There has been cricket at the Hills for as long as the game has been played in Fingal. Though there is a mention of a game back in 1829 it is in the 1860s and ‘70s when the game began to flourish. The Hills CC was one of the twenty two founding clubs which played in the inaugural Fingal League of 1926, though at the time they were known as ‘The Blackhills’. The Blackhills won the Fingal Cup in 1936. One of the great players of Fingal cricket Simon Hoare formed a deadly bowling partnership with Johnny Murphy in the 1936 winning team. The Blackhills repeated their success in 1941 and became known as ‘The Hills’ after World War Two.
The Hills ground at Milverton, Skerries. Photo courtesy of Joe Curtis
The Hills 1960s - 1983
Though The Hills were in existence as a Fingal club on and off since the 1920s it arrived at a crossroads for its future in the late 1960s.
In 1963 Balrothery CC and Man O’War CC had joined the Leinster League and were followed by Knockbrack CC in 1964.
While The Hills were still playing in the Fingal League in 1968 six of their players were going off with Balrothery to play in the Leinster League. Players from The Hills made up the core of the Balrothery Seconds that year.
In 1969 in the Fingal League there were some young lads emerging towards the end of the season such as Joe Hoare and the Archers. Three of the Archers were playing on the Man O’War team during the 1968 and 1969 seasons – Johnny, Joe and Liam. In fact players from The Hills played in a Cup for Balrothery in a Leinster competition against the Man O’War in 1969.
The Hills was in danger losing its identity or at least being very overshadowed by their fellow Fingal clubs who were playing in the Leinster leagues.
Some of the people, who had been playing cricket for Balrothery, discussed the forming of a revamped Hills CC. In September 1969, the idea of playing at Milverton was mooted and Gerry Byrne and Joe Clinton approached the Wentges family of Milverton Hall with a view to using the Vineyard as a possible location. Mrs Wentges readily gave permission for the Vineyard to be used, and a general meeting was held in the Holmpatrick Hotel, Skerries to discuss the making of an application to the Leinster Cricket Union.
A new management structure for The Hills CC was formed, with Gerry Byrne as its first Chairman, and one team was entered in the Leinster League in the 1970 season with Seamus (Shay) Clinton ( a brother of Joe) as captain.
The driving force behind the revitalised club were Gerry Byrne (who happened to be President of the Fingal League at the time), and Joe Clinton. In addition there were a core of young people who were very enthusiastic - Johnny Archer, Liam Archer and Joe Archer, Joe Hoare (son of Simon Hoare), the two Byrne brothers – Paddy and Martin (both still playing !), David Murtagh and Patrick Casey.
Success came almost immediately, with the Junior Cup and League being won in 1971, the Intermediate Cup and League in 1972 and 1973.
Indeed the team was so much better than the teams at the level at which it was playing that the players used to hope that the opposition would get a few runs so that more of The Hills team would get a bat ! During the three years from 1971 to 1974, the Hills went undefeated, and were promoted each year. The team was brilliantly led by Johnny Archer who was an excellent bat and wicket-keeper.
The second XI was established in 1972, and a third XI some time later.
In 1973, Gerry Byrne presented a cup to be competed for annually at juvenile level.
During the period up to 1977, a makeshift clubhouse was used, and in 1977, a timber-constructed building was erected.
In 1978, an under 13 team was entered in the Leinster League.
Something else very significant happened at that time. Joe Clinton (Club Secretary at the time) and Neil Carpenter (Chairman) recognised the importance of coaching and in 1978 former Irish international, Joe Caprani was employed as a coach. Joe remained as a coach for 21 years with The Hills. A tremendous coach, skill levels rose appreciably during Caprani’s tenure.
The Hills were quite outstanding in Senior II cricket in the late 1970s. In 1979, all three adult teams won their respective leagues, and the first of a number of attempts was made to be allowed join the Leinster Senior League.
During the period, 1978 to 1982, Liam Archer, Paddy Byrne, Martin Byrne and Matt Dwyer won the Leinster Senior II individual bowling award.
In 1981, the Hills installed an artificial wicket, and it received special permission from the Leinster League to use this wicket until 1986.
In this year also, the Hills played in the Leinster Senior Cup by invitation.
The Hills were finally accepted as a senior club in Leinster in October 1982.
There had been a lot of resistance to The Hills gaining senior status in Leinster. The players in Dublin came from a different socio – economic background. The players who played in Fingal were mostly farmers or farm labourers
Acceptance for The Hills – the first team from Fingal to achieve senior status - was by no means unanimous. Clubs had to be lobbied very hard to get the support required.
Though there were some genuine issues to do with facilities it would be fair to say there was more than a touch of snobbery about it as well.
John Wills, Joe Clinton and Jim Bennett of the Hills. Photo courtesy of Joe Curtis
The Early Years of Senior Status, 1983 - 1989
The first year at Senior 1 went reasonably well, and the team won an All-Ireland Cup game against North Down. A greater emphasis was placed on coaching, and many young players such as Mark Clinton, Alan and Rory Courell, William Dwyer and Brian Higgins began to emerge.
During this period, players such as Martin Byrne and Matt Dwyer won the Leinster Senior League individual bowling awards, and Michael
Dwyer won the wicket-keeping award.
All of this effort came to fruition in the glorious year of 1989. In the words of captain, Mark Clinton, “the batting was undoubtedly at its strongest either before or since. The bowling was very strong. Matt, Martin and Noel (Harper) were in the top 5 bowlers in Leinster that year”.
On 22 July 1989, the Hills CC defeated Carlisle at Kimmage Road in the Final of the Leinster Senior Cup. Things had not been too promising early on in the Hills innings. The Hills lost three wickets for 8 runs, and there were eight back in the pavilion before 100 was scored. Eventually, they scored 138 with Alan Courell top scoring on 38, and Martin Byrne and Michael Dwyer put on 20 for the last wicket.
Seán Pender writing in the Irish Times described what followed as “one of the most startling turnabouts in the long history of the competition”. Carlisle were 83 for 3, but in the next 7 overs, 5 wickets were taken for 14 runs. The last Carlisle batsman was clean bowled by Paddy Byrne and Carlisle were dismissed for 115.
The following day, the team drew against Leinster, thus completing the coveted League and Cup double.
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