Peter Gillespie inducted into Cricket Ireland Hall of Fame
Much has been written down through the years about Cricket Ireland’s most recent Hall of Fame winner, Peter Gillespie. Ironically, the Strabane man is usually very uncomfortable discussing his achievements but he agreed to let his guard down at the weekend to acknowledge his recognition at Friday night’s Cricket Ireland awards ceremony.
Gillespie’s numbers speak for themselves- 124 caps and the quickest International century ever scored by an Irish batsman probably the best known of them. He was of course also one of those most unusual of breeds- a one-club player, which added to his stock.
That International career came somewhat out of the blue for a man who was a genuine all-rounder back in 1995.
“I was playing an Interpro game for the North West against South Leinster and coincidentally it was the first time that ‘Hendo’ (Irish Head Coach Mike Hendrick) had come to watch us play.”
“These were two really strong teams- they had had players like Lewis, Dunlop, Bailey and Taylor and we had Decker, Cooke, the McBrines, Smyth and Thompson.”
“Leinster got 130-odd and we were 110-9 in reply, but Ricky McDaid and me got it over the line. I took two wickets and ended with 50 not out.”
“The following day I got a phone call from the legendary Roy Torrens who said ‘Peter son, I’m delighted to tell you that you’ve been picked for Ireland.”
Now a North West Warriors Under-15 Coach, the Strabane man was reluctant to claim any absolute favourites from his century plus of caps.
“Any World Cup games were always special and as well as that quickest hundred at Bangor, I also got a couple of important knocks along the way.”
“Uprichard Park was good to me that year- I also got 40 against Denmark and 60 odd not out for Strabane in a cup game in the same season so I had a decent average there!”
By a twist of fate, the day after his Irish debut at Arundel, the next game was a 2-dayer at Lords; the first of his two appearances at the Home of Cricket.
“I didn’t take my bowling too seriously back then but I was thrown the ball first change at Lords and it was a bit of a ‘rabbit in headlights’ moment. I took my first wicket for Ireland there of all places, but it also provided me with one of my proudest moments in cricket.”
“My dad along with my brothers, Mark and Michael had come over to see me play. Mark incidentally was so unlucky not to have played in that game, but that’s another story.”
“Big Roy had, as he always did, gone the extra mile and organised for the three of them to get a tour of the famous Lords pavilion. Unfortunately, only Michael was dressed for the occasion as you needed a blazer and tie for the tour.”
“They came up with a plan to do the tour one at a time, taking turns to wear Michael’s gear!”
“Of all my proud memories of playing for Ireland, looking up onto the player’s balcony at Lords and seeing my dad standing taking it all in, is right at the top.”
‘It’s those things that stand out most for me. I also remember the week I overtook Ossie Colhoun as the North West player with most Ireland caps, he sent me a lovely card congratulating me on the achievement.”
While his senior playing days are behind him, Peter Gillespie must have been moved when Kyle McCallan reminded him on Friday night that Adi Birrell referred to him as ‘the heartbeat of his Ireland team.’
“Of course it’s an honour. It’s an award I’m delighted to receive particularly because it has been selected by the Cricket Writers. I’ve always had a great relationship with the press lads and of course they were with us on many of those tours.”
“It was a terrific group to be a part of and I hope that many more young players from the North West get the opportunity to do likewise in the years to come.”
If he’s half as successful as a coach as he was a player, there’s every chance that will happen.