Waringstown will kick their 2019 Clear Currency Irish Senior Cup campaign off away to Malahide on Sunday as the most successful team in the competition following last year’s 85-run triumph over Merrion - their third in the space of four years and sixth in total.
That win at Stormont pushed them one ahead of Leinster outfit North County, but their journey to becoming Ireland’s elite club side started at Ormeau in Belfast some 35 yeas prior.
On an overcast and cold Saturday at the start of September 1983, a 133-run partnership between Deryck Harrison (60) and Michael Reith (71) helped Waringstown post a total of 190-8 after the early loss of Irish internationals Garfield Harrison and Ivan Anderson.
Captain Anderson would play a crucial role with the ball, recording figures of 4-21 to help secure a 72-run win and hand the Villagers a maiden Irish trophy against NCU rivals North of Ireland, who were reigning champions after beating Leinster the previous year.
An 18-year-old Alan Waite was playing in his first major final, and although it didn’t go to plan for him on a personal level, he looks back on the experience with great pride.
“It was the same year as the famous Waringstown and Lurgan NCU final where Davy Dennison got 130 in the first innings and there was a huge sum of runs scored,” recalls Waite. “I had been left out for that NCU final - justifiably so because I hadn’t been scoring runs. This was my first major final so I was fairly excited about it.
“On a personal level, I remember being run out without facing and dropping Philip Billingsley, so my contribution on the day was absolutely zero!
“Back in the eighties and early-nineties, games between Waringstown and North had a huge rivalry but also a huge respect. You had great players on both sides and they played it incredibly hard on the field but off the field they were always in the bar afterwards.
“Deryck and Michael’s innings that day in what were bowler friendly conditions were two of the best I played with for Waringstown. They showed amazing skill against Simon Corlett, David Heaney and Parkhill. Our total was really based on what the two of them had done.
“When Waringstown got close to 200 back in the eighties, you always had this belief that somebody would have to do well to chase it down.
“Garfield was still bowling seam and didn’t start bowling spin until 1985. He was picked by Ireland as a seamer and then he began to bowl slow a couple of years later. We had him, Ivan, the two McCrums and Reith.
“It was just about building the pressure and their guys made mistakes. Corlett was a big wicket. He was obviously their best player and once we got him out, we always felt fairly confident that we would win the game.”
Despite dominating in the league over the following years, Waringstown would have to wait until 1992 before winning the Irish Senior Cup again and then suffered another long spell without success in the competition.
“The All-Ireland has been a bit of a journey for Waringstown,” adds Waite. “We went through a period where we lost in bowl-outs in three successive years during the mid-eighties. We did win it in 1992 but for a period of time you were questioning your involvement in the tournament. At that time, Waringstown didn’t play on a Sunday so if you had rearrangements in the cup they had to be played on a Friday. We were going to Dublin with half a team and literally going through the motions.
“We eventually took the decision around 1999/2000 that we would play Sunday cricket. That started to build up our involvement again. Kyle (McCallan) coming in 2003 refocused everybody’s mind that the Irish Cup was the main cup competition and we started to be much more competitive.
“We won it in 2011 and our performances over the past four years have been beyond what anybody could have expected.”
Over the last five years, the current Waringstown side have proven themselves to be perhaps the best club side ever seen in Ireland, but how does the Class of 1983 compare to the present group?
“I keep our guys going by saying we were the best team back in the nineties when we did the treble!” says Waite.
“I say we never made any mistakes or got anything wrong but that’s only to wind these boys up. Trying to compare eras is incredibly tough.
“In that era I played, if we got 200 batting first, we would have won nine times out of 10. If you got 250, that was just an amazing effort. We have games here where teams are getting 350 and even 400 - it’s a completely different game to what we played.
“In the respective eras, I’ve been incredibly lucky to play with and see so many wonderful players but they were all different.
“I can still remember in 1992 playing Carrickfergus, who would have been a Section Three team then, and Paul McCrum produced a reverse sweep. I remember Roy Harrison screaming out onto the pitch because we hadn’t even seen a reverse sweep back then!
“Now, you see Greg (Thompson) going in and it’s sweeps and reverse sweeps. It’s different players and eras, but all wonderful cricketers.”
Waite, who played for the 1st XI between 1979-2011 and is now chairman of the NCU, has watched first hand how Thompson’s men have transformed into ruthless winning machines who are just as comfortable under the brightest of lights and on the biggest of stages as they are when no-one is watching at practice.
Sustaining that level of success over various competitions and with the increasing level of standard isn’t easy, and Waite says he is proud to see what they’ve achieved in the past few years.
“Kyle coming to the club was a really important catalyst to drive things forward and we had come through a few years where we weren’t always in contention for things,” he added.
“Kyle brought a lot of that desire and then Greg coming as well. His will to win and desire to drive the boys and bring them with him has done a great job. What they have done over the last few years across all competitions is incredible.
“The amount of hours they put in and to be able to sustain their success is outstanding and I’m very proud to see what they’ve been able to do.”