The Mitchell Era (1890-1902)
Dr (later Lt. Col.) A.B. Mitchell took over the captaincy of the club in 1890 and under his inspired leadership and enthusiasm there followed a period of outstanding success for the club. In 1893 the club won it’s first trophy , when the Junior cup was won by Enfield who defeated holders Ulidia . The team included F.J. (Frank) Williams one of the last ‘grub’ bowlers who delivered the ball underhand . The Junior cup was won again in 1895 with another victory over Ulidia. The following year, 1896, Cliftonville reached the final of the Senior Cup defeating Holywood over two innings. One footnote from the final was the inclusion of a ‘W. Denne’ in the Cliftonville line up. This was in fact, the Captain, Dr. Mitchell, who was a surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast , who played under the anonymity of a pseudonym as hospital authorities had become incensed at his greater devotion to cricketing rather than medical duties.
Another team member, Jimmy Campbell , was one of the finest all-round sportsmen that Ireland has ever produced. As a fast right arm bowler , he opened the attack for Cliftonville for many years, as a batsman scored many fifties and as a fielder he was equally brilliant in the covers or the slips. He won countless trophies for athletics, gymnastics, cycling, swimming and tennis. He was, however , best remembered as a footballer , playing for Cliftonville , and represented Ireland as an outside right in twenty three Internationals. The Senior league competition was inaugurated in 1896 , and Cliftonville achieved ‘the double’ after tying with North Down for this competition. 1897 saw the first century to be scored by a Cliftonville Batsmen , Capt Cox getting 101 not out in a league game against North Down . Capt Cox was attached to the Royal Fusiliers , who were stationed in Belfast at the time.
The arrival of Dr. Mitchell on the Cliftonville scene had not only secured success on the field of play , but his energies had also been directed towards improving the playing and social amenities of the club. He had not only had the square re-laid (at his own expense) but had promoted the building of a fine pavilion and the laying of tennis courts. the club had now in fact become Cliftonville cricket and lawn tennis club. Despite the financial support given by the doctor personally, by 1897 so much had been spent that the club found itself in severe financial difficulties. Dr Mitchell, however, soon found a solution. Backed by an enthusiastic and energetic committee , he decided to hold a three day carnival on the ground at the close of the 1898 season. The Carnival was a huge success, not only was the club able to free itself of debt but enough money was made to enable a professional to be engaged for the seasons 1899-1902 . This was J.W. Welford who had played for Warwickshire and Durham. Bill Yiend , from Gloucester , had played in the company of W.G. Grace and his brothers and on coming to Belfast in 1902, the former England rugby international was persuaded by Dr. Mitchell to throw his lot in with Cliftonville. He played for Ulster against Leinster that same year and represented the NCU against the South of Scotland . He returned to England at the end of 1902 , but was back in Belfast and at Cliftonville between 1915-1917 . He continued to have an association with the club until his death in 1939.
Dr. Mitchell retired from the captaincy of Cliftonville when he was made President of the NCU in 1901 and along with R.M. Erskine of Holywood as secretary, proceeded to organise the affairs of the Union with as much imagination and energy as he had done so at Cliftonville. although not himself a player of any outstanding ability , Dr. Mitchell was an inspiring captain and a superlative organiser , and there is little doubt that he above all others had ‘made’ Cliftonville.
The Early 20th Century
In 1908, Cliftonville reached the final of the Senior cup , meeting North Down at Ormeau, but were totally outclassed with the Comber men only needing 35 to win in the second innings. 1909 and the future Cliftonville Captain H.E. Wood scored 721 runs for the club with a remarkable average of 51, with centuries against Ulster and Lisburn. He represented the province on numerous occasions and was considered unlucky not to have represented Ireland. He Captained the club from 1912-1920 and was unfortunate that for the vast majority of this time his country was at war. He retired from serious cricket in 1920 but remained on the club committee and webt on to become honorary treasurer of the NCU.
In 1911 , Cliftonville reached their third Senior cup final , this time meeting Ulster again at Ormeau.Needing 133 to win in the second innings, Cliftonville collapsed to an inglorious 50 all out . Enfield , who for some time had been in the doldrums , reached the junior cup final in 1910 defeating Sydenham by 6 wickets. The Second division league was formed this year and Enfield made it a double winning section A. They won it again in 1913 with a 100% record. In 1914, Enfield won the Junior cup once more, meeting Muckamore in the final. T.E. Shearman made scores of 70 and 72 in the Enfield innings as they romped to a convincing 183 run victory. This was recorded as ‘Shearmans Match’ as it was the last game he was able to play , being badly injured on active service in the war. The war years 1914-18 saw no competitive cricket played in Ulster, Nevertheless many friendly matches were played, many against the services.
J.C. Picken joined the club in 1906 and played regularly for the 3rd XI , Dunowen , which had been formed during this period. It was thanks to his enthusiasm and organising abilities coupled with H.E. Wood , who remained Captain during the war years , that Cliftonville kept going through these unhappy years.
Between the wars (1918-1939)
In 1920 , under the Captaincy of S.J Stevenson , Cliftonville had a bumper year. They won the Senior league , winning 12 0f the 15 league games played . The Senior cup final was again contested against North Down , however , disappointingly , there was an anti-climax to a wonderful year as they were again defeated by ten wickets. 1920 was a successful year for the club as a whole, Enfield won the Junior cup and the second division championship, playing 19 games , winning 18 and drawing the other. 1921 , saw Enfield winning the second division title for the third year in succession. 1922 and Cliftonville were again in the Senior cup final , under the Captaincy of Dr. Haydock, meeting Waringstown at Ormeau. Sam McCully (Crawford’s father) top scored with 62 and Waringstown , set 100 to win in the second innings were skittled for only 32 . The Senior cup had come to Cliftonville for the second and so far the last time.
In 1923 an amazing event occured. Enfield reached the Junior cup final for the seventh time – and lost! The winners were Muckamore who won convincingly by an innnings and 81 runs. Sam McCully was the chief architect for Muckamore scoring 61 , as the McCully brothers had opened a business in Antrim and parted Cliftonville with some reluctance, Happily, they returned to Belfast a few years later and were reunited with Cliftonville. Cliftonville again appeared in the Senior Cup Final, losing by ten wickets to North at Ballynafeigh, J.W. Coskery assuming the Captaincy.
1926 and Cliftonville were again league champions , winning 11 and drawing 3 of the league matches played. Dunowen also had their first cup success this year lifting the Minor cup Some indication of the playing strength of the club may be gained from the fact that during the period 1922-26 no less than five Cliftonville players gained the distinction of playing for Ireland, these were C. Allen , R.B. Bowers , J.W. Coskery, R.W. Moore and L Walker. In addition , several other players represented Ulster at Senior and junior inter-Provincial levels.
In 1927 Enfield again brought the second division title back to Cliftonville. 1928 and Enfield again reached the Junior cup final losing heavily to Shrigley by an innings and 56 runs. Cliftonville boys won the Graham Cup and retained it a year later. 1930 and again Enfield had the Junior cup in their possession beating Barnsley in a low scoring game by 24 runs. 1931 and Enfield shared the second division championship with Lisburn II losing only one of fourteen matches played. 1935 and another Senior Cup final defeat at the hands of North Down by an innings and 6 runs this time . Cliftonville had entered a period of rebuilding and it was a hugely inexperienced side. 1937 J.K. Wilson was picked to represent his province and also represented the Gentlemen of Ireland twice. 1938 and under the Captaincy of G.W.B. Gailey , Cliftonville were again Senior league champions , losing only one match. Enfield also captured the second division championship. There was also a remarkable feat from the three Shaw brothers. They all represented their province at different levels in the same season, J.S.Shaw, the senior team, T.B. Shaw at Junior level and D.T. Shaw played for Ulster schools.
The war years (1940-1945)
For several years financial difficulties had been growing and the club was now struggling to exist. That it continued to do so was due in no small measure to the energy and enthusiasm of of the Hon. Secretary, J.C. Picken and the Hon. Treasurer H.S. Dunn . The club was also greatly indebted to the generosity of the President J.G. Michaels , who for many years had given sizeable donations. When war came again late in 1939 the prospects of the club’s survival looked bleak. However, the club’s landlord generously cut the club’s rental for the duration of the war and the club was able to struggle on.
The ground itself became a casualty of war , as on the night of the 4th May 1941 , 200 Luftwaffe aircraft dropped 95000 incendiaries onto the city of Belfast , forcing a quarter of the population to flee. Large swathes of the City were destroyed including the pavilion at Cliftonville cricket club. Locals believe that the German bombers mistook the nearby ‘Waterworks’ for Docks. The only changing accommodation left was a small hut on the Cliftonville Road side of the ground. The only trophy during this period was gained by Enfield who won their section of the league in 1944
The post war years(1946-1972)
1947 and Enfield won the second division section A title 1949 saw the provision of temporary pavilion facilities with the purchase of two ex-American services Nissan huts and these were sited on the bank between the cricket ground and the football club and fitted out. In May 1949, the new pavilion was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Belfast , Alderman W.F. Neill . the club President J.G.Michaels died after a long illness and he was replaced by J.C.Picken who by 1949 had already given over forty years service to the club. 1950 saw Cliftonville lose their Senior status for the first time after 53 years in the Senior League with relegation to the Senior Qualifying league.
1952 Cliftonville won the Senior qualifying league and promotion back to the Senior league (section II) winning ten and losing only one of the games played. In 1953 , after several months of negotiation , ownership of the ground passed to a new body, Cliftonville Sports ground Ltd. A partnership between Cliftonville Cricket Club and the Ulster branch of the Irish Hockey Union. The company was to be administered by five directors from each body. J.C. Picken was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors. Under the terms of the agreement Cliftonville had use of the ground for 6 months of the year and the Ulster branch the other 6. In 1953 and 1954 the Cliftonville boys again won the Graham cup. The financial position of the club failed to improve and in fact the clubs debts were increasing each year.
By 1956 there was serious talk of winding up the club. However, thanks to the efforts of a small number of members , the club struggled on. A new pavilion had become an urgent necessity . Money from the War damage commission finally enabled a new pavilion to be built and this was opened in August 1959 , by the Lord Mayor, Alderman R. Kinehan. The new pavilion was named the J.C. Picken pavilion in honour of the President. The President himself had been honoured in 1958 when he received the M.B.E. from the Queen in recognition of his services to cricket in Ireland. 1958 saw W. Scott selected for Ireland and Dunowen played Saturday league cricket for the first time . 1959 saw the 1st XI again relegated to the senior qualifying league.
In 1961 the 1st Xi won the Junior cup beating Saintfield by 52 runs. 1962 and J.C. Picken M.B.E. became President of the NCU , the second Cliftonville member to be so honoured. 1964 saw Enfield lose the final of the junior cup , Cliftonville boys again triumphed in the Graham cup. In 1966 the 1st Xi finally regained their proper place in Senior cricket , and in 1968 they won the section II Senior league championship. It seemed only just that this club should be among those forming the new Section I when this was formed in 1969. The idea of an amalgamation between Cliftonville Cricket and Hockey clubs had been discussed on and off for many years. This idea became a reality in 1968 when the club became Cliftonville Cricket and hockey club and adopted a new constitution . J.C. Picken was unanimously elected the new President of the newly constituted club. 1969 saw the clubs third XI , Dunowen win the Minor Cup.
1970 was Cliftonville Cricket clubs centenary year, a programme of Centenary celebrations was held throughout the season. Alfie Linehan (DownpatrickCC) won the invitation single wicket competition and during Centenary week , there was a series of matches culminating in a game against an NCU Presidents XI . A celebration dinner was held at the Woodbourne house hotel. To cap off the centenary celebrations Dunowen retained the Minor cup. A Nomadic existence When Cliftonville cricket club celebrated it’s centenary in 1970 , few could have guessed that cricket on the Cliftonville Road would come to an end only two years later. Cliftonville was an ‘open club’ attracting member with different social backgrounds from the local district and further afield.
The outbreak of civil disorder in August 1969 and the geographical positioning of the ground had made it increasingly difficult to travel to and from practice/games etc. with bomb scares and street protests a regular occurring event. However, members overcame this and enjoyed the good spirit which abounded from within. By 1972 a campaign of intimidation had begun against the Club, it’s members and what it represented in the area. Members were verbally and physically attacked , two young Protestant men were abducted , murdered and their bodies dumped within the grounds of Cliftonville Cricket club. The club was looted and set on fire by a hostile crowd.
With no assurances coming from local or national government regards guaranteeing members safety , the Club had no alternative but to make the heartbreaking decision to abandon the ground.
The Nomad years (1973-1985)
By 1973 the club had found a temporary home at Mossley, but soon found life difficult without a permanent base, established players started to drift away to more fashionable clubs. 1974 and fate dealt a further blow when the square at Mossley was vandalised resulting in home fixtures having to be played at Shaw’s Bridge. Despite this adversity, Zingari won the Minor cup. 1975 and it’s brief flirtation with Mossley over, the club was fortunate enough to move to a new permanent base at the city of Belfast playing fields, Mallusk. Despite all the traumas of the prevailing three years the club was still able to hang on to it’s Senior status and field four teams – quite a remarkable achievement in the face of such adversity.
Although everyone contributed to the club’s survival , the part played by; Chairman Frank Thompson, Roy Millar and Crawford McCully in holding things together over these critical years cannot be understated. With the Chairman showing a strong lead , the latter pair took the Captaincy in turn and helped rebuild the club spirit behind the scenes. In this they could count on the help of other loyal members , like Sam McComb, Martin Holmes, Roy Ringland, Derek Reade and John McClean. The 1980’s was marked by the emergence of a new generation able to give valuable service both on and off the field . People like Alan Thompson and Jimmy Munn assumed responsibility with the support of others like Peter Sloan and the evergreen Billy Patterson. It was also during this time that the club saw the benefit of having gained players after the demise of the former Clifton Club. Enthusiasts like Billy Heslip, Maurice McFarland and Billy Thompson all made their contribution , teaming up with former Clifton stalwart Ernie McCormick. The Club were also fortunate to attract Alan Neill to the club, a superb batsman , who later Captained the Club and many feel was unlucky not to gain full International recognition.
Towards the end of the 1970’s it became patently obvious that the club needed a home base to secure it’s future. An opportunity arose with the proposal of an amalgamation with Greenisland Cricket Club, which had itself fallen on hard times. The idea of this coming together was to try and revive sporting interest in the Greenisland area , based on the development of the existing clubhouse and grounds at Greenisland. The amalgamation which took place in 1979 said much about the ambitions and needs of both clubs. Greenisland, the record books say, first played cricket in 1894, with the modern club starting in a very humble way in 1930. The club managed to keep going until the outbreak of war, before picking up the pieces again in 1945. The club was fortunate at this time in that local residents , having earlier expressed a desire to erect a memorial in the form of a community centre , with a view to keeping alive some of the wartime spirit and friendships made, , set about making this a reality. This resulted in the club having its own permanent playing fields as part of the centre which opened in 1949.
Between 1950 and 1970 the club consolidated to the point it had two teams in the NCU leagues , a midweek XI and a boy team competing in the Graham cup. As Part of the amalgamation , the name Greenisland was retained in the new ordering of Cliftonville teams , replacing Enfield as the name of the 2nd XI. The input of Greenisland helped strengthen the club’s administration with the inclusion of people like Robert Kay, George and Preston Fowles, Tom Kernoghan , Peter Swan and Tom Creighton Cliftonville was nevertheless forced down the road of engaging Professional cricketers to try and safeguard it’s future. the club reasoned that not only would this be a good way of developing young players through coaching , but that it was the only way to counter the continual problem of having it’s best players attracted away to higher placed clubs.
The Club’s first Pro was Sanjeev Rao , a prolific run-getter . However, the arrival of John Solanky , a former Glamorgan County cricketer heralded the start of a new era.On the playing side he fulfilled a vital role as an all rounder , but more importantly for Cliftonville , he attracted many boys to the club through his coaching and nurtured these youngsters in their different age groups , in ever increasing numbers , that Cliftonville were able to field more boys teams than they had ever been able to do so at any other stage of their history. The Club continued to play Senior games at Mallusk as the newly laid square at Geeenisland was given time to settle, although the 3rds, 4ths and the newly formed 5th team Knockagh were able to avail of the facilities at Greenisland on the newly installed synthetic wicket. 1986 and Dunowen led by Billy Thompson lost in the final of the Minor cup to RUC
In 1989 the club won it’s first cup in 15 years when the Tom Kernoghan led Zingari defeated Holywood in the final of the Minor Qualifying cup. For the next decade Cliftonville sides were to be among the most dominant in the NCU.
The Greenisland years
1990 saw the arrival of not only Senior league cricket at Greenisland but of also arguably one of the greatest players to ever grace these shores when the legendary Raman Lamba was recruited from North Down as John Solanky’s replacement as club professional. Raman had already played four test matches for India and 34 one day Internationals where he excelled and had scored centuries against Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West indies.
The new cricketing facilities at Greenisland War Memorial Sports Club were officially celebrated with a match in July between a Cliftonville select and the NCU Presidents XI . Raman broke all sorts of records and bowlers hearts in that 1990 season and although Cliftonville had failed to gain promotion , they had retained his services for the 1991 season . However a motion to ban Professionals outside of the top tier was carried at the NCU AGM and Raman was banned from competing for Cliftonville. Cliftonville argued that as Raman was married to a local girl and had roots here that he should be considered a local. The argument went as far as a hearing in the High Court were Judgment was passed in favour of the NCU.
1992 and John Solanky’s youth policy was starting to pay dividends for the club. The emergence of players such as Brian Anderson, Mark and Andy Patterson, Kyle McCallan , Warren McCully and Stephen McChesney had seen 4th and 3rd XI teams winning leagues and raising the Clubs profile . The Club won the Colts Cup this year defeating Holywood in the final at Armagh. 1993 and Cliftonville were worthy winners of Section 2 and with Kamal Merchant on board as Pro and the much vaunted Youth policy now a production line the Club were now ready to mix it with the big boys. Cliftonville 2nds led by Billy Patterson lost the final of the Intermediate cup to Armagh 2nds at Lisburn.Cliftonville U15’s lost in the All Ireland Final to Old Belvedere.
1994 and our first taste of Section One cricket in a generation was a resounding success. Cliftonville finished fourth on the back of the bowling of Kamal Merchant, Andy Clement (recruited from Muckamore) and Mark Patterson who all featured in the NCU top ten bowlers with 105 wickets between them.
1995 and the Club were Senior League Champions for the first time since 1938. Kiwi Barry Cooper scored 604 runs and Kamal Merchant took 54 wickets at an average of less than 9 . Kyle McCallan had also emerged as a genuine all rounder. 1996 and we’re Champions again sharing the title with Lisburn on bonus points despite winning a game less. Kyle McCallan scored 605 runs and took 43 wickets to win the NCU all rounder of the year award.
Mark Patterson signs as a County Professional with Surrey , he takes 6-80 against South Africa A on his debut , victims include Herschelle Gibbs and Lance Klusener . This is still a record performance for any Surrey player on first class debut. 1997 and it’s a hat-trick of Championships , winnings by 11 points ahead of nearest challengers Lurgan. Kyle is again all rounder of the year with 588 runs and 33 wickets . Andy Patterson plays for Surrey 2nd XI 1998 and Cliftonville U15’s win the Graham Cup defeating Lisburn. The 3rds lose in the final of the Minor cup against Instonians, a day overshadowed by the Omagh Bombing. Kyle McCallan plays 2 games for Surrey 2nd XI. 1999 and the U15’s win the Graham cup again defeating Bangor with Johnny Neill scoring 87. Mark Patterson plays against Notts in a County Championship match taking 3 wickets in the first innings. Andy Patterson plays for Kent 2nd XI and Kyle McCallan features in 2 Matches for Derbyshire 2nd XI.
2000 and the U15s make it a hat-trick of Graham Cups with a win over Muckamore Gareth McKee 51 and John Thompson 44 not out adding 100 for the third wicket . Mark Patterson retires from first class cricket with a recurring back problem. Andy Patterson makes his county debut for Sussex and goes on to make 14 appearances that season. 2001 Cliftonville lose the final of the Irish Cup (their first appearance) to a strong North County at Waringstown. The 3rds led by Davy Hamilton win the Minor cup against Cooke Collegians at Lurgan thanks to a man of the match performance from Geoff Stewart. The U15s just miss out on 4 Graham Cups in a row losing the final to Lisburn. They console themselves by winning the U15 League cup.
2002 Greenisland is used as a venue for the ICC European Championships 2005 Greenisland is again used by the ICC for the ICC Trophy which is used for World Cup qualification.
2006 With the Patterson brothers teaching in England and Kyle McCallan moving to Waringstown, Cliftonville are relegated to section two. 2007 and the Club receives a real body blow as an EGM of the GWMSC votes to build an artificial hockey pitch on the playing fields at Greenisland effectively displacing Cricket. GWMSC allows Cliftonville use of the playing facilities at Greenisland for the 2007 season. Despite this setback Cliftonville have a successful season gaining promotion back to Senior One as runners up to C.I.Y.M.S. and defeating the same opponents in the final of the Ulster Shield with a magnificent 87 not out by teenage progeny Paul Stirling. TheU15s lose in the final of the Graham cup to Instonians. The continued strength of the Cliftonville youth policy had seen no fewer that 17 players gain representative honours since 2000 , many of them with Ireland.
2008 was one of the most difficult in the clubs 139 year existence. Without a ground and serious practice facilities the club was always going to struggle. Thanks to the generosity of our Ncu rivals , we were able to compete all of our fixtures away from home after being giving special dispensation from the League hierarchy . Cliftonville were relegated on the final day of the season despite winning by the shortest of margins, net run rate.
The Mallusk Oval
2009 saw a new chapter in the history of Cliftonville Cricket Club. Despite the offer of several mergers and the defection of a number of key personnel , Cliftonville members voted to continue independently and thanks to Belfast City Council Parks Department returned to the familiar surroundings of Mallusk , a ground that had served us so well in the seventies and eighties. The ground with the addition of our covers, roller , sightscreens and scorebox proved a success . Senior status was secured with four games to spare, a number of the younger players blossomed in their new responsibilities and our first piece of Silverware of this new era was secured when David Munn led the boys to victory over Muckamore in the final of the Ulster Shield. Danny Sczygiol hit a magnificent unbeaten 59. 2010 Phillip Mulholland was selected for the NCU u17’s .Cliftonville made it two trophies in two years with an 18 run win over Saintfield in the twenty20 shield final at Comber, Steve McChesney took six wickets including a hat-trick.