendlies and win most of those. A Merrion Associated Football Club plays soccer at Anglesea Road, and there are plans for a Merrion Rugby Club, with 3 teams, to move from Rutland Avenue to Anglesea Road the following winter, where they will continue to play until 1921. All 3 sports involve members of the Land Commission. A few years later, the ground will be used to play soccer by Dublin United, Shelbourne and Cafolla’s, makers of ice cream.
IRISH CRICKET UNION FORMED
The Leinster Cricket Union is dissolved and the Leinster Branch of the Irish Cricket Union replaces it. A recovery of sorts is 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 against the same team. On May 14th, future president E. T. Cochrane (Uncle to subsequent Merrion schoolboy player, Michael Halliday) makes his 1st appearance in Merrion colours against Pembroke 2nds.
MERRION 3RD IN JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION A
Merrion have a tendency to win matches when batting first, and fall apart when batting last, suggesting a somewhat less than satisfactory level of fitness in their players. Merrion 1sts are more settled 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 and Fitzpatrick score 50s, while Dix, Drummond and Irvine take most of the wickets.
MERRION 4TH IN JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION A
This year only 12 of the 20 players work in the Land Commission. J. Dix scores 45 runs, batting at number 11. F. S. Irvine takes 8 wickets against Railway Union. Despite some low scores, a decent all-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.
RELEGATION TO JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION 2
Of the 40 players used this year, 13 are known to be employed in the Land Commission. J. A. Harrison scores 68 against Richmond Asylum. E. T. Cochrane scores 53 against Clontarf 2nds and 51 against Railway Union. S. Kirkpatrick takes 8 wickets against Richmond Asylum. Success continues to elude the club. By now the Junior League has been split into two divisions, 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.
JUNIOR LEAGUE, 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, and are 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 a game against Clontarf 3rds is cancelled due to Merrion 2nds not turning up. Of the 38 players used this season, only 10 are known members of the Land Commission. 1st appearance of a 14-year-old Cecil Little. On June 13th, Little makes 1 not out for Merrion 2nds against R&SPU. As he is a boarder in Kilkenny College at the time, it seems that the club has started coaching younger players with no links to the Land Commission and Upper Merrion Street. J. Smyth scores 50s against Leinster 3rds and Sandymount 2nds. Hill, Smyth and Fryer take the wickets.
THE MERRION ALLOTMENTS
Another dismal season. In the true sense of the 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 dismissed for 8 runs, possibly a record low score for a Merrion team, with 8 of the batsmen 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 future captain and president, Jack (Geke) O’Donnell. He takes all 8 wickets against R&SPU 2nds, while Irvine takes 9 wickets against Palmerstown. The Irish Field reports that for many clubs, members serving with the colours are to be granted honorary membership for the season. As did most of the Dublin clubs, Merrion makes its own contribution to the war effort by growing vegetables in allotments along the Dunluce side of the ground.
JUNIOR LEAGUE, DIVISION B RUNNERS-UP
Because of the Easter Rising, the season is shortened. The Junior League is split into 2 divisions of 5 teams each, with Merrion in Division B. A play-off is planned for August 19th. There is no Minor League. Irish Field: ‘The AGM of the Leinster Junior & Minor League was held in the Imperial Hotel on April 22nd. It was unanimously decided that no cup or caps be awarded to the team winning the Junior League title this season.’ One Merrion victim of the Rising was W. J. O’Gara, who met with a sad accident. While in 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 of blood, and his leg had to be amputated below the knee. Years later, Cecil Little would tell the story of playing cricket in Anglesea Road towards the end of the Rising and noticing the flames of the GPO rising above the trees in Herbert Park, causing a hasty retreat to the nearest pub.
Of the 21 Merrion players this year, only 4 work 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.
MERRION 9TH IN JUNIOR LEAGUE
Of the 35 players used this year, only 3are current or ex-employees of the Land Commission. The see-saw nature of Merrion’s junior cricket tenure continues with yet another abysmal season. There is only one Leinster Junior League division, with 10 teams in it. Despite some close games, Merrion finish the season in 9th place, with 6 points, having played 17, won 3, lost 13, drawn 1. J. O’Donnell scores 65 not out against Richmond 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.
JUNIOR LEAGUE RUNNERS-UP
This is the season that Merrion turns the corner 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 Junior League for the first time. However, they falter at the final hurdle against R&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. First appearance of future legend, Roland Henry (Rollie) Shortt. T. Kenny takes 65wickets. C. Phillips makes 76 not out against Pembroke Wanderers and C. Little blasts 77 against CYM.
The Leinster League structure was reorganised after the war, with the introduction of a formal Senior League, an Intermediate League, and a Junior League. Most of the top teams, such as Civil Service, Pembroke and Leinster embraced competitive cricket in the Senior League. Phoenix also joined the party after some deliberation. Other teams at this level included R&SPU, Trinity, University College (UCD) and the Royal Hibernian Military School. Clontarf joined in 1920, after their ground had recovered from growing vegetables during the war. County Kildare joined in 1921.But it would take another 4 years before the presentation of an actual Senior League Cup in 1923.
MERRION BECOMES AN OPEN CLUB
Merrion 1sts are in Division B of the newly-formed Intermediate League. The 2nds are in the Junior League. For the first time, the club becomes open and accepts members from outside the Civil Service. J. O’Donnell is Secretary of the Junior Section within the Executive Committee of the Leinster Cricket Union (LCU), thereby commencing a period of service 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 Old Belvedere and C. Little scores 56 against YMCA. R. Shortt takes 51 wickets, while Kenny and Little complete a formidable bowling trio, who take 95 wickets between them.
JUNIOR LEAGUE WINNERS
The 1sts finish 3/6 in Division B of the Intermediate League, with 10 points, having played 10, won 5, drawn or abandoned 2, lost 3. The 2nds tie for 1st place with Sandymount 2nds at the end of 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 continue to share the wickets, with Little taking 7 for 29 in the play-off.
INTERMEDIATE B 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 3rds fixture this year, although no matches are reported. F. Glanville makes 33 out of a total score of 46 against Civil Service. Broderick, Rumney, Irvine and O’Donnell score 50s, while Fryer, Shortt and Sheppard share the wickets.
An unsettled season, with bad weather and an inconvenient civil war erupting in the background. Sandymount win the Intermediate League. Merrion are depleted by the early departure of R. H.Shortt to Pembroke, the 1st of several huffy mood swings by the temperamental opening bowler. There is no sign of a 2nds team this year. Merrion start to play local schools. J. O’Donnell (Captain) and C. Little feature in a Leinster Junior Interprovincial against Ulster, which Ulster win. There are 50s from J. O’Donnell, E. W. Morris, F. Fryer. Little, O’Donnell and Fryer dominate the bowling.
INTERMEDIATE LEAGUE RUNNERS-UP
Merrion 1sts lose the final of the Intermediate League to Sandymount. A single 2nds fixture is mentioned, but not reported. J. O’Donnell, C. Little and F. Fryer represent Merrion on a Junior Interprovincial Leinster team, which beats Ulster by 29 runs, Little scoring 40out of a total of 92. Rollie Shortt starts off the season with Pembroke, but returns to Anglesea Road from Sydney Parade after the first Pembroke fixture. In a year of continuing bad weather, the civil war comes to an end and J. O’Donnell departs for America. Irish Field, Aug 25th: ‘J. A. O’Donnell played his last league match for Merrion on Sat, Aug 18th, as he leaves to take up an appointment in America. Blackrock College will also suffer by his absence, as he was a very useful centre three-quarter.’ C. Little takes a hat-trick against Leinster 2nds. F. Fryer repeats the trick against Pembroke 2nds. Little scores over 500 runs, including 1 century, 3 fifties. Fryer takes 44 wickets.
INTERMEDIATE LEAGUE WINNERS
E. T. Cochrane captains Merrion 1sts, with C. Little as vice-captain. After years of being beaten by teams such as Leinster 2nds, Civil Service 2nds and Pembroke 2nds, the wheel begins to turn, and Merrion start trouncing them, dismissing Leinster 2nds for 7 runs on one occasion. New knockout competitions are introduced for the Intermediate and Junior Cups, with the League winners earning only caps. Merrion are forced to yield 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 another wet summer, Merrion 1sts win the Intermediate League for the 1st time, breaking Sandymount’s 3-year stranglehold. Merrion 2nds start in the Junior League, but fail to turn up for certain matches and are forced to pull out. Little and Fryer represent Leinster in an Junior Interprovincial match against Ulster. Shortt gets 65 not out against Leinster 2nds and D. Moran scores 51 against Civil Service 2nds, while Fryer and Shortt get most of the wickets.
INTERMEDIATE LEAGUE WINNERS
In their last season in Junior cricket, Merrion 1sts win the Intermediate League again, captained by one R. T. Jones, a pseudonym for the ever-present E. T. Cochrane. A strong 2nds re-emerges to finish 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 Of Ireland players – in a friendly match, dismissing that year’s Senior League winners for 14 runs, a result that influences their efforts to join the ranks of 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 application to join the Leinster Senior League is accepted, provided the club undertakes improvements to the wickets and outfield. The club has remained in the Senior League ever since, despite many vicissitudes along the way.