The man who hit the winning runs against the mighty West Indies in one of Ireland’s greatest ever cricket triumphs has said the victory was “almost unreal”.
Speaking today – the 50th anniversary of the side’s incredible win at Sion Mills – Mike Reith recalled how Ireland’s bowlers skittled their opponents for a total of just 25.
The Waringstown batsman, who as a 21-year-old was making his international debut on July 2, 1969, had the honour of batting three and hitting the winning runs.
“It just seemed totally unreal,” Mike recalled. “It wasn’t the best West Indies team that had come over to England [for a test series] but they were test players and had a few big names in their side, including a young Clive Lloyd who went on to be a very successful captain for the West Indies.”
Mike described the legend that the home side had plied their Caribbean visitors with drink the night before the game as “just a rumour”, saying he and his teammates had not seen their opponents on the eve of the game.
“They had just finished a test match at Lord’s I think and they were obviously used to playing on a very dry wicket there, so the playing conditions were obviously very different than what they had come from in England,” he said.
“They just kept getting out and no-one seemed to realise the danger of what was happening. They were actually nine wickets down for about 13 and the last two bowlers put on 12, so it could have been even more embarrassing.”
Recalling how he hit the winning runs, the 71-yearold retired council employee continued: “The match was being televised for BBC Northern Ireland and the main BBC sports coverage was Wimbledon. They broke into the Wimbledon coverage nationally to show this little piece of history, the winning runs being scored.
“It was fantastic, but it was almost unreal.
“I think it has to be up there with some of the very best Irish sporting triumphs. We were basically a team of amateurs and we beat a test playing nation, so it was something very special.”
Meanwhile, the pavilion at the ground where Ireland tamed the Windies has fallen into disrepair over the past few years, something Mr Reith described as “very sad”.
But despite the poor condition of the building, Sion Mills Cricket Club secretary Simon Galloway insists it is still usable and the club is definitely “not out”.
The 40-year-old, who is also club captain, is hopeful that issues concerning the ground can be resolved and improvements to the pavilion will be made in due course.
“It is a shame the condition the pavilion is in, but we are hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.